Thursday, October 20, 2011

Study Hyena Behavior in Kenya!

Dr. Kay Holekamp of Michigan State University announces a wonderful field school opportunity studying the behavior of Kenyan hyenas! Even for students with a primary interest in primates, hyenas are fascinating animals and the field school draws on similar behavioral observation techniques as does primate research. Dr. Holekamp is looking for undergraduates between their junior and senior year. Please print out the flyer and announce to your students! (Application info can be found on the flyer.)

There are 2 projects that will be available for participation during summer, 2012:

1. Spotted hyenas and ecosystem health. The spotted hyena is the most abundant and wide-ranging large carnivore in Africa. In addition to their plasticity in regard to habitat choice, hyenas are extremely adaptable carnivores that can survive by scavenging or hunting large and medium-sized herbivores. Where many other mammalian species occupying African ecosystems cannot readily adapt to changing environmental conditions, the spotted hyena is able to thrive. Using the spotted hyena as an indicator for changing African ecosystems, we may be able to predict changes and modify conservation practices before it is too late.
*** Work this summer will involve running transects to document space use patterns of sympatric mammal, monitoring of hyena space-use via radio telemetry, and daily monitoring of hyena behavior and demography.

2. Maternal strategies and offspring development. The spotted hyena displays a protracted period of development characterized by extensive maternal care and marked by distinct developmental milestones. This project explores first, how maternal behavior and physiology vary with social rank and degree of human disturbance and second, what the consequences of anthropogenic disturbance may be for the development of spotted hyena cubs. Previous research indicates that adult females in areas of high disturbance show higher stress levels and lower attendance at communal dens where cubs are reared.
*** Work this summer will include collection of focal and all-occurrence behavioral data, organization and analysis of demographic and hormonal data, and development of field experiments to measure temperament/personality.

Travel costs (airline tickets, room, board, Kenyan visa, etc.) will be covered by NSF funds, and students will also receive a stipend of $2500.

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