Amanda R. Goldberg: "Why have northern Idaho ground squirrel populations declined?"
Student Spotlight: Amanda R. Goldberg
My dissertation research is designed to test several hypotheses to explain why northern Idaho ground squirrel populations have declined. Northern Idaho ground squirrels (Urocitellus brunneus) were listed as threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act in 2000 (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service 2000) and their range is restricted to Adams and Valley Counties in central Idaho. My research is part of a long-term research project funded by the U.S. Forest Service to test whether past population declines are due to fire suppression (and subsequent forest encroachment into meadows). I am testing predictions to evaluate 3 alternative hypotheses: (1) sylvatic plague, (2) climate sensitivity, and (3) nutrient limitation.
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Our research involves close collaboration with 3 federal government agencies (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Forest Service, and U.S. Geological Survey), Idaho Department of Fish and Game, and the University of Idaho. I have worked with 38 technicians over 5 field seasons and I have also been involved with the Doris Duke Conservation Scholars minority training program at the University of Idaho. For the past 3 field seasons, I have mentored 2-4 undergraduate students from under-represented groups join us in the field to learn more about of the professions of ecology and wildlife biology. We also had one undergraduate student spend most of the 2017 field season working alongside our field crew while also conducting his own senior thesis research. We are continuing to work with that student to help him analyze, present, and publish his results. Research from both my dissertation and the long-term restoration project should inform management decisions for the northern Idaho ground squirrel and hopefully help land management agencies implement management actions that will lead to its recovery and delisting.