Elle Reece

Botany Graduate Student

White-tailed deer are the largest herbivores in the Eastern Deciduous forests with the biggest impact on the forest vegetation. Plants that deer prefer to eat can be negatively impacted by over consumption. Plants that deer prefer less are then freed from other plant competition and are allowed to flourish. I am interested in finding their relative preference for an invasive shrub, Amur honeysuckle, among other native trees and shrubs. I have 8 sites across SW Ohio in which deer consumption on the twigs of honeysuckle and other species has been recorded. Now I am exploring whether deer abundance in these study sites has any impact on deer preference levels.

Deer abundance can be determined by a method called distance sampling. As a crude but effective explanation, I must record the occurrence of deer poop as I walk along straight paths (transects) with a random start point and direction. This information can be modeled to give an idea of the number of deer in my study areas. In order to model this information, I must also know the decay rate of these fecal pellet piles. In the Natural Areas, I will observe the time it takes for a fresh fecal pile to break down into an unrecognizable form.