Endangered Woodrat Plays Important Role in Forest Health

Posted on 1/28/2011 11:12:18 AM

Rats are an unwelcome sight for most people. That’s not the case for Biology Department faculty member Joe Duchamp and the Allegheny woodrat.

With a research interest in wildlife ecology, Duchamp studies the woodrat for its value as an indicator of forest health. He recently received $38,770 from AK Environmental, LLC, to assist with his monitoring of the species.

Truth be told, the woodrats—sporting soft, gray coats and fluffy tails—are far from their better known, sewer-dwelling relatives. The nocturnal rodents are seldom seen, living around jutting rock ledges and dunes of disintegrated sandstone near wooded areas.

But the population is on the decline in several states. Widened roads, mining, and the development of homes and farms have hindered the rats’ ability to spread, resulting in unhealthy inbreeding.

According to Duchamp, dwindling food supplies and harmful raccoon roundworm have added to the problem.

Duchamp and his fellow researchers, including IUP biology professor Jeffery Larkin, are working to keep the woodrat off the endangered species list. An important link in the ecosystem, woodrats are a food source for owls, and their travels between cave and forest promote the survival of other animals found only in caves.

About Joe Duchamp

Joe Duchamp, Biology ProfessorWithin his field, Duchamp focuses on wildlife population and community ecology, mammalogy, and biostatistics.

Addressing questions related to the conservation and management of vertebrate wildlife populations, Duchamp aims to provide information that improves people’s ability to live alongside a diverse array of wildlife.

His research efforts are quantitative, bringing together diverse datasets and using innovative statistical tools. His interests span fragmentation and landscape ecology, population and community dynamics, urban-wildlife ecology, conservation biology, spatial ecology, applied statistics, assessing wildlife management tools, and simulation modeling.

Classes Duchamp teaches at IUP include Anatomy and Advanced Anatomy for undergraduates, Mammalogy for undergraduate and graduate students, and Population and Community Ecology at the graduate level.

Duchamp received a bachelor’s degree in biology from the University of Michigan, a master’s in ecology from Indiana State University, and a Ph.D. in wildlife science from Purdue University.