Bethany Bachmeier, a freshman in Sisters High School, was watching the various small, wild rodents skittering about the Trout Creek Conservation Area (TCCA) out behind the high school and wondered who they are, what they do, and how they impact forest health.
The advice she needed to conduct a study was right at hand in the person of Rima Givot, science teacher at the high school. They came up with scientific research methods to help Bachmeier find answers. Bethany began her research in the TCCA last April 8 and ended her work 21 days later.
She asked her initial questions and framed her hypothesis:
What rodents live in Trout Creek Conservation Area?
What niches do the rodents fill?
How does their niche relate/contribute to the health of the forest?
She separated the TCCA into five sections that encompassed the site. She used binoculars and camera to record her observations, a thermometer to record the ambient temperature while making her observations, field guides to identify her study subjects and a journal to record all her observations.
From this work came her scientific paper, "Rodent Niche Study in Trout Creek Conservation Area Ponderosa Pine Forest."
These are part of her conclusions:
"The four main species in TCCA are golden-mantled ground squirrels, grey squirrels, and yellow-pine and least chipmunks. Yellow-pine chipmunks were by far the most common in the forest. I didn't see any Merriam's ground squirrels probably because the forest wasn't the right habitat for them (they like open areas instead of forests with dense brush) nor did I see any house mice (they are seen more in urban areas and probably earlier in the mornings).
"I expected to find that the dominant species would be the golden-mantled and the grey squirrel; however, I found that the dominant species was the yellow-pine chipmunk. This might be due to the fact that chipmunks seemed to have a wide range of where they went while active and could've had me counting the same animals day after day. Because the data clearly showed that there were more chipmunks than anything else (which) could be due to the very thick undergrowth that has accumulated in TCCA. The chipmunks blend in perfectly. Their lighter tan-yellow is the same color as the soil and their grey backs fit in very well with the bitter brush. There are many pine cones that are able to support many of these animals."