By: Tania González*

My name is Tania González, currently I am attending the Universidad Nacional de Colombia to complete my Ph.D. in Sciences – Biology. I am part of the research group on landscape ecology and ecosystem modeling -ECOLMOD. My research project seeks to understand how landscapes influenced by fire affect the dynamics and structure of non-flying small mammals’ communities and their diversity. This assessment is taking place in the Orinoco region, an area considered a biodiversity hotspot and provider of multiple benefits and ecosystems services for human wellbeing. fortunately, this Colombian region is one of the most affected areas in the country by Climate Change and El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) and multiple productive activities, mainly oil palm, forest plantations and cattle raising. I decided to address this research due to the growing concern about the impact of fire on biodiversity, since uncontrolled fire regimes have been linked to declining populations of mammals, birds and reptiles. Also, because under current changing climatic conditions and rapid land use changes, there is an urgent need to assess how wild populations are responding to disturbances in fire regimes.

The non-flying small mammals are highly sensitive to changes in vegetation structure and habitat heterogeneity, and have important functional roles in many ecosystems, such as seed dispersers and predators. To perform part of this assessment, I am using 240 Sherman traps of different sizes, distributed in 24 stations in burned and unburned forest in the Orinoco region, Bojonawi Natural Reserve. The traps are baited with a mix peanut butter, oats, sardines and banana essence, then place on the ground.

In my first field work season, we obtained 40 captures; we believe we have captured 2 species of the Zigodontomys genera and 1 species of Oecomys genus. The certainty of the taxonomical identification will be clear after the molecular analysis. This area of Colombia is known for a low percentage of successful capture probability, however Sherman traps have work perfectly; without any problems from the aggressive weather conditions. Moreover, I been able to capture animals that I am not looking for, such as: serpents, monitor lizards, lizards, frogs; even scolopendras and several other insects.

The main objective of this assessment is to understand the effects over the biodiversity, focusing on the dynamic context of Colombian Orinoquia landscapes dominated by disturbances such as fire, through the evaluation of wildfires and the answer of mammals to this disturbance. This research will contribute and promote the design of informed and adaptable management and conservation strategies. Also, the project will contribute and support the development of the tropical fire ecology in Colombia, a research field that has been underdeveloped in the country despite the great impact this natural or man-made disturbance has on the ecosystems.

Part of this research is financed by several grants and scholarships awarded by Universidad Nacional DE Colombia, ECOLMOD, the Administrative department of Science, Technology and Innovation- Colciencias, The Rufford Foundations and L´Oréal-Unesco for Women in Science. Moreover, I have some equipment donated by Idea Wild and Neotropical Grassland Conservancy.

* PhD(c) student MSc. BSc Biology

Laboratorio de Ecología del Paisaje y Modelación de Ecosistemas Universidad Nacional de Colombia

Bogotá, Colombia tmgonzalezd@unal.edu.co

http://ciencias.bogota.unal.edu.co/gruposdeinvestigacion/ecolmod https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Tania_Gonzalez8