The role of the Cameron Peak megafire in shaping alpine mammal community resilience

The western United States is on fire, with a record-breaking number of megafires that collectively burned more than 6.6 million acres of land. Extreme climate events (ECE) such as megafires are expected to become more frequent with ongoing climatic change. The ability of animal species to withstand increasingly common ECEs will be key to the long-term persistence of biodiversity in the Anthropocene. Although it has been widely recognized in recent years that behavioral plasticity will be key for animals to adapt to climate change, intraspecific behavioral responses to extreme environmental disasters, and the fitness trade-offs that are adopted in light of such events, have rarely been studied. The objectives of this project are to answer some of the following questions: how do hibernators adjust their behavior to cope with a decimated landscape post-hibernation? Is behavioral plasticity *enough* to avoid extirpation? How did the fire affect small mammal community abundance and how does thIS scale up to affect ecosystem health (e.g. prey abundance available to meso- and top-carnivores). Ryan Black, CSU 2021 Extension intern, has already established that two species of ground squirrels (i.e. the asocial golden-mantled ground squirrel and the colonial Wyoming ground squirrel) adopt different foraging strategies and differ in their life history responses to the Cameron Peak fire. The new intern would leverage 5 years of existing data collected at the Mountain Campus pre- (2018-2020) and post-fire (2021-2022) to contrast reproductive rates, body mass gains, over-winter survival, and abundance pre- and post-fire for these two species.

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