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miércoles, 15 de junio de 2011

Root eating, burrow trapping, and ethogram making

Hello everyone,
Since my last blog our camp has steadily become a beehive of activity. Greg Goodfellow, one of my interns, arrived at the beginning of the month. Greg will be with us for 3 months and will carry out his own research project. For his first 2 weeks Greg explored all of the habitats we have at Laguna Blanca and also tried his hand at all the activities we offer. He particularly enjoyed mist netting for birds on the Cerrado and small mammal trapping in the dry forest (Monte seco). He has recently finalised what he will be studying. Greg will be testing the variability of aggressive reactions to vocalisation playback experiments among the white-rumped Tanager (Cypsnagra hirundinacea). This bird species inhabits the Cerrado but has not had its behaviour well documented. Greg will focus on two areas for aggressive behaviour – territorial defence and mate defence. He will also integrate other variables into his study, for example the use of a dummy bird, variation in the amplitude of the bird calls he plays, and variation in the location of playbacks.
Greg has worked hard to design a very interesting and worthwhile project, so we are all eager to see the new information his work produces.
Another intern arrived yesterday and another will follow tomorrow. Georgina had her first tour of the reserve this morning. She is a botanist who will be carrying out a 3 month study. She already has good ideas for research into the flora at Laguna Blanca. This is especially encouraging, as very little is known about the botanical aspects of this region. What’s more, as I’m a zoologist, I am learning all sort of interesting botany facts from her! Finally, Aimee Oxley arrives from England tomorrow. Amy will be undertaking her Masters Degree research. Aimee is interested in assessing habitat disturbance effects and how this influences the abundance and diversity of fauna. So we are enjoying a growing number of interns at the reserve who are all going to be conducting interesting projects and adding to our knowledge about the flora and fauna of Laguna Blanca.


Behaviour among Cyanocorax chrysops (plush-crested jays).

Since my last blog I have been constructing feeding stations for the jays. The reasons for this are 2 fold – 1- it should increase the amount of contact time I have with groups, 2 – it should increase the chances of observing certain behaviours that occur rarely. As I am initially only aiming to produce a behavioural ethogram for this species, frequency of behaviours is not an important factor. After their behavioural repertoire has been established the feeding stations will come down in order not to influence the frequency of certain behaviours.
My work on producing the first ethogram for these birds is going well. I am covering locomotion, vocal, and social behaviours. Once an ethogram is available for this species larger scale, more complex aspects of their behaviour can be investigated and tested. Co-authoring with our scientific coordinator, Paul Smith, I aim to publish these results within the next few months. So keep your eyes peeled for notification on this!

Social and ecological factors among Clyomys laticeps (broad-headed spiny rat).

As Helen has said below, Paul Smith and Robert Owen visited the reserve for a few days. During this period we had a discussion and brainstorming session over the short term direction of my Clyomys study. I have worked especially closely with Robert on this project and he has been a very helpful collaborator.
Due to the fact that these rodents burrow and spend a significant amount of time underground, I have decided to construct and employ burrow traps. These will be inserted directly into a burrow that has evidence of recent use. The ground Sherman traps that I currently have within their habitat will also stay. By combining two different trapping methods we can not only see the effectiveness of each approach, but also assess the number of potential differences found between the data collected from the two different traps.
The initial part of this study focused on the burrow ecology and the relationship burrows hold with the habitat flora. It produced some very interesting and, more importantly (to me at least), statistical significant results. Along with the subsequent data I will collect, and the future questions I will test, we will be aiming to produce and publish substantial information and results on this little known, but very important rodent. Its importance lays in our suspicions that it is a keystone species. Therefore, if multiple other species are reliant on this rodent for their own survival then Clyomy laticeps could become a major focus for conservation efforts.
Finally, I will be digging up some bushes in the Cerrado. This is because my data suggests that the burrows Clyomys dig are multifunctional. It seems likely that these rats not only live, sleep, and socialise in these burrow systems, but also use them as a foraging strategy. There is a particular scrub within their habitat that I have regular found a single burrow under. Furthermore, there is no exit to the burrow. So we think these burrows are purely dug so that the rats can eat the nutrient and moisture rich roots of this particular scrub. A good strategy when your home is a dry, semi-arid landscape!

Until next time ill say goodbye.

Best wishes,

Luke

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