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Field Programs

Department of Biology

Animal Census Techniques

At the heart of many wildlife and conservation studies is the necessity to determine the abundance of different species. Yet, what seems like a simple counting exercise can become very complex very rapidly. W e will c over different techniques and discuss their merits and potential pitfalls. We will participate in the Puuc Jaguar Conservation project to estimate the abundance of felines based on mark -recapture techniques with the use of trail cameras. We will capture birds and bats , trap rodents, and set up drift fences for reptiles and amphibians. In addition, we will learn about distance methods to estimate abundances of birds.

Puuc Jaguar Conservation Newsletters

TROPICAL BIRDS in the YUCATAN
Why do flamingos hold their head upside down when feeding? Why can the Mexican Sheartail only be found in the northern part of the Yucatán Peninsula? What species of birds lays pink eggs? Why do motmots wag their tails? Why does a Blue Bunting need such a strong beak? Why are some flycatchers great seed dispersers? What do Singing Quail sing?  Students learn the answers to these questions and more as they study avian diversity, behavior, ecology, biogeography, and conservation on-site in the Yucatán Peninsula of Mexico.

   

GALAPAGOS

Nowhere can you see the principles of ecology and evolution playing out so readily before you as in the Galápagos Islands, where wild giant tortoises, blue-footed boobies, waved albatrosses and marine iguanas display their natural behaviors right at your feet, unafraid of humans due to their long isolation on this remote archipelago.

We spend a week aboard a 16-passenger vessel as we travel to eight major islands of the Galápagos archipelago, hiking among their unique plants and animals, and snorkeling with sea lions, sea turtles, colorful fish and marine invertebrates. On the mainland of Ecuador we visit historic sites in the capital city of Quito, nestled between peaks of the Andes, and the port city of Guayaquil on the Pacific coast.

CONSERVATION BIOLOGY
This course deals with the application of ecological,behavioral, and genetic principles to conservation problems, particularly the prevention of species extinctions. Specific topics to be explored include global diversity patterns and processes, demographic processes, genetic constraints on population viability, the importance of keystone species and disturbance regimes, invasive species biology, the design of conservation reserves, and ecological restoration.


BIOGEOGRAPHY
An introduction to the ecological and historical processes that help to explain distribution patterns in organisms. Students integrate ideas from many fields including evolution, ecology, paleontology, geology, and climatology. "Students gain practical research experience by utilizing research tools employed by practicing biogeographers, including phylogenetic analysis and ecological niche modeling. Recently, students travelled to Delta National Forest to observe the unique diversity found in the only bottomland hardwood forest in the nation. Future summer-based courses will focus on the dynamic biogeography of the American Southwest."

ECOLOGY
Ecology is the study of the relationship of organisms with their environment. In this course, we investigate ecological questions at several levels, from the behavior and population dynamics of single species, to interactions at the community and ecosystem levels. The theme of the course might be described as "think globally; explore locally." While many of the questions we consider are global in nature, we frequently take field trips to explore ecological interactions in the diverse habitats found right here in Mississippi. Some recent favorites include visits to vernal pools where spotted salamanders, marbled salamanders, mole salamanders, and smallmouth salamanders breed; a visit to a Great Egret rookery in a water tupelo-cypress swamp; and a foray into a local creek to sample macro-invertebrates for the evaluation of water quality.

ARTHROPODS
In this course students investigate the evolution, anatomy and physiology, ecology, conservation, and medical importance of terrestrial arthropods (arachnids, myriapods, and insects). Students make collections and learn how to identify local fauna. A favorite part of the course for many students is the weekend-long field trip that allows students to further explore the remarkable biodiversity of terrestrial arthropods

ORNITHOLOGY
Evolution, form and function, behavior, lifehistory, ecology, and conservation of the classAves, the birds. Techniques for the study of birds will be taught in laboratory and fields settings.