In partnership with le Agence Nationale des Parcs Nationaux (ANPN) and Dr. John Poulsen of the Nicholas School, Ian will be studying how hunting and logging cause changes in the small mammal communities and how those changes impact the rainforests of Gabon. By capturing rodents alive in Sherman traps across sites that have been logged and hunted, logged only, and protected, Ian will test the hypothesis that human impact causes increases in rodent abundances. Using cages that exclude all mammals, partial cages that let in only small mammals, and peanuts, Ian will also look at whether differences in rodent populations may alter forest regeneration at impacted sites.
Our research group led by Dr. John Poulsen is interested in how human use alters the forests of Central Africa through time. We look particularly at how hunting and logging change forests and their ability to regrow after disturbance. Logging opens up large gaps in otherwise continuous forests, while hunting tends to target large mammals that might be important for spreading and consuming plant seeds My work over the summer will explore how an indirect result of logging and hunting may alter the forest; I will be studying how rodents—rats and mice mostly— are effected by these human impacts, and how these animals may in turn change the forest through time. I will be trapping rodents in sites that have been hunted and logged, logged only and protected in forest reserves. I will also be getting a first assessment of how rates of seed consumption attributable to large mammals and rodents differ in these sites using special cages and peanuts. Rodents are potentially important seed predators and if their numbers increase with human impacts they may be changing how the forests regrow by eating more seeds or eating different kinds of seeds than other animals. These indirect changes may lead to cascading effects on a forest through time, changing what plants come to dominate the forest. For a country like Gabon, with almost 70% of its land in timber concession, understanding these changes remains of tremendous importance as they designate land management practices and hunting policy moving forward.