Congrats to KCRL PhD student Shambhu Paudel, recipient of the 2017 Whale and Dolphin Conservation’s Bharathi Viswanathan award

KCRL PhD student and Russell E. Train WWF Fellow Shambhu Paudel has been awarded the 2017 WDC BHARATHI VISWANATHAN AWARD!  The Whale and Dolphin Conservation’s Bharathi Viswanathan award is given for innovative and non-invasive research, showcasing non-invasive research methodologies, that lead to the development of innovative and non-invasive approaches towards studying whales and dolphins.

Shambhu is incorporating photo identification and other non-invasive methods to study ganges river dolphin population density and ecology in Nepal.

Congrats Shambu!


KCRL’s Colin Brocka, Brian Blais, and Mauricio Vela-Vargas receive GPSC travel grants

Congrats to KCRL PhD students Mauricio Vela-Vargas and Brian Blais, and Master’s student Colin Brocka, recipients of 2017 University of Arizona Graduate Student and Professional Student Council travel grants to attend the International Congress for Conservation Biology  in Cartagena Colombia (Mauricio) and the Joint Meeting of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists in Austin, Texas (Brian, Colin).  GPSC travel grants provide excellent graduate student support for students to present research and network with key scientific societies.

Way to go Mauricio, Colin, & Brian!

What do we know about fire and Mt. Graham red squirrels?

MGRS by Melissa Merrick

Photo by Melissa J. Merrick

As the Frye Fire continues to expand in the Pinalenos, one might wonder how federally endangered Mt. Graham red squirrels (MGRS) might respond to such a challenge.  Fire has long been a major factor shaping the forests of Mt. Graham and thus the habitat and ecology of the mountain’s red squirrels.  The Nuttall Complex Fire in 2004 burned more than 12,000 ha of forest, much of it in Mt. Graham red squirrel habitat.  At that time, we were conducting regular counts of squirrel abundance and following individuals fitted with radiocollars.  Red squirrels clearly were initially negatively impacted by fire; about 35% perished in the fire but many individuals were able to survive and were found alive in underground burrows soon after the fire or moved more than 1 km and were found outside of the burn perimeter.  Because fires often burn in a patchy fashion, the impacts of fire after the direct passing of the fire are variable.  MGRS continue to avoid areas of high or moderate burn for many years after the fire; however, low levels of burn damage actually seemed to have some positive impacts as indicated by smaller daily ranging behavior of individuals and continued persistence of animals in such burned locations.  Introduced Abert’s squirrels, a non-native competitor on Mt. Graham, respond more positively to fire and pose a continued threat.  Although the Frye Fire is still raging and each fire is different, MGRS have been through massive fires in the past.  Post-fire management of MGRS and the forest will be critical to persistence.  One thing that past fires, 7,000-10,000 years of tenacious residence by squirrels and our research over the last 17 years  on Mt. Graham tell us, MGRS are survivors and don’t give up easily!

Here are links to papers that detail the findings mentioned above:

Blount, S.J., J.L. Koprowski. 2012. Small mammal response to post-fire conditions: case of the endangered Mount Graham red squirrel. Southwestern Naturalist. 57:8-15.

Gwinn, R. N. and J. L. Koprowski. 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.

Koprowski, J. L., K. M. Leonard, C. A. Zugmeyer, and J. L. Jolley. 2006. Direct effects of fire on endangered Mount Graham red squirrels. The Southwestern Naturalist 51(1): 59-63.

Leonard, K. M. and J. L. Koprowski. 2009. Effects of fire on endangered Mt. Graham red squirrels (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus grahamensis): responses of individuals with known fates. Southwestern Naturalist 55:217-224.

Below, please find a number of helpful links with more detail on MGRS and fire:

For updates on the Frye Fire:

For information on the Mt. Graham red squirrels and our research:

For information on fires in the recent past on Mt. Graham:

For a copy of the fire history of Mt. Graham through the late 1900s, see Grissino-Mayer et al.s 1994 paper:

KCRL’s Kira Hefty and Marina Morandini receive science and art communication fellowships

Congrats to KCRL PhD students Kira Hefty and Marina Morandini on their receipt of a seven-week science and art communication fellowship led by The University of Arizona Museum of Art curators Olivia Miller and Chelsea Farrar. This program, part of an Institute of Museum and Library Sciences grant through Seattle’s Pacific Science Center, allows partner institutions, including UAMA, to train scientists to communicate their work in informal science, art and history settings.  Participants will learn effective communication strategies to showcase their research in a public setting. Network with other science and arts professionals, create a hands-on activity, and participate in a public event in a dynamic museum setting.

Congrats Kira and Marina!

KCRL’s Jonathan Derbridge coauthors new publication on carnivore dietary niche partitioning

KCRL’s PhD candidate Jonathan Derbridge and colleagues Jerod Merkle, Jean Polfus, and Kimberly Heinemeyer from the University of Montana have a new publication in the Canadian Journal of Zoology titled: Dietary nice partitioning among black bears, grizzly bears, and wolves in a multi-prey ecosystem.

Authors Jerod, Jean, and Jonathan were masters students together at University of Montana.  Kim is a biologist with Round River Conservation Studies (, who helped fund the study.  This was a nice example of colleagues pulling together a paper from a dataset that may otherwise not have been published.   During her MS project within the traditional territory of the Taku River Tlingit First Nation in northwestern BC, Jean collected hair samples of black bear, grizzly bear, wolf, and multiple prey species including woodland caribou and moose, as well as a broad selection bear diet plant species.  This dataset provided a unique opportunity  to examine niche partitioning and spring-summer diet variation among co-occurring large carnivores through stable isotope diet analysis.  The authors expected moose to form the bulk of wolf diet, and bear diet to shift from more moose in spring to more vegetation in summer.  Despite the much higher moose density, wolves primarily consumed caribou.  Black bears did shift from moose to vegetation, and grizzly bears maintained a consistent diet of moose and vegetation.  These results suggest the co-occurrence of 3 large carnivore species is supported by differential use of common prey species.  The surprising wolf diet result may be connected to increasing human development (e.g. roads), and woodland caribou conservation may benefit from a broader understanding of that pressure.

Congrats all around!

Colin Brocka receives travel grant from The Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles

KCRL Master’s student Colin Brocka has received a $500 travel grant from The Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles to attend 2017 Joint Meeting of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists meeting in Austin, Texas.  Colin will present his research on movements of Sonoran tiger salamander (Ambystoma mavortium stebbinsi) terrestrial morphs in Southern Arizona.  Congrats Colin!


Sonoran tiger salamander aquatic morph

Marina Morandini and Allie Burnett awarded ASM research grants

KCRL PhD student Marina Morandini and Master’s student Allie Burnett have been awarded 2017 Grants in Aid of Research from the American Society of Mammalogists (ASM). Grants from ASM support field and laboratory work that enhances graduate student research and help to make the most of each precious field season – congrats Marina & Allie!

Marna Morandini’s proposal, titled: What makes a midden attractive? Impacts of red squirrels on biodiversity, explores the hypothesis that red squirrels are ecosystem


MGRS feeding on a Douglas-fir cone at its midden

engineers, or organisms that exert strong physical changes to their environment, affecting resource availability and species distribution. Red squirrels can be considered an important type of ecosystem engineer since they contribute to the construction of shelter and nutritional resources in ecosystems by means of midden building. Marina’s research is focused on Mount Graham red squirrels (MGRS; Tamiasciurus fremonti grahamensis) and with the following objectives: 1) to understand how new midden formation impacts vertebrate biodiversity in the surrounding community and through which mechanism 2) to determine whether these impacts are explained by red squirrel residency or intrinsic attributes (structure and/or food) of the new midden, and 3) to assess how age, sex, and behavior of MGRS influence new midden settlement.

Allie Burnett’s proposal, titled: Structure and function of alarm communication in a solitary mammal, aims to test hypotheses related to the function of alarm calls


Harris’s antelope ground squirrel resting under a prickly pear cactus

in Harris’ Antelope ground squirrels, a solitary small mammal that also makes alarm vocalizations. Funds from ASM will be directed primarily towards the purchase of radio collars, which will help Allie locate and track adults, estimate adult home ranges, and determine whether ranges overlap between neighbors. These data will help Allie understand movement patterns, social tendencies, and habitat preference. Tracking adults will also allow Allie to investigate the communication system in this species by conducting trials that elicit alarm calls and call responses. Comparing differences between individuals with offspring and those without offspring will help shed light on the function of alarm calls in antelope ground squirrels. This project has important implications for the evolution of communication in nonsocial mammals and its influence in sociality and cognition.