How the Personalities of Small Mammals Shape the Growth of Forests

Thursday, February 9, 2023, 12:00pm – 1:00pm

Explore the role that small mammals play in forest regeneration and the movement of trees in Maine.



To register, please email or call (207) 646-1555 x116.


  • Suggested Donation: $5.00


Mather Auditorium

This event is handicap accessible

We all know our cats and dogs have personalities, but have you ever wondered about the squirrels in your backyard? How would you even go about evaluating personality traits in squirrels, mice, or voles and why would you bother?

These small mammals play an important but often unseen role in forest regeneration and the movement of trees, dispersing the seeds of the towering forests here in Maine. While this role is known at the species level, unique individuals display varying personalities, with some consistently acting more boldly than others or consistently showing higher activity levels. Personality in the mice and voles of our forests has consequences for where small mammals are living, how they are foraging, and what they are doing with the seeds they find, influencing forest regeneration. Small mammals with contrasting personality traits are contributing to ecosystem services such as seed dispersal in different ways.

Land-use change, such as forest management or urbanization, and climate change are also at work altering the composition of forests and the distribution of personality traits within populations. We explore the intersection of these factors and investigate how the personalities of small mammals shape the growth of forests and how this may be shifting under changing land-use and climate change conditions.

This Ted Exford Climate Stewards lecture is supported by Dave & Loretta (Exford) Hoglund.

About the Presenter

Maisie Merz is a second year PhD student at the University of Maine in Alessio Mortelliti’s lab, where she studies the consequences of small mammal personality on several ecological processes that shape the forest landscape. Before coming to this project, she earned her B.S. in Biology from Hamilton College, gaining experience in animal behavior research with fish and crows during her time as an undergraduate. Maisie is an avid hiker and runner and came to her fascination with animal behavior and passion for conservation through a love of the outdoors.

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