Dr. Cohen and Ph.D. student Amanda Cheeseman collaborated with a team of researchers on a successful proposal to the SUNY-ESF administered USDA McIntire-Stennis Grant competition that focused on using microsatellite DNA to quantify dispersal of New England cottontails from their home ranges. The relatively new technique was pioneered by scientists at the University of Idaho, as published in a recent
Wildlife Society Bulletin article.
New England cottontails may disperse to new habitat in long distance movements of 100 meters or more, or may slowly bud a new home range off their existing one if there is adequate local habitat. Amanda will use radio-telemetry to quantify rates of long distance dispersal. To examine rates and spatial patterns of budding, she will compare DNA in pellets gathered during winter surveys to DNA in tissue collected from young and adult rabbits captured in the summer. Understanding dispersal patterns in this imperiled species is critical for planning restoration and protection of their habitat. The other researchers on the proposal were Dr. Christopher Whipps, a parasitologist and geneticist at SUNY-ESF, and Dr. Sadie Ryan, a spatial ecologist at the University of Florida.