Distributed research project to test for parallel urban-to-rural clines

Research goal: We will collect data on the abundance of color morphs of eastern gray squirrels along urbanization gradients to test for parallel urban-to-rural clines in melanism. Melanism in eastern gray squirrels is a simple Mendelian trait. Our previous work using opportunistic data suggests clines in melanism are common, but that there’s considerable variation in the prevalence of melanism and the shape of urban-to-rural clines among cities. This project will provide greater insight into how city characteristics affect the degree of parallel urban evolution using standardized surveys for squirrel color morphs.

Basic approach: Camera traps will be used to document the occurrence and relative abundance of each morph along an urbanization gradient. Collaborators will establish camera traps at 20-30 sites along at least one urban-to-rural transect in their home city. Camera traps will be left in place for up to 3 weeks and then removed.

Cost: For labs that have camera traps and SD cards already, the only costs are batteries for the cameras and gas for transportation. If you would like to participate but do not have camera traps, you can purchase your own camera trap equipment. Camera traps sufficient for this project run about $100-150/each. SD cards are about $5 each, and you can get a pack of batteries to run up to 30 cameras for about $50. Optional equipment includes a security case and lock for each camera. We may have a limited number of camera traps that we can loan out for a three-week sampling timeframe, so if you’d like to participate but cannot purcahse your own equipment, please still feel free to express interest in the project.

Authorship: Groups of up to two individuals that collect camera trap and visual count data along at least one transect will be offered authorship on the first paper published with the dataset.

Timing: Sampling must be conducted in spring or summer 2022 and completed by August 2022.