Mission 2006 - Fauna

Helen McCreery



Mission 2006 mission statement:

    Develop a way to characterize and monitor the well-being of one of the last true frontiers on Earth - the Amazon Basin rainforest - and devise a set of practical strategies to ensure its preservation.

Fauna Goals:

    As part of of Mission 2006 general goal, the Fauna Group will first categorize fauna and develop exemplary case studies.  Within each of these studies we will define basic requirements for healthy fauna populations by identifying appropriate indicators of population health.  We will then proceed to identify threats to the fauna of the rainforest and attempt to develop strategies that will lessen these threats while also developing strategies to monitor fauna population health.

Status of Project:

    As of October 16:

    Our main focus is on monitoring general rainforest health.  Generally speaking, if the rainforest as a whole is healthy, so are the animals.  Our definition of a healthy rainforest is one in which the soil composition, water composition, and air composition are stable and healthy.  Two other main things affecting rainforest health are deforestation, something that can be monitored easily by satellite, and unexpected threats due to human interaction.

    Soil composition*:  We will work with the land group on this matter.  We plan to monitor levels of toxins in the soil partially by moniotring toxin levels in high order species.  Because high order species eat many different species, all toxins being consumed by animals, will make their way to the top of the food chain.  We will choose animals that we know are having problems (endangered species), but not species that are so endangered as to make it difficult for them to be monitored.  We will also choose species with large ranges.  We will therefore be able to compare toxin levels in one species, between different areas of the rainforest.

    Water composition*:  We will work with the water group to look at parasites in fish.  The parasites have a much larger concentration of toxins than the water surrounding them, so small changes are easier to detect.  Water composition can also be tested by testing the water itself, this does not show how changes are affecting the animals, but it does show whether or not the water composition is condusive to the natural environment.

    Air composition*:  This can be tested most easily by simply testing the actual air.  We will work with the air group to determine natural levles.

    * for all three of these aspects of monitoring, we will be asking the repective groups for a list of the five most present toxins brought by human interaction.

    Unexpected threats:  Animal populations are sometimes affected by things other than what they eat, drink, and breathe.  We will monitor a few certian "indicator species" to determine if certain animal populations are at risk.  One type of animal that we have decided to monitor in this way is bats.  Bats are easy to monitor because they are motionless (sleeping) during the day.  We are looking into methods and technology of monitoring the number of bats in a certain cave each day, with this information, we can look at trends.  If the populations of bats changes drastically, we know that there is a problem to look into.  We are looking into other species that would make good indicators.
    NEW!!!!!!!!!As of end of project:  For the majority of the class, most of the semester had been taken up by doing research, but not really forming solutions to the problems.  As a result of this, we had to have a massive reorganization.   We broke from our former groups, and created new, smaller groups based on specific threats.  I was in the Indexation of Forest's Overall Health group.  Our last task in our former groups was to create a document detailing our research for the semester.  This document can be viewed here.
    As we understood it, the goal of this group (indexation) was to form a (or several) method(s) of monitoring the health of the rainforest.  What I brought to the group was methods of monitoring fauna.  However, in the final webpage this was encorportated in a monitoring sections separate from the indexation section.  In our solution, we mainly focused on monitoring plant biomass (see indexation solution), and on population models (see modelling).  

    A successful presentation!  Our presentation, on Friday, December 6, went off without a hitch.  Our panalists had some great feedback, and were generally impressed with our work.  The final website can be viewed here, and the presentation can be viewed here.

My Research:

    On Wednesday, September 25th, each member of the Fauna group presented research on the biodiversity of a particular layer of the rainforest.  I presented on the emergent layer.  I had difficulty finding much specific information on fauna in the emergent layer. and several other group members had trouble with their layers too.  We decided that due to the fact that there is so much species overlap between the layers, that this is not a good way to categorize fauna.

    I researched preservation in the Costa Rican rainforest.  The Bosque Lluvioso Foundation (www.bosque-u.com) has made vast improvements.  We have decided to contact them for information about their methods.  
    As of October 16:  I contacted the Bosque Lluvioso Foundation and they sent a brochure.  They did not send information on specific monitoring techniques.

    As of October 18th:  I did research on bats, and how bats can be detected.  Some of the information I found may prove quite useful.  For example, in most species, the individual bats have not only a particular cave/tree, but a paricular place on the wall/branch where they always roost (www.jaguarpaw.com/Bats.html).  Bats can hibernate at will during a food shortage or weather change (www.jauarpaw.com/Bats.html).  This could be very important indeed, when the bats are hibernating, it shows the possibility of a problem.  Also, there are some species of bats ("megabats") that are much larger than most bats.  These bats don't use echolocation, they mostly use their eyes (animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/chordata/mammalia/chiroptera.html).  This website also has extensive information about each of the bat families.  I also found good information about bat detectors.  These detectors use the ultrasonic echolocation sounds of the bats.  There are many different types used for different purposes.  (www.batsound.com/psondet.html).

For more information about my bat research, go to: web.mit.edu/12.000/www/m2006/teams/helenfm/bats.html

To view my research on fragmentation, go to: web.mit.edu/12.000/www/m2006/teams/helenfm/fragmentation.html

To view my research on monitoring, go to: web.mit.edu/12.000/www/m2006/teams/helenfm/monitoring.html

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last update: Tuesday, December 10, 2002