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Senior receives scholarship to study wild turkey predation
Senior Biology major Shane Brandes recently was awarded a scholarship from the Northern Neck (VA) chapter of the Wild Turkey Foundation. Using funds from this award, Brandes is working under the direction of biology associate professor Karen Powers and Radford Army Ammunition Plant (RFAAP) biologist Len DiIoia to determine if coyotes are the primary predators of turkeys and turkey nests at the RFAAP.
Starting in Spring 2017, Brandes will be setting up artifical turkey nests (with wildlife cameras documenting predation of chicken eggs) and fur catchers at the nest sites. The cameras will verify the predators visiting the nests, and hair samples will determine if turkeys typically comprise a significant portion of the predator's diet. The fur samples can be examined using stable isotopes of carbon (C-13) and nitrogen (N-15). The predator's isotopic signature is closely aligned with the prey items it most often consumes.
Brandes plans to present his findings at regional bird research meetings and wildlife conferences, as well as prepare a manuscript for publication at the conclusion of the study.
Shane has been an active student researcher at RU, working with Dr. Judy Guinan in investigations of predator threats to eastern bluebirds, and with Dr. Karen Powers investigating mongoose diet in the US Virgin Islands (see photo, with mongoose, above).