Research Project | 2021

Investigating ringtail ecology and behavior in the Santa Monica Mountains

Awardee: Maddie Zuercher

Department: Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

Bio: Maddie Zuercher is a PhD student in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and is co- advised by Greg Grether and Debra Shier. Her previous research focused on patterns of bat ecology and the evolution of megabat dental morphology. Currently, Maddie is interested in the ecological effects of behavioral interference between carnivore species. In particular, she is interested in how invasive carnivores may be affecting native ringtail populations. In her work, she aims to integrate behavioral ecology research and community engagement to promote native biodiversity conservation.

Project Summary: The ringtail is a widespread mesocarnivore and fully protected in California, yet shockingly understudied. There are few records of ringtails in Los Angeles County (aside road mortalities) and local and state agencies are eager to understand more about ringtail ecology in the Los Angeles area. This project aims to use camera traps and species cues to identify where ringtails are in the Santa Monica Mountains and how they interact with other mesocarnivore species such as foxes and skunks. Our better understanding of ringtail habitat requirements and movement patterns can inform further land protection efforts and wildlife corridor projects.