Dr. James Malcolm

Woodrats, also known as packrats, are nocturnal, rat-sized rodents that live in houses (also called nests or homes) made of thousands of sticks built into a mound. (They collect miscellaneous objects like rings or shotgun shells and put them in or on their nests).  There are two species of woodrat that live within a mile of the University called the desert and the dusky footed woodrat. Many of the nests are directly underneath the large juniper trees in the area, which is called the Santa Ana Wash.

My students and I found that the nests were very often oriented North to South, which has not been reported before. We assume that the orientation reflects how the nest is warmed (or cooled in the winter) by the sun. We are investigating the temperature inside and outside the nests using remote thermometers.

We discovered last year that we have two species living together on the study area and we are now interested in how the two species coexist. We have radio collars on some rats to look at the ranging of the two species.