"I have always wanted to learn from and contribute to the scientific body of knowledge. I decided to participate in the University Scholars Program because it gave me the opportunity, resources, and instruction to be able to explore the natural world equipped with structured, testable questions and the appropriate mediums for answering them. I also wanted to participate in the USP because it allowed for me to work directly with an experienced and knowledgeable mentor that encouraged high levels of independence in the field as well as in the lab. I hope that through the USP I will gain a thorough understanding of what it means to conduct scholarly research and that I will be fully prepared to pursue graduate level education. My primary academic goal is to complete my research on the various covariates that influence gray and fox squirrel site occupancy."
Wildlife Ecology and Conservation
The Conservation and Ecology of Mammals; Ecosystems Ecology; Behavioral ecology; Quantitative biology .
- Thad Owens Memorial Fund Undergraduate Research Grant (2011)
- President's Honor Roll (2011)
- University of Florida Dean's List (2007-2011)
- UF Student Chapter of the Wildlife Society
Hobbies and Interests
- Long distance hiking and backpacking, running, writing music for guitar and vocals, and poetry
Gray and Fox Squirrel Habitat Usage and Interactions
Gray squirrels (Sciurus carolinensis) and fox squirrels (Sciurus niger) are essential and conspicuous components of Florida’s hardwood and open-pine forests. As significant seed dispersers, they help shape vegetation community structure. Suppression of fire in Florida’s open-pine systems may be limiting fox squirrel populations while favoring gray squirrel populations. Researchers have yet to investigate if and how Florida’s changing landscape is altering the interaction and habitat selection between these two sympatric species of squirrel. The specific goal of this research project is to understand how Florida’s changing landscape is influencing the occurrence and interactions of gray and fox squirrels. We are predicting that as indices of fire suppression (i.e. canopy cover, understory stem density) increase, the probability of gray squirrel occurrence will increase and the probability of fox squirrel occurrence will decrease. We also anticipate that the probability of occurrence for fox squirrels will decrease in the presence of gray squirrels, indicating exclusion or avoidance behaviors. To test our predictions we will determine the influences of habitat type, distance from edge, understory thickness, forest composition, tree size, and the distribution of gray and fox squirrels. To do this we will conduct visual surveys on the 9,100 acre Ordway-Swisher Biological Station of UF located in Putnam County, Florida and record the presence/absence of fox and gray squirrels along 5 transects of approximately 200m in length. We will place transects along a gradient of forest types from open-pine forest to closed canopy hardwoods to mimic the gradient of fire maintained and suppressed communities found in north central Florida. Every 50 meters along the transect we will measure the occurrence of fox and gray squirrels along with percent canopy cover, over story tree dispersion and size, and woody vegetation density. We will use an occupancy modeling framework to evaluate the factors influencing the occurrence of gray and fox squirrels.