Mast Production in an Increasingly Stochastic World

Mast Production in an Increasingly Stochastic World: Using Citizen Science to Quantify Mast Occurrence and Production in Michigan (INT)
Alexander K. Killion, Michigan State University
Additional Contributors: Sarah Mayhew, Michigan Department of Natural Resources; Gary Roloff, Michigan State University

Hard and soft mast is a critical component of habitat for many wildlife species. For example, wild turkey (Meleagris gallopavo), black bear (Ursus americanus) and white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) are known to rely on acorns to build fat reserves for the winter months. Knowledge of mast occurrence, production and timing in Michigan would improve current models that aim to estimate the population dynamics of species that rely on mast. As climate change models predict an increasingly stochastic environment, it is important that we understand the cycles driving this major source of food. Since mast occurrence and production are highly variable both spatially and temporally, direct observation through continuous monitoring is the only robust approach to understanding and incorporating mast dynamics into population models. To meet this demand we developed a citizen-science program (MI-MAST: Wildlife Food Tracker) to quantify mast dynamics in the state of Michigan.

Alexander K. Killion, Michigan State University
Alexander Killion has worked as a graduate research assistant in the Department of Fisheries and Wildlife at Michigan State University since September of 2013 and is pursuing an MS degree. His research focuses on incorporating new citizen science techniques to answer ecological questions in an applied setting. This work is done in partnership with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources Wildlife Division and Michigan United Conservation Clubs. Before coming to Michigan State University, Alexander worked at several land conservancies in Illinois. His work focused on using spatial statistics and geographic information systems to track environmental modifications made by land managers. He received BS degrees in pre-medicine and biology from Augustana College in 2013.