Siena professor conducts multi-year wildlife and urban landscape research – The Daily Gazette

A professor from Siena College traveled to the forest this month to begin leading a three-year research project on the effects of housing development on forest and wildlife ecology.

The study was made possible by a $184,511 grant from the Northeastern States Research Cooperative that was awarded to Siena Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies and Sciences Dan Bogan in June.

“I was very excited to receive this grant, and I had a moment of being beside myself for a minute there and I had to take a quick walk around our quad and enjoy the moment,” said Bogan said.

The money will not only allow him to buy the necessary equipment and other resources, but also to hire more than 20 students over the next three years to help and gain their own experience working in the field.

“This is a pretty large research grant,” Bogan said. “I know I will be able to conduct field research for the next three summers and beyond with that kind of money.”

One of the students who will join this research mission is Lauren Costello, 20, an aspiring student in Siena studying environmental science. She will participate in both fieldwork and data analysis.

“I’m really excited to start,” said Costello, who is from Cohoes.

Bogan, Costello and the rest of the research team will explore the Northern Forest, which stretches across New York, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine. The researchers will stay in Albany this summer to conduct a pilot session of the project, but over the next three summers they will examine how human sprawl into natural and forested areas — also known as the wild-urban interface — affects the ecosystems that live there. .

According to Bogan, who has studied wildlife conservation in urban landscapes for years, housing development irreversibly alters natural habitats in ways that other landscape changes, such as agriculture or construction of a park, do not. This change not only reduces or completely eliminates the habitat that wildlife in the region once inhabited, but it also threatens biodiversity.

“One of the other kinds of conflicts I want to shed some light on is the complex nature of where our ecosystems are today and how predator and prey interactions are out of sync with what they were historically, which eventually leaves some of these populations completely unchecked or nearly unchecked, like the white-tailed deer,” Bogan said. – instead of seeing the diverse community evolve into small mammals that we would normally see in a healthy wild environment.”

But this loss of biodiversity does not only threaten species in forest areas. For Costello, it also threatens the ability for humans to learn from the surrounding nature.

“I think it’s really important that we maintain those environments and make sure that we maintain that level of biodiversity in our region and in the northeast in general,” Costello said. “People can learn a lot from wildlife, their habits and the habitat they live in, so we need to preserve it so we can learn from them.”

Bogan and his team will use a variety of tools to study this impact on mammals, including non-invasive camera traps, live capture and recapture of small animals, and vegetation sampling.

The results of this research will naturally benefit the environmental science community, but they will also have important implications for the Capital Region. According to a Cornell analysis of US Census Bureau data released earlier this year, the majority of counties in the Capital Region, including Schenectady, Saratoga, Fulton and Montgomery counties, experienced population growth from April 2020 to July 2021.

Along with this growth comes pressure for housing development, especially in rural and forested areas of upstate New York. But in addition to a loss of habitat and biodiversity, housing developments in forested areas often result in interactions between wildlife and humans.

Subdivisions tend to be built in parcels, leaving natural and forested landscapes between each developed space. This leaves room for animals to roam and, inevitably, wander into residential sites and encounter humans.

“There’s a lot of mixed forest habitat in the subdivisions,” Bogan said. “And for a lot of people, that’s what they want: they want to see this natural habitat – this green space – all around them, but it ends up providing the possibility of wildlife-human interactions. “

The Capital Region has had its fair share of such interactions recently. In May, a moose ended up in Niskayuna and the Department of Environmental Conservation had to remove a sleeping bear from a tree in Albany’s Washington Park. A black bear and her cub were also spotted in Albany in June.

“The example of the black bear and also the moose moving through a fairly suburban, populated area – those are examples of some of the symptoms that we’re looking at, so we want to get to the root of what’s leading to these special cases,” Bogan said.

These interactions are generally not dangerous to humans as animal attacks are rare, although they may present a greater threat to small pets that may be outdoors.

“Unfortunately what happens is that if a person lets their cat or a small dog out, that predator could see the cat as a food source or maybe the small dog as a competitor and it can often hurt or kill pets,” Bogan said.

The most common human-wildlife interactions involve communicable diseases, including Lyme disease, which residents of the Capital Region are no strangers to. These types of diseases may become more prevalent as animals, such as white-tailed deer or deer mice, move more into residential areas due to development in forested areas.

According to Bryon Backenson of the New York State Department of Health, the move increases the likelihood of people “being in places where animals have been where ticks could end up falling” and exposing humans.

All of these effects will be studied in Bogan’s research. Overall, however, he hopes the study will inform future land-use policies and practices to encourage conservation and better predict potential human-wildlife interactions.

“We are conducting this research to learn something about our local environment,” Bogan said. “But really, at the end of the day, we want to be able to make recommendations to municipalities and land developers so that they make really informed decisions about where to develop so that we can protect biological diversity and protect wildlife and forests, but also protect people’s interests too.”

More from The Daily Gazette:

Categories: News

About Barbara Johnson

Check Also

IUB-AAUP deplores Rokita’s attacks on IU Professor Caitlin Bernard; Calls on administration to defend Dr Bernard – The Bloomingtonian

The following press release was sent to the Bloomingtonian this week: « July 26, 2022 …