C-RUI: A Multi-Disciplinary Approach to the Ecological and Evolutionary Interactions Between Food-Hoarding Animals and the Oaks

Project: Research project

Project Details

Description

This multidisciplinary investigation, designed specifically for collaborative research among undergraduates, will employ a range of experimental approaches to determine how behavioral decisions of food-hoarding animals influence the dispersal, establishment, survival, eco-physiology, and genetics of oaks over a broad geographic area. Previous research by two of the PI's indicates that caching decisions of mammals results in the selective consumption of acorns of the white oak group (WO) and dispersal, hoarding, and frequent survival of those of the RO group (RO). This study will rely on five approaches to examine the broad evidence for, and implications of, this differential dispersal hypothesis. These are 1. behavioral experiments to further examine patterns of oak dispersal; 2. seed dispersal experiments to determine factors controlling seedling establishment; 3. a broad-scale biogeographic comparison of seedling distributions; 4. an eco-physiological comparison of RO and WO seedlings in the field and lab; and 5. a molecular (PCR) analysis to document comparative genetics and seedling shadows of oak. The collaboration will bring together 15-20 undergraduates per year from biology, chemistry and environmental sciences from two undergraduate institutions. The study will employ a team approach to research (across universities) and a vertical training/learning environment in order to maximize student experience in all aspects of the scientific process, including presentations at conferences and publications. The program will include development of a new course in plant-animal interactions and an annual project conference aimed at promoting student learning.

StatusFinished
Effective start/end date12/1/998/31/04

Funding

  • National Science Foundation: $833,731.00

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