Dr. Sean Maher’s research highlights the connection between animal populations and climate change.
The associate professor of biology at Missouri State University has teamed up with student researchers to study changes in mice and rat populations in Missouri habitats, including prairies, glades, and forests.
The data taken from these species can be used to provide evidence of change in forecast trends in a region.
A meaningful collaboration
Maher was the co-author of an article with 2018 MSU alumna Emily Beasley on small mammals in glades.
Their findings provided strong evidence to support the theory of island biogeography, which predicts that the larger the size of an island, the greater number of species it should have.
The duo’s work also revealed that population counts of these species can either decline or rise based on disruptions in their environment, like changes in the amount of their food sources.
Maher and Beasley’s work showed that environmental disruptions are the instigator for population count changes, such as a decrease in food sources or a rise in rainfall.
“These small mammal communities can give us a baseline,” he said. “Twenty or 30 years from now, someone can survey the same prairie or glade, and compare data.
“Then, you may see a different story – perhaps a species disappeared, or a new species is present.”