University of Maryland
Valles Caldera National Preserve, New Mexico
Job Category
Volunteer Openings
This is a volunteer position, with no salary.
Start Date
Last Date to Apply
Gunnison’s prairie dogs (Cynomys gunnisoni) are large, diurnal, colonial rodents, and are threatened with extinction. Members of the 2017 Prairie Dog Squad will participate in a longterm study that concentrates on conservation, ecology, social behavior, and population dynamics.

Biologists hypothesize that polyandrous females (i.e., females that mate with more than one male) should have larger litters than monandrous females (i.e., females that mate with only one male). But compelling data are elusive. Testing this hypothesis will be key focus of our research.

Methods of our research include livetrapping, eartagging and marking, and daily observations of marked individuals. We also document predations by American badgers, coyotes, golden eagles, and long-tailed weasels. Our major responsibility will be to capture all the weaned juveniles of approximately 50 females. Litter size at weaning ranges from 1 to 7, but the most common litter sizes are 4 and 5. For each juvenile, we will determine its sex, weigh it, examine it for fleas and other parasites, apply a numbered eartag to each ear, collect a DNA-sample, and use a fur-dye to apply a unique marker so that we can identify the juvenile from a distance. Weaned juveniles first appear aboveground from their natal burrows in late May and June. Capturing all the juveniles from each litter is a formidable task, and will allow us to compare reproductive success for polyandrous versus monandrous females. Are you ready for the challenge? If so, I encourage you to contact me soon.

Each member of the 2017 Prairie Dog Squad will be involved in all aspects of the project, and will be assigned as much responsibility as she/he can handle. Each of us will have our own observation tower, and will be responsible for documenting the behaviors, and capturing all the juveniles, for the 10-15 prairie dogs that surround that tower. I am looking for a total of four students.

Research will begin on 25 May 2017, and will end on approximately 10 July 2017. If you are interested, please send an e-mail with references to Professor John L. Hoogland, Appalachian Lab, University of Maryland, Frostburg, Maryland, 21532,
The only requirement for this position is that you have a passion for field research in behavioral ecology. If your interest is sincere, then I guarantee that your experience will be worthwhile.

Academic credit (3-8 credit hours or research towards senior thesis, depending on institution) usually can be arranged for those students who are interested.

My research with prairie dogs has attracted 200 students since 1974, many of whom have proceeded to graduate school. This is a splendid opportunity to immerse yourself in field research on the behavioral ecology of a rare, fascinating mammal—and to prepare for graduate education.

For more information, please send an e-mail with references to Professor John L. Hoogland, Appalachian Lab, University of Maryland, Frostburg, Maryland, 21532,

Prairie dog research: It’s not a job, it’s an ADVENTURE!
Contact Person
Professor John Hoogland
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