Monday, September 09, 2019

FIF Research Grant to Investigate Further Into Island Fox Diet


Friends of the Island Fox is happy to announce that Juliann Schamel's research investigating island fox diet through stable isotopes in whisker samples has been chosen to receive the FIF Research Grant for 2019. 

an island fox stash of deer mice
This second year of support will enable analysis of additional data sets to identify seasonal dietary items during drought and important to successful reproduction. It has long been believed that deer mice are a vital food item during breeding and pupping season. Is it true? Does availability to a specific food source influence successful reproduction? If island foxes do not have accesses to abundant deer mice are they less successful as parents?

The grant will also expand the study to look at island fox use of marine resources. Do island foxes use marine foods during drought? If so, which island foxes are able to make use of marine resources?

Island fox whiskers provide an amazing record of what an individual island fox has been eating over 5–6 months. All food items are made up of carbon and nitrogen, but each kind of food has a different balance of elements and therefore a different signature. These individual isotope signatures are recorded in the fox's whisker. More on Schamel's initial research.

Schamel's initial whisker data set went to the lab this spring. At the Center for Stable Isotopes at the University of New Mexico, each individual whisker is divided into tiny sections and processed in a mass spectrometer.

An island fox that eats the same kind of food (all deer mice or all plant fruit) for a period of time will show an isotope graph that is fairly flat. The mixture of carbon to nitrogen will remain the same. But if an island fox changes up its diet dramatically, a spike will appear in the graph showing a change in the isotopes laid down in the whisker.


Comparing these results for known individual island foxes, living in known habitats, will provide valuable data on how sustained drought impacts island fox diet and how diet impacts their ability to survive and thrive.

The FIF Research Grant is completely funded by YOU. Without your donations to FIF this research would still be a dream. 



Donate today to support island fox conservation research.

Thank you to all of the 2019 grant applicants for sharing your research goals with FIF. There is so much more to learn about island fox health, behavior, and interactions with other species.


Applications for the 2020 Research Grant
will be available April 15, 2020