PI: Kelsey Neam, firstname.lastname@example.org
, Texas A&M University, Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Sciences, 210 Nagle Hall MS 2258 TAMU, College Station, TX 77843
PI: Dr. Thomas E. Lacher Jr., email@example.com
, 201 Old State Chem 2258, Texas A&M University, College Station Texas 77843-2258.
Land use change, often driven by a complex array of socio-economic factors, is a key driver of the loss of biodiversity, particularly in the tropics. As human population, food consumption, and the demand for forest products continue to rise over the next century, the impacts of land use change on biodiversity and ecosystem services are projected to intensify. Analyses of IUCN Red List criteria have revealed that conversion of complex natural ecosystems into high-intensity croplands is among the most significant causes of species endangerment for mammals. Mammals are widely used as indicators of habitat disturbance and fragmentation due to their close relationships with forest cover and structural complexity. The behavioral responses of mammals to spatial elements are often directly related to their body size, life history traits, and ability to move through the landscape. For example, costs of movement (i.e. predation risk and energetic expenditure) are likely to be greater for species with low vagility and high dependence on tree cover than they are for species with high vagility. Therefore, these species could serve as model organisms when studying the impacts of land use change and may be used as an umbrella to conserve a larger group of species.
The purpose of this study is to assess the effects of land use change on brown-throated sloth (Bradypus variegatus) populations along the Caribbean slope of the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve in Costa Rica. This region is a landscape mosaic of forest and human-modified habitats. In my research, B. variegatus will be used as a model organism to investigate the impacts of land use change on the abundance and distribution of a species of low vagility across multiple land use types The sedentary lifestyle of sloths compounded by their low metabolic rate, weak dispersal potential, and reliance on forest cover make them especially susceptible to habitat fragmentation and land use change.
I will generate a land use map of the region and overlay the distribution of B. variegatus to produce a density of use map, incorporating ecological niche modeling and spatial dynamics. This information will be used to generate inferences about the ability of B. variegatus to inhabit and traverse areas experiencing varying degrees of land use intensity. I anticipate that this research will provide a deeper understanding of the spatial ecology of species with low dispersal ability within human-modified landscapes and improve the capacity of policy makers to conserve biodiversity while sustaining agricultural productivity, ecosystem functioning, and rural livelihoods.
TAMU-Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Sciences (2014)
Texas A&M University Teaching Assistantship: Mammalogy (2012-2014)
Applied Biodiversity Science Program Scholarship (2013)
Throughout this project, I have collaborated with over thirty citizen scientists from the Earthwatch Institute, an international non-profit organization that aims to bring together scientists and the public in an effort to promote the understand and action necessary for a sustainable environment. I am also working with several undergraduate students, Lilianna Wolf and Rebecca Langley from Texas A&M University and Pablo Castro from the Universidad Nacional de Costa Rica. These students are assisting with collecting data for this project, as well as developing their own practical skills and knowledge necessary for a path in scientific research. Lilianna Wolf is a recent recipient of an Undergraduate Research Scholar award as a result of her work in Costa Rica.
Landon, A.C., Van Riper, C.J., Angeli, N.F., Fitzgerald, D.B., Neam, K.D. 2013. In review. Growing Transdisciplinary Roots in the Peruvian Amazon. Target Journal: The Journal of Transdisciplinary Environmental Studies.
Neam, K.D., Wood, M.A. 2014. Collaboratory blogging: Many minds are better than one. Applied Biodiversity Sciences Perspectives Series.
Neam, K. D., Petriello, M., Wood, M. (2014). [Blog] Central America: Applied Biodiversity Science. Available at: http://centralamericaabs.wordpress.com/
Sloth Ecology and Conservation. 2014. Conservet Workshop. San Isidro de Peñas Blancas, Costa Rica.