Science Education in the Field: Flying Squirrel Population Sampling
Two biology students received competitive summer fellowship research grants for the summers 2012 and 2013 (Hannah Von Arb and Stephanie Noyes (2012); Stephanie Noyes and Kyle Gronbeck (2013)). The goal of the fellowship grants is to provide real-time science exploration outside of a classroom.
During the first summer, our project goals were to compare flying squirrel density between deciduous forest age stands and to quantify preferred habitat types. Using traditional scientific lab practices and field-based data collection techniques, we live-trapped more than 40 squirrels in three age stands. Animals were processed at the trap site. Information collected included weight, age, reproductive status, limb length, body length, and ear tag number. All squirrels were released at the site of capture. We also collected habitat data to test if there was a correlation between trap tree species and tree diameter.
During the second summer, we investigated if the road leading to the bike path (crosses the freeway) acts as a barrier to squirrel movement. Traps were set up on each side of the road, animals were marked and released, and traps were re-opened to monitor animal movement. Students also continued collecting vegetation data.
Students were able to utilize knowledge gained in previous biology classes in addition to learning new techniques. A synthesis of previously and newly gained knowledge was accomplished via professional presentation (this forum, NCUR meetings in March 2013, LaCrosse Wisconsin, Scholarship and Creativity Day, Summer Fellowship Poster Session, August 2012). We also plan to submit the 2013 data results to the same meetings listed in the previous sentence.
This will be a two-tiered presentation: I as the instructor/mentor will review the pros and cons of working with students during the summer and Stephanie and/or Kyle will present the student position. The culmination of this presentation will be a review of the benefits of this type of student/professor interaction (outside of a traditional classroom).