Master's Theses



Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Ephemeral wetlands are characterized by a cyclical hydropattern, ranging from complete inundation to a total absence of surface water. This cycle between wet and dry phases is necessary for the flora of ephemeral wetlands to perpetuate. However, little research has been done to study the response of the non-avian fauna to these cycles, particularly during the dry phase. I live trapped small mammals by using Sherman live traps and conducted vegetation surveys monthly (May–August in 2012 and May–July in 2013) in the ephemeral wetlands and the surrounding wet meadows of the Cheyenne Bottoms basin in central Kansas. Drought occurred both years, leaving the wetlands dry; this allowed small mammal use of wetlands in the dry phase to be documented. Small mammal species richness in the 2 habitats differed by 1 the first year but was equal the second year, although species composition differed. In 2012, population estimates were higher in the wetlands than the wet meadows for Peromyscus maniculatus, Sigmodon hispidus, and Mus musculus, as well as in 2013 for P. maniculatus. Overall small mammal community estimates were higher in the wetlands than the wet meadows in both years. Small mammal survival rates varied by species and habitat. The survival rates of the overall small mammal communities were greater in the wetlands than the wet meadows in 2012, but were comparable between habitats in 2013. In both years, forbs had a higher aerial cover in the wetlands, while grasses had a higher aerial cover in the wet meadows. The height of the standing dead vegetation was taller in the wetlands than the wet meadows in 2012, but showed no difference between habitat types in 2013. These vegetational cover types, coupled with small mammal species interactions, influenced small mammal population estimates and survival rates in the 2 habitats. The vegetational cover types were also the likely reason for finding M. musculus, the additional species, in the wetlands. The process of wetland drawdown in a southern mixed-grass prairie ephemeral wetland greatly affected small mammal communities locally. With small mammals playing a pivotal role in many food webs, it is critical that managers understand the effects of processes, whether natural or man-induced, on small mammal communities.


Dr. Elmer J. Finck

Date of Award

Spring 2014

Document Type



© 2014 Brian M. Zinke


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