Gunnison’s prairie dogs (Sciuridae: Cynomys gunnisoni) are large, diurnal, colonial rodents, and are threatened with extinction. Members of the 2018 Prairie Dog Squad will participate in a longterm study that concentrates on conservation, ecology, social behavior, and population dynamics.
Our research in spring 2018 will tackle two fascinating, provocative issues. (1) The mating season in March and April for our study-colony lasts for about 3 weeks. Each female, however, is sexually receptive for only a single afternoon of the mating season. During that 4-5 hour period of receptivity, the female usually mates with 2 or 3 males, and sometimes with as many as 4-5 males. Females that mate with more than one male are more likely to conceive and they wean larger litters. Our mission is to document these matings, and to better understand why they yield such significant benefits. (2) After mating, a female usually conceives as many as 8 offspring. But many of these offspring do not survive until weaning in late May. By using a portable ultrasound machine, we will document litter size at different stages of pregnancy. And then we will capture juveniles at weaning so that we will have a rigorous dataset for comparing litter size at weaning versus uterine litter size.
Methods of our research include livetrapping, eartagging and marking, and daily observations of marked individuals. We also document predations by American badgers, bobcats, and coyotes.
Each member of the 2018 Prairie Dog Squad will be involved in all aspects of the project, and will be assigned as much responsibility as (s)he can handle. Each of us will have our own observation tower, and will be responsible for documenting the behaviors of the 20-30 Gunnison’s prairie dogs that surround that tower.
Research will begin on 07 March 2018, and will end on 25 May 2018. If you are interested, please contact Professor John L. Hoogland, Appalachian Lab, University of Maryland, Frostburg, Maryland, 21532, 301-689-7130, email@example.com.
The only requirement is that you have a passion for field research in ecology and social behavior. If your interest is sincere, then I guarantee that your experience will be worthwhile.
Many assistants have already graduated from college, but others are undergraduates on a leave of absence. Academic credit (3-8 credit hours or research towards senior thesis, depending on institution) usually can be arranged for those students who are interested.
Limited funding from The National Science Foundation might be available if you are still an undergraduate and can spend a semester away from campus.
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 contact Professor John L. Hoogland, Appalachian Lab, University of Maryland, Frostburg, Maryland, 21532, 301-689-7130, firstname.lastname@example.org
Prairie dog research: It's not a job, it's an ADVENTURE!