Project Title: Pre and Post Habitat Modification Monitoring of Six-lined Racerunners (Aspidoscelis sexlineata viridis), a Threatened Species in Michigan

Sponsor: Teresa Yoder-Nowak

Department: Biology

Telephone: 810.762.3360


Project Description: Murphy Lake State Game Area, located in southern Tuscola County, Michigan, is home to the only population of a lizard known as the Six-lined Racerunner, Aspidoscelis sexlineata, in Michigan. Our work is the first to provide basic biological information for this rare species in Michigan, including the following: 1) morphological and molecular evidence that this animal is the Prairie Racerunner or western geographic race of this species; 2) molecular evidence that the Michigan population is closely related to other Midwestern populations of the species and may be endemic (i.e., naturally occurring) to Michigan; 3) basic morphological, ecological and population information for this isolated population. In September 2008, our work prompted the Michigan Department of Natural Resources to add the Six-lined Racerunner as a Threatened Species in the State of Michigan. Although this action legally protects the species, more information is required to begin to appropriately manage Six-lined Racerunners in Michigan. In 2009 – 2011, we attached radio transmitters to some individuals in order to track them throughout the active season, which allowed us to generate estimates of distances travelled, home range sizes, patterns of habitat use and use of marginal habitats available to the animals.

 We are currently working with the local MDNR office to develop a habitat modification plan to improve the habitat available to the racerunners. The plan may include burning or cutting back portions of the habitat. Pre and post treatment monitoring of habitat use, daily and seasonal activity patterns, and population fluctuations will be completed. This is a multi-phase project: Phase 1 of this project will be to complete literature searches; Phase 2 will be to design field experiment(s); Phase 3 will be implementation of field experiment(s).
Currently, this project is in Phase 1.

Student Tasks & Responsibilities: For Phase 1:

  1. Perform literature search for habitat use, daily and seasonal activity patterns, and population fluctuations of Six-lined Racerunners
  2. Perform literature search for habitat modification studies of herps and other animals
  3. Perform literature search for constructing an ethogram
  4. Gather and organize pertinent papers from literature searches

Minimum Student Qualifications: BIO 111, BIO 113 and an interest in wildlife biology. Some previous experience with using library databases preferred but not required.