Professor wins grant for wildlife research
7/17/2009 -

Photo of Ron Davis
Above: Ron Davis

Ron Davis, Western Carolina University assistant professor of geosciences and natural resources management, received a grant of $3,250 from Balsam Mountain Preserve to continue data collection on wildlife species, including eastern box turtles and rattlesnakes.

The animals can provide indications about the health of the forest ecosystems, said Davis. “If the reptile populations are declining, then the overall health of the forest ecosystem is likely declining, too,” he said. The project begins its second year of tracking turtles and its third for snakes, although the snake portion of the study is being phased out. “We’re radio-tracking the turtles, monitoring habitat use and movements in relation to road, traffic and housing developments,” said Davis.

The continued funding from Balsam Mountain Preserve enabled Davis to get a number of students, such as Bill Donaldson, a senior majoring in natural resource conservation management, involved in scientific research.

Donaldson, from Tallahassee, Fla., uses radio telemetry equipment to track seven eastern box turtles. “The telemetry equipment includes a transmitter that is attached to each turtle, which broadcasts a signal on a specific channel that a handheld radio receives,” said Donaldson. “As I get closer to each turtle, the louder and clearer the signal is received. Once the turtle is captured, I record the location with a GPS unit; measure slope steepness and aspect, distance from roads and streams, temperature, cloud cover; and describe the turtle’s behavior.”

Data collection of wildlife species is a fun project, said Donaldson. “I’m able to work outside and earn a little income while gaining valuable experience that a future employer may appreciate,” he said. “Plus, I often use the data collected for class projects.”

For more information about the data collection of wildlife species, contact Davis at rdavis@email.wcu.edu or (828) 227-2726.

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Last Modified: Friday, July 17, 2009

 

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