By Valerie Eddington
Early in the fall semester of 2020 Maggie Gleason asked if I would help checking live animal traps in the nature area on campus at sunrise a few days a week to help her with data collection for her senior composition project. Almost hesitantly, I said yes. I am not a morning person, so this was not something I was necessarily thrilled about at the time, however, if I had I known about the opportunities and experience that agreeing to this simple task would lead to, I certainly would have been a little more eager. Last spring, about a month before going online due to COVID-19, I officially joined The Kloepper Lab. I had the chance to hear about the different research projects that were in progress and was able to choose what I wanted to begin working on in the lab. I decided to go with the project looking at the potential use of echolocation in Northern Short-Tailed Shrews that Maggie had been working. Now to go back to the beginning of my experience on this project in the fall of 2020. For a couple months I would roll out of bed about 30 minutes before sunrise to get on field-gear and meet Maggie to walk to the nature area on the other side of campus. We used Sherman traps that had been set up the night before to trap a variety of animals from mice to chipmunks and occasionally, if we got lucky, shrews. On the rare occasion a shrew was caught we would bring it back to the lab where the shrew would stay for a few days until we released it back into the nature area. During that time Maggie recorded acoustic and behavioral data using ultrasonic audio and infrared video recordings. Unfortunately, since I had class rather early most mornings, I only got to hang around for one recording session.
Once I joined the lab, I began familiarizing myself with literature that related to bioacoustics, echolocation, and shrews. Starting last April, I began using Audacity, an audio analysis software, to go through the acoustic data that Maggie had previously collected and continued to do so throughout most of the summer. Last semester, I decided to take independent study with Dr. Kloepper and began going through the audio files for a second time using a new audio analysis software called Raven Pro. Initially, we had hoped to use the band-limited energy detector to pull out calls but that, like the majority of research, did not go to plan. So, I continued to manually go through the audio files using this new software. Using Raven, I have now gotten measurements on over 700 shrew vocalizations. Maggie and I have met almost every single week since I joined the lab to discuss either shrew-related topics or progress in our research regarding the project. What we are finding in both the acoustic and behavioral results have been promising and we are hoping to start work on a manuscript within the next few weeks.