UGA Ecologists to present research at virtual 2020 ESA Annual Meeting Aug. 3-6

by the University of Georgia

Athens, Ga. – The ringtail, a relative of the raccoon, is a nocturnal creature that lives in arid regions of western North America. Despite their solitary nature, they have long been known to inhabit national park buildings in southern Utah, where they scavenge food from trash cans. This makes them an excellent subject for University of Georgia ecologist Anna Willoughby, who studies how resources provided by people influence animal behavior and parasites. But because they’re so elusive, getting enough field observations of ringtails posed a challenge. To solve it, Willoughby turned to a novel source: photos and videos posted to social media.

“Ringtails have such a large range in the U.S. and Mexico that photos from social media provide a richer data set than one researcher can get alone,” she said.

Willoughby’s findings about the effectiveness of using data gleaned from social media will be featured during the 105th annual meeting of the Ecological Society of America, which takes place online from Aug. 3-6, 2020.

She is one of 26 University of Georgia faculty, students and postdoctoral associates participating in this year’s event, with representatives from the Odum School of Ecology, Warnell School of Forestry and Natural ResourcesFranklin College of Arts and SciencesSavannah River Ecology Laboratory and College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. They will cover topics ranging from the restoration and management of maritime forests to environmental effects on parasite abundance to strategies for science education.

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