rare Supports Project to tackle one of the World’s 100 worst invaders

rare Supports Project to tackle one of the World’s 100 worst invaders

(June 22, 2016 North Dumfries/Cambridge): We often hear about the impact of invasive species on our environment. Emerald Ash Borer has decimated Ash tree populations and costs municipalities millions in management costs; Common Reed, also known as Phragmites, is dominating roadsides and wetlands; while Red-eared Sliders bring with them risk of disease and competition for our native turtles. While these species have origins in Asia, Europe, and Central America and have found their way to Canada, the reverse also happens, and the Eastern Grey Squirrel is one North American species that is wreaking havoc around the word. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has listed this species as one of the world’s 100 worst invasive species, and it has caused the declines of native European red squirrel, particularly in Ireland and the United Kingdom. In Canada, the ability of this species to adapt is demonstrated by their urban nature, arguably the most successful fur-bearer to adapt to “city-living”.

The rare Charitable Research Reserve supports leading edge research projects that set out to tackle emerging and existing environmental issues around the globe. Since 2009, rare has supported eleven students with over $35,000 through a scholarship program, recently relaunched as the Ages Foundation Fellowship supported by the Cambridge North Dumfries Community Foundation. This year’s award goes to Mason Stothart, an M.Sc. student at the University of Guelph who is investigating the physiological and ecological characteristics that make Eastern Grey Squirrels such successful urban colonizers— and the stress for these animals that accompanies city-living. Mason is being advised by University of Guelph professor, Dr. Amy Newman.

“Urban environments are among the fastest growing and most widely distributed ecosystems in the world,” comments Mason. “Understanding the mechanisms that enable wildlife encroachment into these densely populated landscapes is important from both a human-wildlife conflict, and public health perspective.”

Mason Stothart. Photo by A. Newman

Mason Stothart. Photo by A. Newman

Mason will trap squirrels at six urban and six rural study sites in southern Ontario, including the rare reserve and the University of Guelph campus. Squirrels that are caught will be released with colour-coded ear tags, and the community is being encouraged to get involved if they spot a squirrel with a tag.

Although named grey squirrels, this species ranges from black to grey and everything in between. You can help by submitting observations of squirrels via email or through the online site.

Jenna Quinn, rare’s Program Scientist, said the citizen science component of Mason’s work was an appealing aspect of his application.  “In addition to an extremely well-thought-out proposal, the opportunity to engage the community in his work aligns closely with rare’s mandate to help bridge the gap between scientists and citizens. We hope to see rare volunteers and trail users get involved.”

Knowledge learned here may have broader implications to help in tackling the global issue of invasive species and inform future urban human-wildlife interactions.

To learn more visit raresites.org or citisci.org.

About rare

Founded in 2001, the rare Charitable Research Reserve is a 900+ acre land trust and environmental institute situated at the confluence of the Grand and Speed Rivers in the heart of the Waterloo Region. The reserve is a beautifully and culturally significant landscape that includes trees more than 240 years old. Rich in biodiversity, rare is home to an array of flora and fauna – some of which are ranked significant regionally, provincially, nationally and even globally. Striving to preserve the land for future generations rare focuses on conservation, research and education through ecological restoration, environmental programming, and providing passive recreation opportunities to the surrounding community through 8km of trails.

Contacts:

Stephanie Sobek-Swant, rare, Executive Director

519-650-9336 x113

stephanie.sobek-swant@raresites.org

Jenna Quinn, rare, Program Scientist- Research Priorities, Partnerships, and Monitoring

519-650-9336 x 111

jenna.quinn@raresites.org

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rare Charitable Research Reserve
1679 Blair Road
Cambridge, ON N3H 4R8
(519) 650-9336