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Big Ideas for Grad School - Grad School Update

Posted 11-23-2008 at 05:23 AM by MonarchzMan

I've been developing my proposal for my thesis research and have more or less developed what I want to do for my thesis, but I've got all sorts of ideas for additional projects. As such, I might just stay at Michigan State for my PhD because it would be difficult/annoying to have to relocate what I want to do.

For my thesis, so far, I'm going to approach O. pumilio conservation from four different areas.

First, I am going to go through as many populations as I can and run transects to find population densities of as many populations as I can. No one really knows how threatened these populations are, so I want to get numbers. In preliminary mapping, I want to hit at least 30 different areas. Most are known populations, but there are some that I would expect pumilio to be there, but don't know what to expect. So that's step one.

Step two involves looking at GIS/Remote Sensing data to try to figure out ranges of these populations. I haven't yet looked at GIS data for the area, but I expect that that will be especially difficult for the mainland populations. I also want to get some historical data so that I can make population projections. I should be able to get population estimates for each population.

Step three involves looking at 6 populations and developing experiments on limiting resources so I can get an idea on what controls these populations. Right now, I think that it's leaf litter density or rearing sites. Leaf litter density will provide additional food and hiding areas. I'm going to mark-recapture frogs with these quadrats by clipping toes hopefully to get some ideas on home range size of these animals, and I'll hopefully see their home ranges shrink with my manipulations.

Step four involves looking at the pet trade. Pumilio is one of the most popular darts out there and hundreds, if not thousands, are being imported every year. While Pumilio, as a species, is doing quite well, I have my doubts about how the populations can handle such pressure. I plan to analyze what is actually happening in the pet trade. Are there farms? How many frogs are being imported? What is the death rate of collected animals? Who is collecting them? These questions need to be answered in order to understand how to protect the species.

It is through these analyses I hope to be able to tackle pumilio conservation. It is my goal to get the Panamanian government to look at these frogs in terms of populations rather than the species. Depending on what I come up with, I might propose subspecies classification to some of these populations (likely the island populations since they're distinct). That would aid in the conservation of the species. While this last part won't really be part of my thesis, I hope that my thesis will have impacts on it.

But that is just the thesis part. I've got ideas for lots of different projects. I'm seriously thinking of importing some frogs for a couple different reasons. Conservation of pumilio is very important, especially for some of the more threatened morphs, so I think that it's necessary to have a secure population here. HOWEVER, that said, these frogs likely would not enter anyone's hands for some time because my primary reason for importing them is to understand the species (so don't ask!). I did a boldness study in 2007 on adults. I'd like to extend that to tadpoles as well to see if their skittishness is environmental or genetic. After getting those F1s, I want to redo the mate choice experiments that I did in 2007 with unbiased frogs to see if they truly do have tendencies to like-colored mates or not, or if what was seen was biased frogs. This experiment would take years to do, unfortunately, and would require many frogs.

I've also seen this Captivus DVD and thought that it would be a good idea to do something like that on pumilio. The difference, though, would be that I'd focus more on the species and why conservation in the region is a must, rather than the log of the trip itself. I'd probably offer this for sale, but the overall goal would really be to have a promotional video for grant writing. My prof has talked about getting an HD camcorder to do something like that and I think that I could do it pretty professionally.

Also while I'm exploring the jungle, I hope to get to El Valle Amphibian Conservation Center and see their facility there (see all of the populations that they've saved from Chytrid; it'd also help with my video, too). I'd also like to go through some Vincenti habitat and try to document some Vincenti populations. I'll also be going through Arboreus habitat too, I believe, and it'd be nice to document those populations if at all possible too. My big goal, if I can manage it, is to get to Speciosus habitat and try to "rediscover" Speciosus since it seems to be so rare (my prof thinks that they're extinct in the wild). That would depend greatly on how much free time I get, unfortunately. I think that I'm going to want to expand to the Oophaga complex (ideally the whole complex, realistically the Central American complex) for my PhD.

I've started applying for grants and such, but haven't heard from anyone yet. I hope that I can generate $5000 for the summer, at least. That should give me plenty to work with and not have to worry about being strapped for cash. If I could manage more than that, I'd be able to help an assistant(s), but right now, it looks like if I got assistants, they'd have to pay their way... I imagine that I could get plenty of volunteers, but I want to confer with my prof about it. Ideally, if it'd be okay, I'd have a team of about 6 people and I could split the duties and get everything done easily, but I doubt that that will happen...

So yea, big ideas for grad school. It should be very fun being able to work with this complex in more detail
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  1. Old Comment
    Scott's Avatar
    It all sounds interesting - but I think you're going to find a lot of mystery/intrigue in trying to get true numbers for "farming/import/who/what/where" (etc).

    I question whether it is possible to get the true answers when it comes to this because "everybody's got something to hide".

    Good luck though. MSU has some people on staff well versed in PDFs (you would know more than I), but Eastern Carolina obviously has a well developed staff in that regards as well.

    Not to mention the weather is nicer.

    Good luck.

    Posted 11-24-2008 at 01:56 AM by Scott Scott is offline
  2. Old Comment
    MonarchzMan's Avatar
    I'd agree. I doubt that it will be terribly easy to get answers out of people in regards to the pet trade, but I imagine I'll get some results. We'll see, for sure. If nothing else I'll at least be able to get numbers from export permits. I'd like to get additional info that I listed, and that's an ideal situation, but not necessarily a realistic one.

    As for Eastern Carolina, I contacted Dr. Summers a couple times about doing a masters with him, and he wasn't taking on students. MSU will work well, and honestly, I've got the knowledge I need in regards to dendrobatids, and there are people at MSU I can pick brains to apply different concepts to dendrobatids. And while it'd be nice to have Dr. Summers as a mentor, I kinda think that it'd be nice to make a name for myself here at MSU. There are only a few researchers that study PDFs, so it'd be nice to make another spot in this country known for PDF researchers
    Posted 11-24-2008 at 04:48 AM by MonarchzMan MonarchzMan is offline
  3. Old Comment
    MrGerbik's Avatar
    As a partial grad student ( i unfortunatly could not finish because of money) i noticed that Although you set out to find a certain answer, in this case info on the pet trade, it is perfectly fine if you come short. But use that. explain in your paper why you cant get reliable info. As a histoy student i was doing a ton of research on 19th century sailing music. I found it hard to get reliable primary sources, however there was a reason for it. It was mostly word of mouth and alot was changed. This point evolved into a another aspect of my paper.

    So i guess i'm just saying don't get discouraged if you dont get some info. Because that in itself tells you something
    Posted 12-02-2008 at 02:41 AM by MrGerbik MrGerbik is offline
  4. Old Comment
    MonarchzMan's Avatar
    Oh no, I won't be. I might not, and likely will not, get all of the answers I want (i.e. how animals are treated/deaths), but I will at least be able to get quotas and such, and that alone will mean a lot just looking at how many animals are leaving legally. I hope that I can expand upon that, which might be a bit more difficult.
    Posted 12-02-2008 at 03:57 AM by MonarchzMan MonarchzMan is offline
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