Applied Conservation Lab

Current Research Projects (click on project titles for poster)

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Do Short-tailed Shrews Prey Switch During the Winter?  An Evaluation of Shrew Prey Availability in the Subfolium Level of the Forest Floor. (Undergraduate Researchers Natalie Auman and Courtland Hess)

The Northern short- tailed shrew (Blarina brevicauda), is a solitary and territorial mammal that commonly preys on terrestrial invertebrates, but is also known to eat vertebrates such as rodents and frogs. Our objective will be to determine if the Northern short-tailed shrew becomes more attracted to rodent urine when invertebrate numbers decline during colder temperatures. Our study will occur over 2 years, the first year on two field sites on the Millersville University Biological Preserve and the second on two Lancaster County Conservancy Properties. Each field site will contain a trap lines consisting of paired Sherman small mammal traps (treatment and control). Trapping success will be recorded as the number of shrew captures recorded on each trap line for both control and treatment traps divided by the total number of traps.  To sample for invertebrate prey abundance, four 24cm2 areas of subfolium and topsoil will be sampled at each trapline.  At each of the invertebrate sampling sites, ambient, subfolium, and soil temperatures will be recorded.  We will use a general linearized model to determine if trapping success was influenced by invertebrate prey abundance, ambient temperature, subfolium temperature and topsoil temperature.  This study will provide a greater ecological understanding of potential prey switching strategies of the Northern short-tailed shrew.

Millersville University An Official Hawk Watch Site (Undergraduate Hawk Watchers: Halie Parker, Jen Houtz, Rachel Davies, Rochelle Jones and Keven Faccenda)

The Millersville University Biology Department and Meteorology Program began a joint project of a hawk watch count on the Millersville University campus in collaboration with Dr. Laurie Goodrich, Raptor Biologist with the Hawk Mountain Observatory (  Hawk count sites have been collecting data on migrating hawks for years.  They use long-term migration databases to monitor changes in raptor (i.e., hawks, eagles, osprey, vultures and falcons) populations.  Monitoring raptor populations is important because raptors are sensitive bioindicators at the top of food chains, and changes in the numbers of raptors reflect changes in the health of the environment. All student count data is uploaded to a national database at,  In addition, results are recorded on the Trektellan international bird migration count database,

The real exciting news is that Millersville University students can keep track of these raptors as they fly over campus in real time.  The Millersville University Hawk Count project can be found on the Dunkadoo webpage,  By following the link to this project, all students can see what birds of prey have flown over campus, up to the minute, and be able to see hawk count statistics gathered on campus. 


Identification of Threats Impacting Federally Threatened and Endangered Species in the United States (Undergraduate Researchers: Delaney Costante, Olivia Rosensteel, Grace Smoot and Carli Parenti)

Quantifying Threats Facing Threatened and Endangered Fish Taxa (Undergraduate Researchers Delaney Costante, Alex Sandercock and Kayli Thomas)

Assesing Threats that Impact Federally Listed Species in Hawaii (Undergraduate Researchers Delaney Costante, Alex Sandercock and Kayli Thomas)

These projects involve the review of federal register documents for threatened and endangered species in order to identify the factors that led to the listing of each species. Working in collaboration with student researchers from the College of William and Mary, our goal is to quantify the threats that impact endangered species and to eventually compare the last 20 years of documented threats to those presented in research by Wilcove et al. 1996. Upon completion of this research, we will be able to identify the top human impacts causing threatened and endangered species to become listed and also identify invasive and other problem species affecting threatened and endangered species. By determining the top threats to threatened and endangered species, we hope to map these threats with the use of geographical information systems (GIS), to determine how these threats have changed over time. This research could provide valuable information regarding the status of threatened and endangered species, as well its relationship to encroaching human impacts and how to plan to mitigate these impacts.     

ESA Team Image

Click Here for an article by the Wildlife Society about this award winning research

Evaluating the Effectiveness of an Animal Hair Dye Marker for Marking Small Mammals in Field Research (Undergraduate Researchers: Tyler Bridgehouse and Grace Nussbaum)

The capture-recapture of wildlife is used to provide estimates of population density, survival, recruitment and movement.  This information is important for guiding conservation management decisions.  Capture-recapture involves placing an identifiable marker on a captured individual.  Our objective was to test the effectiveness of small mammal identifiable markers.  Ear-tag marking has been used successfully on small mammals, but can inhibit grooming and promote infection.  For short term studies, non-toxic hair-dyes may be less invasive.  We used three different marking techniques (ear-tagging, Clairol hair-dye and The Muromachi Kikai hair-dye marker) on Peromyscus leucopus.  This study was conducted within Millersville University and consisted of two transect lines, each with ten Sherman traps checked twice weekly.  Data for different marking techniques were photo recorded to validate effectiveness.  Tentative results suggest that the Muromachi Kikai hair-dye marker outlasts the Clairol hair-dye and can be used to distinguish individuals after two weeks in the field.   


Radio-Tracking Ring-necked Pheasants (Wildlife Ecology & Management Class)

Research can allow students to apply traditional course content into applied problem solving.  The implementation of research projects as a teaching model for STEM courses may increase student retention in STEM academic programs.  With the help of undergraduate research students, a field research project involving radio tracking of ring-necked pheasants (Phasianus colchicus) is being condcuted on the Millersville campus.  Ring-necked pheasants have been an important economic game bird species since their introduction to the United States from Asia. They have also been used to help determine conservation reserve success in agricultural areas, such as Lancaster County Pennsylvania.  During this course, 5 ring-necked pheasants were released at the Millersville campus.  These birds are being tracked for 2 months using VHF radio-telemetry. Tentative home range size, habitat use and mortality rates of the pheasants will be analyzed.  The tracking of ring-necked pheasants has been found to be a good model to bring the research experience into the classroom to expand a student’s skill set in field biology and increase their interest in ecology. 


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