Haywood Community College (HCC) instructor Shannon Rabby and more than 100 of his students are trying to save flying squirrels.
Rabby, 48, is an instructor for the Fish and Wildlife Management Technology program at HCC in Clyde, N.C. And he and his students, like many other teachers and students across the country, are doing their part to study animals affected by climate change.
“Many types of wildlife cannot adapt to climate change because their habitats … will shift when things cool down or heat up,” he said.
Animals across the country are having a hard time adjusting to climate change because it’s happening quicker than ever before, USA TODAY reported. The National Wildlife Federation said the warning about affected animals is not based on computer simulations, but rather real-life happenings.
Wildlife clubs — such as HCC’s, for which Rabby is an adviser — and Wildlife Society student chapters, which are spread out across U.S. college campuses, are noticing these trends. The Wildlife Society is a non-profit organization looking to conserve wildlife and habitats.
There are more than 120 student chapters in the U.S. and they are made up of students and professionals on college campuses, according to the Wildlife Society’s website.
The flying squirrel, Rabby said, is just one animal he and his students, who are training to become biology technicians, are researching in the southern Appalachian Mountains. Rabby and his students have found climate change already affecting animals in this region.
Farther up north at Juniata College in Huntingdon, Pa., associate professor Uma Ramakrishnan studies coyotes and white-tail deer. She said she hasn’t seen an impact on those species because of climate change.
“It still follows the regular cycle,” she said. “I haven’t seen any variation in the two species I’ve working on.”
Charles Bartlett, an assistant professor at the University of Delaware (UD), said non-mobile animals and animals that live in unusual and discreet environments might suffer more than others.
Bartlett said he mentions ideas of conservation in some discussions with his students, but his class structure doesn’t offer the opportunity too often. He said, though, there are classes at UD that specifically focus on climate change for wildlife.
Ramakrishnan said she didn’t know what could be done to help out ailing species.
“I’m not sure what we could do at a local or regional level. I couldn’t think of anything. I certainly don’t have a way,” she said.
For Rabby and his students, providing a local effort is the most anyone can do.
“It’s a local thing and what they can do to preserve the species that are here,” he said. “And that makes all the difference.”
Bartlett said some species will die out no matter the effort.
“We’re just going to lose some of them,” he said. “We’re going to lose them without an extreme amount of effort.”
Rabby was a little more optimistic.
“There is definitely a whole generation coming up,” he said, “that wants to make sure we have everything from white-tailed deer to a flying squirrel for future generations.”
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