Arctic ground squirrels as vital signs of Tundra/Alpine Habitats - What do they indicate?
Purpose of Study: The Central Alaska Network (CAKN) designated the Arctic ground squirrel (AGS; U. parryii) as an indicator species of park ecosystems such as vulnerable alpine tundra habitat and as an important prey item for terrestrial and aerial predators. In this project, l will seek to better understand the role of habitat quality in determining the spatial distribution and population density ofU. parryii in Denali National Park. The researcher (Golden) will test hypothesis on the impact of the landscape matrix on occupancy and abundance ofU. parryii across DENA. These population data will provide a baseline for information to determine
I) habitat associations of arctic ground squirrels
2) abundance and distribution, and
3) population trends.
The researcher will combine direct estimates of dispersal with indirect estimates from genetic data to understand landscape effects on U. parryii. Together, these estimates should inform us on the use ofU. parryii as an indicator species for tundra and alpine landscape and their ability to respond to changes in relation to vegetation composition and climate. Using the indirect and direct estimates ofU. parryii vulnerability, the researcher will forecast their expected change in distribution with warming in the Arctic.