Investigating animal decomposition in a tropical wet forest and agricultural lands

Michael, an undergraduate researcher out of Stanford, is working at Las Cruces on animal decomposition.  Briefly, he’s set out freshly-killed adult chickens and chicks in forests and agricultural lands (i.e., pasture and coffee plantation) and monitors what happens…

He’s got camera traps trained on the adult chickens, and uses transects through both habitat types to pair replicate locations with both major habitats.  It’s interesting (and rather smelly) work: there are a number of specialist scavengers that feed on animal matter, and the roles animal detritus (feces + dead animal) play in communities is often overlooked in light of the overwhelming biomass that plants input into detrital pools in ecosystems.  Michael has already found some exciting facilitation effects within the scavenger community.

Michael was kind enough to take me along on one of his sampling dates.

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