The latest installment from the Portal Project Blog on the watch for Banner-tailed Kangaroo Rats
Much beloved by those who have worked at the Portal Project, the banner-tailed kangaroo rat (Dipodomys spectabilis) is one of the most charismatic rodents at the site (for us smammal lovers who think rodents can be charismatic, anyway). The fact that they have a nickname—spectabs—attests to this fondness. Look at that mighty tufted tail! Those giant, majestic furred feet! Weighing in at over 100 grams as adults, they are twice the size of our other kangaroo rat species (D. ordii and D. merriami). What’s not to love?
As avid readers of the Portal blog might recall, the site used to be much grassier back in the day. At the start of the project in 1977, spectabs were running the show at Portal; we even had some plots that excluded only D. spectabilis because they were so dominant! For the spectabs, this was a desert…
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How did we get those daily pics of the desert turning green in a week? Meet Portal’s new toy: the Phenocam.
For starters, it allows us to do things like watch our desert field site turn from brown to green in no time flat (and back to brown again this winter).
But even cooler, our camera is part of the PhenoCam Network. They’re organizing a network of near-surface remote sensing images from sites all over the world. This creates a time series of images, in RGB and infrared, that can be used for phenology monitoring by the PhenoCam folks, us, or anyone who’s interested.
The PhenoCam folks make all the imagery freely available to download. From installation and configuration to image analysis, they provide awesome support. And their R package phenopix provides a quickstart to using phenocam imagery.
A guest post from last week on the Portal Blog about studying Kangaroo rat placentas!
~While everyone’s busy at ESA this week, we’d like to keep the 40th anniversary ball rolling with a guest post from a visiting researcher at Portal. Jess Dudley has been using the Portal area to compare pregnancy in kangaroo rats and Australian marsupials. We’ll be featuring other guest posts through the rest of the year. (If you’d like to do something similar, please send us your info!)~
In July 2015 I travelled the 24+ hours from Sydney, Australia to the beautiful town of Portal to research pregnancy in Kangaroo rats. To everyone’s astonishment we do not have Kangaroo rats in Australia! I am sure I don’t need to explain my fascination with Kangaroo rats with this audience but in terms of pregnancy they have some unique features which differ from most rodents. This finding by King and Tibbitts in the 1960’s led me to wonder how the placenta forms during pregnancy…
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We have a modest sized group of current folks at ESA this week presenting on all the cool things they’ve been doing. We’re also around and always happy to try to find time to grab a coffee or just a few minutes to chat science.
Our schedule for the week is:
Get a double dose of rapid change in ecological communities from the Portal Project with Morgan Ernest and Erica Christensen.
02:50 PM – 03:10 PM in C120-121. Erica Christensen (w/Dave Harris & Morgan Ernest). Novel approach for the analysis of community dynamics: Separating rapid reorganizations from gradual trends.
03:20 PM – 03:40 PM in C120-121. Morgan Ernest (w/Erica Christensen). Do existing communities slow community reorganization in response to changes in assembly processes?
Find out what we can learn about how natural systems may change in response to climate from looking at large datasets with Ethan White and Kristina Riemer.
01:50 PM – 02:10 PM in D139. Kristina Riemer (w/Rob Guralnick & Ethan White). No general relationship between mass and temperature in endotherm species.
02:30 PM – 02:50 PM in Portland Blrm 256. Ethan White (w/Dave Harris & Shawn Taylor). Data-intensive approaches to forecasting biodiversity.
Check out a new project with a new and exciting research tool for us (metabarcoding) at the poster session.
04:30 PM – 06:30 PM in the Exhibit Hall. Ellen Bledsoe (w/Sam Wisely & Morgan Ernest). DNA metabarcoding of fecal samples provides insight into desert rodent diet partitioning.
There are also plenty of weecology collaborations being presented this week:
- Transient species are common: Implications for ecological inference (Thursday at 9:20 am in C120-121)
- Modeling community assembly and the functioning of ecosystems (Thursday at 4:20 pm in E143-144)
- Advancing biodiversity-ecosystem function research by integrating community assembly: The CAFE approach (Friday at 8 am in Portland Blrm 257)
- Diversity alone is not enough: Nitrogen enrichment and community assembly determine ecosystem response to drought (Friday at 9:40 am in Portland Blrm 257)
We’re really looking forward to catching up with old friends and meeting new people this week.