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Research forum on gray squirrel behavior Thursday

Research on Eastern gray squirrel behavior, a project that originated nearly two years ago in a biology class at Austin Peay State University, will be shared at the next Faculty Research Forum.

Dr. Andrew Barrass, assistant professor of biology, will present Gray Squirrel Behavior: A Study of Aggressive Behaviors During Feeding as part of APSUs Faculty Research Forum series. The forum is scheduled for 11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m., Thursday, March 15 in the Morgan University Center, Room 308.
Research on Eastern gray squirrel behavior, a project that originated nearly two years ago in a biology class at Austin Peay State University, will be shared at the next Faculty Research Forum.

Dr. Andrew Barrass, assistant professor of biology, will present “Gray Squirrel Behavior: A Study of Aggressive Behaviors During Feeding” as part of APSU's Faculty Research Forum series. The forum is scheduled for 11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m., Thursday, March 15 in the Morgan University Center, Room 308.

Barrass and APSU alumna Caron Baugher worked together on the research through Summer 2005. The research was conducted at Barrass' Bioacoustics Lab, with support from APSU's Center of Excellence for Field Biology. They used multi-image digital video analysis to review squirrel behaviors and recently submitted their work for publication.

In their research, Barrass and Baugher showed that squirrels were enticed to react to other squirrels in a colony and in an outdoor arena with a mirror placed in the center. The squirrels, however, often avoided their own reflections or “gazing” in the mirror, Barrass said.

Although squirrels were aggressive to other squirrels, they were not aggressive to the mirror images. This new research, though, suggests squirrels can identify themselves in a mirror by using visual cues similar to some primates, Barrass said.

Also, the research by Barrass and Baugher concluded older squirrels more likely were able to identify themselves than younger ones, suggesting maturity increases visual acuity and ability to identify kin.

Barrass said he and Baugher, a graduate student studying veterinary medicine at North Carolina State University in Raleigh, plan to continue the research in the spring and summer.

Baugher, a 2005 William McClure Drane Award winner, developed the idea to study gray squirrel behavior during Barrass' Animal Behavior class. During her senior year, she represented APSU and the Center for Field Biology at the Animal Behavior Society's Annual International Conference in Salt Lake City, where she presented a research paper on kin and self-recognition in Eastern gray squirrelsthe culmination of 16 months of research conducted under Barrass' guidance.

Also in 2005 as an undergraduate, Baugher presented her research paper on Eastern gray squirrels at the Tennessee Academy of Sciences Conference, winning second place in the Zoology I category. She also made a poster presentation on the topic that was presented at APSU's College of Science and Mathematics Science Forum.

Sponsored by the Office of Academic Affairs, the Faculty Research Forum provides an opportunity for faculty to share their research and creative works with their peers, students and members of the community. The brown-bag lunch sessions are open to the public at no charge. Free beverages will be provided.

For more information, contact Barrass by telephone at (931) 221-6489 or by e-mail at barrassa@apsu.edu. -- Melony Leazer