Guest blog by Cody Aylward.
On May 17th, CuriOdyssey celebrated Endangered Species Day! The salt marsh harvest mouse (SMHM; Reithrodontomys raviventris) is one of the local endangered species that CuriOdyssey works hard to help through our marsh restoration and research efforts, led by Senior Educator and Science Research Manager Catherine Brett. Salt marsh harvest mice have not been found at Coyote Point marsh, but we hope that with diligent restoration efforts, someday they will make a comeback!
CuriOdyssey also provides grant funding to scientists learning about how to protect SMHM using cutting edge science. Our conservation partner, Cody Aylward along with research faculty member Dr. Mark Statham, is studying SMHM diet using a relatively new DNA-based technique called metabarcoding. Using Next Generation Sequencing, the researchers are able to detect plant DNA in mouse scat to see which plants are eaten most frequently, and how their diet varies by season.
During regular monitoring sessions by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, Cody collects scat from wild SMHM and their competitors in the Bay Area marshes, the western harvest mouse, house mouse, and California vole. Scat samples are then brought to the Mammalian Ecology and Conservation Unit at UC Davis for metabarcoding analysis.
This research is critical for SMHM conservation because it provides a clearer picture of which plants are most important to SMHM survival. The research helps managers make decisions about marsh vegetation management and restoration strategies that help support the SMHM and other endangered animals. This research will also help inform restoration efforts at CuriOdyssey’s local marsh.
You can help! Here’s how:
- Consider making a donation to support restoration and research at CuriOdyssey.
- Visit your local marsh or the marsh at Coyote Point Park. As you explore, please be sure to stay on the designated trails and avoid stepping on vegetation – it could be food for salt marsh harvest mice!
For more information about salt marsh harvest mouse and the ongoing research at UC Davis please see:
MECU Salt Marsh Harvest Mouse Page: https://mecu.ucdavis.edu/salt-marsh-harvest-mouse/
Recent review of SMHM science and conservation: https://escholarship.org/uc/item/2w06369x