— Brains of the Yukon —
Physiology and behavior of Wild Squirrels
As part of the Dantzer Lab at the University of Michigan, we aim to record physiological and behavioral activity of wild squirrels in the Canadian Yukon as part of the Kluane Red Squirrel Project. Below is a brief, and very casual travelogue of my initial visit (i.e., Part I).
Project Summary: The ecological niche occupied by wild squirrels has been conserved for millions of years and is highlighted by their unique adaptations to arboreal life (i.e., in the trees). Their ability to regulate energy and maintain fitness through a variety of natural, and imposed challenges ultimately determines their odds of survival. Little is known about how the central nervous system (CNS) is involved in these natural behaviors. The goal of this project is to record from the CNS of wild squirrels to understand how their physiology and behavior are correlated, given the varying demands of their environment. Adding resolution to these important ecological factors underlying animal fitness and survival is an important consideration to ongoing conservation work, potentially highlighting what ‘optimal adaptations’ are from a physiological perspective.