Biology professor earns two grants to explore wildlife on two historic fort locations

Texas Military Department surveys approved

Biology professor earns two grants to explore wildlife on two historic fort locations

Wildlife on lands in two historic fort locations will be surveyed by Dr. Raymond Willis, Associate Professor of Biology at MSU Texas, thanks to two grants from the Texas Military Department that will allow him and students to explore wildlife and conduct surveys on the environment.

The first grant is a two-year $64,113 grant that will fund mammal surveys at Camp Swift located in Bastrop, Texas. Camp Swift encompasses 11,650 acres and is used to train the Army National Guard and other military.

“My responsibility is to determine what small mammal diversity there is on the base. I will do this by taking weekend trips there and placing 200 small live traps out in various places on the base,” Willis said. He will use motion cameras in discrete locations for long-term monitoring of medium transient mammals like deer, pigs, foxes, skunks, and possibly mountain lions.

The second grant is another small mammal survey, which will be conducted at Fort Wolters near Mineral Wells. The fort is also used for military training and covers about 4,600 acres. This $60,707 grant is also for two years. Willis says he will be using similar scouting methods for both surveys.

The Texas Military Department is requesting the mammal survey be conducted to monitor changes occurring in species diversity, distribution, and composition in comparison with previous studies. This will help identify any changes that need to be made to habitat management and land-use practices. The project will also help develop a standardized mammal survey protocol that is cost-efficient to implement and easily adapted to the varying habitats of all training centers.

All small mammals caught will be identified by species, and data collected will include sex, relative age, and reproductive condition. A minimum number of representative sample specimens will be retained and deposited in the Midwestern State University Vertebrate Museum in Bolin Hall.

Some funds will be used for five to 10 quality digital cameras with infrared detectors that will monitor for potential mountain lion habitats and other rare mammals.

Live trapping began in August with the final report due mid-2022. The latest data will be compared with historic data, and any changes in the small mammal community will be addressed along with a possible explanation as to why this occurred. Habitat management recommendations will be suggested to enhance species diversity.

Willis has 20 years of professional vertebrate experience and has been a member of the Texas Society of Mammalogists and the Southwestern Association of Naturalists (SWAN) since 2000. Willis is currently treasurer and associate editor for the SWAN journal for reptiles and mammal submissions. He has directed several student research projects as well. These two most recent grants will allow him and students to add to these studies. Willis has been awarded six external grants since he arrived in 2012 for a combined total of $722,448.


Story updated to show trapping began in August.