Next-generation natural history

Marie Tosa, a PhD student at OSU, uses next-generation natural history to study biodiversity, including spotted skunks.

Marie Tosa is a PhD student in the Department of Fisheries, Wildlife, and Conservation Sciences at Oregon State University working with Damon Lesmeister and Taal Levi. Marie spent 2.5 years from 2017-2019 at the Andrews Forest investigating the ecology of the western spotted skunk and surveying the biodiversity of numerous taxa including vegetation, fungus, invertebrates, birds, and mammals. Using camera traps and radio-collars, Marie captured and tracked 31 spotted skunks and has collected data on survival, movement, rest sites, and diet. Using a combination of next-generation genetic methods and more traditional methods (e.g., bird point count surveys), Marie also surveyed 96 sites in and around the Andrews Forest to explore changes in biodiversity across gradients of elevation and disturbance/logging with a focus on the importance of old-growth forests. Marie hopes that her research will inform how we can best manage federal forests and extract resources while also prioritizing biodiversity. 

Marie’s extensive and high-tech surveys led to a paper, “The Rapid Rise of Next-Generation Natural History,” which outlines the renaissance of natural history with modern technological and statistical tools.  Camera-traps and acoustic recorders, aircraft- and satellite-based remote sensing, animal-borne biologgers, genetics and genomics methods, and advances in statistics and computation reveal patterns in nature we couldn’t detect before. The new perspectives can be applied to conservation and management.  Further, the next-generation natural history observations are engaging scientists and non-scientists alike with new documentations of the wonders of nature, encouraging people to experience nature directly.

Full paper:  Tosa, Marie I.; Dziedzic, Emily H.; Appel, Cara L.; Urbina, Jenny; Massey, Aimee;  Ruprecht, Joel; Eriksson, Charlotte E.; Dolliver, Jane E.; Lesmeister, Damon B.; Betts, Matthew G.; Peres, Carlos A.; Levi, Taal. 2021. The Rapid Rise of Next-Generation Natural History. Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution. 9: 698131. doi: 10.3389/fevo.2021.698131

See the photo gallery of Marie's spotted skunk research at the Andrews Forest.