Sternberg Museum director receives grant to study distribution of Kansas mammals

A lot of travel and field work are in store for Dr. Jerry Choate, professor of biological sciences and director of FHSU's Sternberg Museum of Natural History.

"We will be conducting field investigations in many or most of the counties of Kansas," said Choate.

He has received a $337,665 grant from the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks to assess the distribution and status of selected Kansas mammals. Funding for the grant is provided in part by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service under the authority of the State Wildlife Grants Act. The duration of the project is two years.

Choate said the objectives of the project include mapping the current distributions of mammal species in Kansas that are in need of conservation, that have not been documented in the state yet or that reach distributional limits in Kansas.

"Tissues will be saved from these species for future genetic studies," he said, "and two online database systems will be developed, the first to record the results of the project in GIS format so that the data will be available to others, and the second to record information on caves and cave-like structures in Kansas that are occupied by bats."

The project will also evaluate existing prairie dog survey data in Kansas.

Assistants working on the project will include two associate curators at the Sternberg Museum, Curtis Schmidt and Travis Taggart. Additional assistants will include Kendra Phelps, who is a recent M.S. graduate from Oklahoma State University, and Melissa Johann, who earned her B.S. degree at Fort Hays State University. The base of operations for the project will be the Sternberg Museum.

"As a result of extensive research throughout the 1900s, largely (but not exclusively) by scientists at the University of Kansas and Fort Hays State University, the mammalian fauna of Kansas is the best known of any state in the nation," said Choate.

"This research will update that information and provide data in a Web-based format for use by other scientists, conservation personnel and the general public."

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