Assessing Small Mammal Community Assemblages and Population Dynamics across Multiple Geographic Scales on the Canadian Prairies
Small mammals (mice and voles) are a vital component of most terrestrial ecosystems; however, their communities have not been studied on large geographic scales because of limits imposed by conventional sampling methods (ie. Trapping). This project will take advantage of great-horned and burrowing owls as efficient surveyors of small mammal communities. Specifically, small mammal community composition analyses will be based on 50,000 small mammals identified in owl pellets collected from sites spanning 380,000 km2 of southern Alberta and Saskatchewan. Data on such large scale would be completely unattainable through traditional trapping methods. The objectives of the project include (a) understanding how variation in habitat affects small mammal communities; (b) identifying relationships between small mammal species composition and human land use; (c) understanding changes in small mammal communities over time. This research will offer unprecedented insight into environmental factors affecting small mammal distribution and abundance.