Plant-Animal Interactions

Michael A. Steele,  H. Fenner Chair of Research Biology, conducts several lines of research that focus on the role of seed predators and seed dispersers in forest regeneration (especially in oaks).  Ongoing projects by Steele’s lab include (1) long-term monitoring of oak mast and its impact on small mammal and nut weevil populations (2) dispersal of American Chestnut in NE Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, (3) behavioral ecology of scatter-hoarding mammals and birds and their impact on oak dispersal and establishment, (4) acorn dispersal in a threatened oak community in Costa Rica, and (5) the effects of forest fragmentation on avian-mediated nut dispersal in the Central Hardwoods region of the U.S. 

The last project, funded by the National Science Foundation, involves a long-term collaboration with Purdue University.  The study uses intensive automated radio-telemetry of both blue jays and the nuts they disperse to determine how forest structure influences patterns of scatter-hoarding and subsequent regeneration of oaks.
Student intern and research technician checking small mammal nest boxes.


Research technician Shealyn Marino fitting a blue jay with a radio-transmitter.

Student researchers using metal detectors to recover metal tagged seeds.