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.
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