Alumni Research

August 5, 2014 at 1:56 pm

Howey Presents ‘Thermoregulation & Energy Expenditures of Black Racers in Thermally Contrasting, Burned & Unburned Landscapes’

Biological Sciences alum Christopher Howey ’14Ph.D. presented a paper on “Thermoregulation and Energy Expenditures of Black Racers (Coluber constrictor) in Thermally Contrasting, Burned and Unburned Landscapes” at the 2014 Joint Meeting of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists July 30 to Aug. 4 in Chattanooga, TN.

Howey earned a Ph.D. in Biological Sciences from the College of Arts & Sciences at Ohio University in 2014 and is now a postdoctoral scholar at Pennsylvania State University.

His coauthors were Dr. Willem Roosenburg, Professor of Biological Sciences at Ohio University, and Matthew Dickinson of the U.S. Forest Service Northern Research Station in Delaware, OH.

Abstract: Understanding how wildlife species react to habitat changes following a controlled fire is imperative for the successful use of this management tool. In regard to reptiles, an important habitat component is the available thermal characteristics which may dictate potential body temperatures (Tb). It was the objective of this project to measure the preferred body temperature (Tset) of the black racer (Coluber constrictor) while at rest and the optimal body temperature while in motion (thermal breadth; B80). These temperature ranges were compared to Tbs maintained by C. constrictor in the field and operative temperatures (Te) available within each treatment. Good thermal quality habitat was defined as areas which Te deviated less from Tset and B80 ranges. We found that burned landscapes were higher thermal quality earlier in the active season, but unburned treatments became higher thermal quality later in the field season as overall climate became warmer. Regardless of available TeS, C. constrictor maintained Tbs within both treatments that strongly overlapped with B80 ranges. This meant that C. constrictor would have to allocate more time and energy toward thermoregulation earlier in the field season within unburned treatments when TeS were cooler, but more time and energy toward thermoregulation in the burned landscape later in the field season when TeS became warmer. We measured activity and energy expenditures of C. constrictor toward the end of the active season in both treatments, and found that C. constrictor were more active and expended more energy in the burn treatment when thermal quality was poorer.

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