MS Student; University of Arizona
Location: Reserva Comunal Tamshiyacu-Tahuayo, Loreto, Perú
Research: Neotropical tree squirrels as indicators of forest health in the Peruvian Amazon
Species/Topic: Northern Amazon red squirrel, southern Amazon red squirrel, neotropical pygmy squirrel
Abstract: Rainforests support the highest biodiversity of any ecosystem in the world. However, many rainforest species are in rapid decline due to habitat degradation and fragmentation. Tree squirrels are believed to serve as indicators of forest health; therefore, we believe that areas supporting high tree squirrel diversity in the Peruvian Amazon likely indicate healthy rainforest. The common and highly visible tree squirrels may serve as indicator species for this unique and irreplaceable ecosystem. Tree squirrels in the Peruvian Amazon include the northern Amazon red squirrel (Sciurus igniventris), southern Amazon red squirrel (S. spadiceus), and neotropical pygmy squirrel (Sciurillus pusillus). Despite their potential to significantly improve forest management plans, no studies exist on forest associations and ecology of neotropical tree squirrels. We propose to study the habitat use and ecology of Neotropical tree squirrels to determine their usefulness as indicator species for this biologically rich ecosystem within a Peruvian forest reserve.