Date of Award:
Master of Science (MS)
Many herbivores travel between low-elevation winter ranges and high-elevation summer sites. These seasonal movements allow them to avoid deep snow cover, ensure access to favorable habitat, and maximize food intake throughout the year. During the spring season, plants at lower elevations green up earlier at lower elevations than at higher elevations. It has been shown that individual animals will track this vegetation growth during their spring migration, which allows them to maximize forage intake coming out of the nutrient scarce winter. This phenomena has previously been studied by monitoring individual movement trajectories, but it is unknown how this pattern scales up to the population level. I used trail cameras placed along migration paths to monitor a population of mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus) in Central Utah during the spring 2019 season. We quantified fine-scale changes in plant phenology through space and time using remotely-sensed indices of vegetation growth and availability. In my study system, mule deer density was positive correlated with vegetation green-up, providing the first demonstration of this phenomena at the population level.
Del Bosco, Tatum, "An Eulerian Perspective on Spring Migration in Mule Deer" (2021). All Graduate Theses and Dissertations. 8104.
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