Ryan Long NSF Graduate Fellow
Thesis Title:
Linking Climatic Variability to Behavior and Fitness in Herbivores: A Bioenergetic Approach

Research Advisor:
Dr. Terry Bowyer and Dr. John Kie

Teacher Partner:
Bruce Givens

Degree Sought:
Ph.D. in Biology

University Department and/or Lab:
Biological Sciences

Description of Research:

My proposed research will utilize a landscape-scale model of energetics and behavior to evaluate the relative importance of climate, forage, risk of predation, and landscape features such as topography in influencing behavior and energy balance of individual herbivores. The model, Niche Mapper™, was the first mechanistic model to successfully predict the distribution of a mammalian species (the Japanese serow; Capricornis crispus), and it holds great potential for explaining fitness consequences of individual foraging and movement strategies across a broad array of landscapes and ecosystems. My study will be comparative, and will evaluate relationships among environment, behavior, and fitness of herbivores in a montane forest versus a sagebrush-steppe ecosystem. Large herbivores occupying sagebrush-steppe ecosystems typically are exposed to substantially higher temperatures and radiant heat loads than those in forested environments, and thus a comparative study of those two systems will provide important clues about potential effects of a warming climate on behavior and fitness of large herbivores.

One example of how you integrate your research into your GK-12 experience:
We plan to introduce the students to some of the basic concepts of population biology by conducting a mark-recapture study of small mammals. I have extensive experience trapping a variety of small mammal species, and I also taught a population ecology lab at the University of Idaho, so this project will provide an excellent opportunity for me to integrate my research experience into the classroom.

Profile date: Sept. 2008


Ryan Long