Jared Walker Smith - 2005 Environmental Studies Senior Seminar Research Project
|How to Trap|
Small mammals play crucial roles in natural ecosystems. They serve as predators, prey, seed dispersers, pests, and grazers. A healthy, diverse community of small mammals can serve as an indicator of ecological condition and wildlife habitat value of a whole area, because "compared to other wildlife species, small mammal populations are particularly sensitive to habitat alterations" (Olson and Brewer, 2003). Small mammals can keep pest species down, both insect and vertebrate, and can serve as food for larger game species. Yet as their natural habitats become altered into agricultural land, their roles in these new agroecosystems can often shift. The effects small mammals have on the farmland may go unrecognized, and when the effects are positive, they may often be unappreciated. Recently, new shifts in sustainable agriculture have been trying to provide wildlife-friendly practices, yet there is still much debate over the effectiveness of these trends (Green et al., 2005; Hole et al., 2005).
So what role do small mammals play in agroecosystems? What effects do different types of agriculture have on these small mammal communities? What is beneficial to both human and animal alike?
By no means is this project designed to completely answer those questions, or even suggest a specific model for wildlife friendly farming. The purpose of this project is to inform readers about the roles that small mammals play in agroecosystems, hopefully imparting a greater understanding and appreciation for the importance of all types of communities, both large and small. More specifically, it is designed to be a reference to residents and farmers of the Cannon River Watershed about the local mammalian community, providing information on how to trap, identify, and assess the value of small mammal populations.
This project was done for the Environmental Studies Senior Seminar course at St. Olaf College, in Northfield, Minnesota. The theme of this year's class was the "Ecology of Food" where we focused on quite a few environmental issues of food. As both a biology and environmental studies double major, my passion during college has been the natural community, especially the vertebrate community. This project has allowed me to bring together three elements of my education; environmental awareness, natural history, and the ecology of food.
All photographs on this web site are owned by Jared Walker Smith.