Research

Current Research
My current research emphasizes natural history and environmental communication. In particular, I have investigated the goals of informal environmental education programs in the United States and Canada. I am currently investigating the ways that written materials are used in nature centers for environmental education.

Recent publications:
Cagle, N. L. 2013. Evaluating the written materials and use of outside texts in nature centers for environmental education. Applied Environmental Education and Communication Research, 12(2): 108-177.

Cagle, N. L. 2012. Naturalists as Environmental Leaders: Bringing Natural History from the Past and into the Future pp. 83-94 in Gallagher, D. (ed.) Environmental Leadership: A Reference Manual. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications.

Doctoral Research
Dissertation Title: A multi-scale investigation of snake species-habitat relationships and snake conservation in Illinois.

Research Summary: Snake populations are declining, but the cause of this decline is largely unexplored. The unique biology of snakes, however, may make them acutely vulnerable to habitat fragmentation and degradation. The North American Prairie provides a unique setting for studies of the multiscale snake species-habitat relationships. The snakes of northern Illinois are little studied, and the unremitting expansion of the Chicago metro area, paired with continued agricultural land use, makes this region particularly suited for this study.

Over the past several years (2003 to 2008) I addressed two primary research questions:

1. How are variations in snake composition and abundances related to habitat at each of three scales (microhabitat, landscape, and regional)?
2. By what criteria can the conservation status of snake species be evaluated?

To answer Question 1, I first explored snake species-microhabitat relationships, accounting for but not directly considering landscape and regional context. Next, I examined snake species-habitat relationships at the landscape scale. Then the three scales (microhabitat, landscape, and regional) were explicitly considered together, allowing for detailed analysis of how the interactions among scales drive snake composition and abundance. To answer the second question, I developed a ten-part risk ranking system that incorporated natural and life history features to quantify the vulnerability of Illinois 38 snake species to population declines and extinction.

Dissertation Committee:

Norm Christensen (co-advisor)
John Terborgh (co-advisor)
Dean Urban
Jennifer Swenson



Additional Research Experience:
Forest Succession: Identified and measured trees in the Piedmont of North Carolina. Sampled using historic data from the Duke Forest. Compared contemporary and historic data using GIS. 2004-2005

Piedmont Soils: Developed a litter bag decomposition experiment.  Constructed and installed soil gas wells and lysimeters. Operated mass spectrophotometer and microbalance. 2003

Lichen Project: Motivated and coordinated an investigation of the effects of pollution on lichen morphology in northern Indiana. Collected lichen samples, created lichen microslides, operated spectrophotometer and digital microscope camera 2001-2002

Tropical Herpetology: Independently researched tree frog pigmentation in Costa Rica and Nicaragua. Assisted in boa constrictor tracking study recorded by National Geographic (two Reptile Wild episodes). Provided Spanish/English translation. 2001

Rare Prairie Flora: Developed germination research on a rare prairie forb, Silene regia. Initiated root growth research using root bags. Scarified seeds, recorded germination and growth chamber conditions, and published an article on this research. 2000-2001

Caddisflies and Water Quality: Collected and biometrically evaluated macroinvertebrates. Instigated, funded, and published water chemistry research. 1999-2001