2014 – 2015 Global Change Fellow
Where are they now:
Marketa is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Biology at Appalachian State University.
Statement of purpose:
I am a first year Ph.D. student at NC State University working with Dr. L. Scott Mills. My research centers on understanding the effects of global anthropogenic change on wild populations and their potential adaptation to novel stressors. Specifically, I’m studying the impacts of decreased duration of snow cover due to climate change on snowshoe hares (Lepus americanus) and how they are likely to respond to future warming. I use the combination of field data and population modelling to quantify the negative consequences of climate change on wild species and understand how they might persist in the future – with the ultimate goal to provide recommendations for effective biodiversity conservation and management planning.
Description of research:
Snowshoe hares undergo seasonal coat color molts from brown to white in winter to match the snowy background and avoid detection from predators. However, as climate change resulted in shorter snow seasons, hares become color mismatched against their surroundings and appear extremely conspicuous when encountered white on dark snowless forest floor. In my graduate research I investigate how this mismatch in camouflage affects individuals and populations, and whether and how might snowshoe hares –and other color molting species- adapt and persist locally. In my previous research I explored their adaptation potential to camouflage mismatch through phenotypic plasticity in the phenology of color molts and in anti-predatory behaviors, and found that the current levels of plasticity are too low to enable hares to keep up with rapidly decreasing snow cover in the future. In my PhD research I will focus more on evolutionary adaptation to camouflage mismatch in hares by undertaking some captive breeding experiments and genetic and field studies. I also hope to explore the extent and the effects of mismatch in other color molting species including mountain hares and arctic foxes in Europe. My research falls under Science Theme 4, Ecological Research and Modeling.