Desert Tortoise and Burrowing Owl Environmental Observation
- Miriam Rodon, Microbiologist, NASA Dryden Flight Reseach Center
- Alec Sim, Professor of Physics , Irvine Valley College
- Tim Usher, Professor of Physics , California State University San Bernardino
We present research results that support ongoing environmental studies at NASA Dryden on two specific threatened species. This research is focused on the collection of data, development of knowledge, observation of habitats, and current conservation-and-tracking techniques specifically for the desert tortoise and burrowing owl populations; the Desert Tortoise serves as an "umbrella species" for the Burrowing Owl. The project is broken into three parts a literature review, field work with significant data collection, and analysis. Field work consists of doing measurements along a designed and developed transect within a portion of the NASA compound area. This survey utilizes field instruments such as a compass, H-antenna, Global Positing System (GPS), and a thermometer to record field data on the tortoise and owls and their habitat. The data is then transferred to a Geospatial Information System (GIS) enabling the development of a comprehensive and exact visual database (GIS layer) for the location and conditions of the Desert Tortoise and Burrowing Owl population and habitat. Several tortoise and owl populations were found and certain similarities within both species were discovered such as their symbiotic and commensalism relationships. Furthermore, our work suggests that the biomass of the Desert Tortoise on the base could be estimated but that of the Burrowing Owl could not. We present the results of this comprehensive research study and discuss its implications to the environmental programs at NASA Dryden and several environmental research activities that support the Fish and Wildlife Service Desert Tortoise (Gopherus agassizii), (Mojave Population) 1994 Recovery Plan.