Taylor Syring for the Daily News
A Midland native, Thomas Gable, has developed a research program aimed at understanding wolves. He developed the crowd-funded project as part of his graduate studies in biology at Northern Michigan University.
“My goal is to develop a greater understanding of the wolf-beaver dynamic that is present in many boreal ecosystems, by examining wolf predation of beavers and the effect of wolf predation on beaver populations,” Gable said.
“(The outdoors) have always fascinated me,” Gable said.
It was during his sophomore year at Hope that Gable decided he wanted to attend graduate school, and eventually settled on Northern Michigan University for the location, landscape and wildlife.
“I love Michigan and I love the U.P.,” Gable said. He plans to go on to earn a doctorate somewhere that has a program he is interested in after completing his master’s degree program at Northern Michigan University.
His self-developed program includes studying wolf and beaver dynamics. He says that the predator/prey relationship is important to study so that biologists and citizens can better understand the environment and ecosystems in Michigan.
“It is certainly possible that wolves affect beavers and beavers affect the wolf population,” Gable said. “Its very complicated when you start to add in other factors.”
This relationship has not been studied before. Gable will capture wolves and put radio collars on them in Voyageurs National Park in Minnesota. The national park is ideal for the type of work he is doing due to robust beaver and wolf populations.
“I use the GPS location to see how they are using the landscape,” Gable said.
He will then be able to track the wolves’ movement and search for scat in the areas the wolves frequent.
“It is challenging to find a beaver killed by a wolf,” Gable said.
He can learn about the wolf/beaver relationship instead by studying wolf scat, so the wolves’ diets can be determined. This includes whether beavers are a part of their diets and how often.
Gable is most interested in “seeing how wolves in different packs prey on beavers differently.”
More information about Gable’s project and how to donate can be found at www.experiment.com/wolves.