KCRL’s Mauricio Vela-Vargas featured in the news

KCRL PhD Student and Fulbright Scholar Mauricio Vela-Vargas is featured in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences news!  Mauricio’s Fulbright funding will allow him to pursue a PhD studying Andean bears while continuing his conservation work with Proyecto de Conservación de Aguas y Tierras (ProCAT), a Colombian NGO which seeks to reduce human-wildlife conflicts while conserving habitat and protecting important connectivity areas necessary for the conservation of iconic and ecologically important species.

Read more here: https://cals.arizona.edu/news/fulbright-scholar-ivan-mauricio-vela-vargas

Nice work Mauricio!



New publication reviews how animal personality can matter for wildlife conservation and management


Individually distinctive behavioral traits, or personalities, are documented across taxa, from insects to fish, birds, and mammals. Essentially wherever researchers have looked, they find that individual behavior differences exist and ensure that some individuals in a population do well across many different environmental and social contexts with important implications for survival and reproduction.  Animal personality research has increased dramatically in recent years in the ecology, evolution, and animal behavior literature, and while many have highlighted the importance of incorporating animal behavior and personality into applied wildlife conservation and management practice, personality is still rarely mentioned in wildlife conservation and management literature.  In a new review paper, KCRL’s Melissa Merrick and Dr. K. provide examples of how animal personality and correlations between behavior traits can be important considerations in areas of interest to wildlife and fisheries conservation practitioners: detection probability and trap success, handling stress, movement and dispersal, habitat selection, mate choice and reproductive success, parasite infection, invasive species, responses to human harvest, urbanization and disturbance, and captivity and translocation/reintroduction success.  Because behavioral traits are often linked to physiological and life history traits, accounting for behavioral differences and thereby physiological and life history differences among individuals in a population ensures that management actions and other anthropogenic factors do not inadvertently select for certain individual characteristics or have unintended consequences for wildlife populations.

Read more here:

Merrick, M. J., and J. L. Koprowski 2017. Should we consider individual behavior differences in applied wildlife conservation studies? Biological Conservation 209: 34-44.


Smith’s bush squirrels engage in amicable social behavior


KCRL PhD candidate Sarah Hale receives 2017 Roger Hungerford Award


Sarah Hale with a kangaroo rat friend

KCRL PhD candidate Sarah Hale is the 2017 recipient of the Arizona Chapter of The Wildlife Society’s Roger Hungerford Award.  The Hungerford award is for a top student in wildlife research who, while attending an Arizona college or university, made significant contributions to the management and conservation of Arizona’s wildlife and/or habitat. Contributions are in the areas of wildlife research, education and training, management, conservation, or law enforcement. The Award is given in memory of one of Arizona’s finest research biologists, Roger Hungerford (a past Professor at The University of Arizona).  Sarah’s dissertation research focuses on the reintroduction of black-tailed prairie dogs (Cynomys ludovicianus) to grasslands of southern Arizona and resulting demographic and community responses. Sarah has worked closely with land managers and state agencies to monitor this important reintroduction, allowing her to test whether prairie dogs can resume the role as a keystone grassland species following a prolonged absence.  Her findings are important for grassland community ecology and conservation, range management, and inform prairie dog conservation and reintroduction efforts throughout North America. Nicely done Sarah!!


Track predictions from your favorite rodent prognosticators across North America

Early spring?  Six more weeks of winter?  “If Candlemas Day be bright and clear, there be two winters in the year”.  Check out ground hog predictions from across North America on our interactive map.


Read more about the history of groundhog day here:

Dr. K spreads knowledge about burrowing animals:




New publication highlights differential response to fire by an endemic and introduced squirrel

New research by KCRL alum Nate Gwinn and Dr. K. highlights the differential response to fire by the endangered, endemic Mt. Graham red squirrels (Tamiasciurus fremonti grahamensis) and introduced Abert’s squirrels (Sciurus aberti) in the Pinaleño Mountains. Nate’s Master’s research quantified the use of burned and and unburned forest by both species via radio telemetry and feeding sign transects.  Abert’s squirrels were more likely to use burned areas for foraging and nesting, whereas native Mt. Graham red squirrels tended to avoid burned areas, suggesting that increased fire frequency and severity benefits the introduced species while effectively limiting habitat available to the native species.

Read more about it here:

Gwinn, R. N. and J. L. Koprowksi. 2017. Differential response to fire by an introduced and an endemic species complicates endangered species conservation. Hystrix doi:10.4404/hystrix-27.2-11447:1-7.



KCRL PhD student Mauricio Vela-Vargas awarded Phoenix Zoo Conservation and Science Grant

Congrats to KCRL PhD student Mauricio Vela-Vargas on being awarded the Phoenix Zoo’s Conservation and Science Grant!  Mauricio’s proposal, entitled ‘Andean-Bear-human conflict areas in the Chingaza Massif, Colombia: hotspots, drivers and potential solutions’ will support his dissertation research on understanding the current status, habitat, and variables associated with human-bear conflict in Colombia.

Read more about Mauricio’s work: http://cals.arizona.edu/research/redsquirrel/students/mvelavargas.html

Learn more about the Phoenix Zoo’s Global Conservation Program: http://phoenixzoo.org/conservation/global-conservation/



Three KCRL students awarded grants for conservation biology from T&E Inc.!

Big congrats to KCRL master’s students Allie Burnett and Colin Brocka and PhD student Brian Blais for being awarded research grants for conservation biology from T & E Inc.

T & E Inc. is a non-profit  corporation dedicated to the appreciation and preservation of native flora and fauna of New Mexico, Arizona, and northern Mexico.  T & E’s conservation biology grants serve to encourage students in Conservation Biology and related fields, by offering financial grants especially for field research and public education. Special emphasis is placed on research benefiting threatened and endangered species.

Read more about Allie, Colin, and Brian’s funded research projects below:

Brian Blais: What are the spatial and behavioral dynamics in a conservation translocated population? A viability case study for threatened narrow-headed gartersnakes, Thamnophis rufipunctatus

Allie Burnett: Effects of woody encroachment on anti-predator behavior and communication

Colin Brocka: Terrestrial ecology of the endangered Sonoran tiger salamander