UC Davis Today

Salt-water science up close

Why would you wade into scientific mysteries at UC Davis?

  • Sunrise over the Suisun Marsh

    Every month we trap salt marsh harvest mice at all of our three sites in the Suisun Marsh, starting just before sunrise. We get the mice out of the traps before they become solar ovens. (Katherine Smith/UC Davis photo)

  • We use aluminum live traps baited with bird seed and ground walnuts. Traps are placed on the ground where there is no risk of flooding, a meter up in thick rushes and reeds, or on floating debris as shown in this photo. (Katherine Smith/UC Davis photo)

  • Woman standing on marsh edge checking a box

    Traps must be checked very carefully as these mice can hide in the cotton bedding or in the mechanisms of the trap. (Alyssa Manness/UC Davis photo)

  • Mouse in container with seeds

    The first thing we do is empty the trap into a bucket to observe behavior. Salt marsh harvest mice are much more docile than the Western harvest mice that also live in the marsh. (Katherine Smith/UC Davis photo)

  • Mouse on hand

    Mice are individually marked using ear tags. (Katherine Smith/UC Davis photo)

  • Mouse being measured on a ruler

    A number of measurements are taken to assess age, health and reproductive status as well as differentiate salt marsh harvest mice from Western harvest mice. (Katherine Smith/UC Davis photo)

  • Person measuring the tail of a dangling mouse dangling

    Tail diameter measurement helps differentiate the two species of mice. It can also help us to assess how healthy the mice are by examining differences in body-fat stores. (Katherine Smith/UC Davis photo)

  • Woman in a hood holding a mouse

    Before being released, mice are photographed to catalog visual differences between the species. (Katherine Smith/UC Davis photo)

  • Mouse on dead branch

    Once mice are released, we observe their behavior as they scurry back to their homes. Here a mouse uses her semiprehensile tail to cling to a dead branch before climbing down. (Katherine Smith/UC Davis photo)

  • Collar being tied onto a mouse's neck

    Radio telemetry collars are fitted without anesthesia on the largest mice, a formidable task on these tiny, delicate animals. (Carlos Alvarado/UC Davis photo)

  • Mouse with collar being held by its tail

    Once collared, they are released at the site of capture. Radio telemetry studies occur during several weeks each spring, summer, fall and winter. (Katherine Smith/UC Davis photo)

  • Woman standing with a wire device listening to a phone

    The crew uses radio telemetry receivers to track the movements of the mice. The signal from the collars can be detected between 50 and 100 meters away. (Katherine Smith/UC Davis photo)

  • Two women in waders in a marsh with a radio wire device

    We can use our antennas to “home in” on mice or triangulate to estimate locations from afar, allowing us to track mice even when they are areas flooded by the high tide.(Katherine Smith/UC Davis photo)

  • Sunset view of the Suisun Marsh

    Traps remain closed during the day, and at sunset we open them up again. (Katherine Smith/UC Davis photo)

  • Three people in camoflage at the marsh with a number of white buckets

    During quarterly diet studies, traps are checked well before sunrise. Captured mice are placed into the feeding arena, a bucket offering a number of food items. (Katherine Smith/UC Davis photo)

  • A series of eight  photos showing bowls of mice foods

    In the open diet study, food items are placed in a field platform so mice can come and go freely. In the closed study, mice are placed into a bucket with the food items. (Katherine Smith/UC Davis photo)

  • This is what the feed arenas of the closed diet study look like in the morning. (Katherine Smith/UC Davis photo)

  • Sunset in the Suisun Marsh

    Our mouse research will help wildlife managers learn how protect this beautiful ecosystem for generations to come. (Katherine Smith/UC Davis photo)

Marsh mouse solving habitat mysteries

By Katherine Smith, Ecology

Conserving the Olympia oyster

Jill Bible shows equipment that she uses to nurture the young oysters

Videography by Zak Long/University of California
(1 min 42 sec)

Olympia oysters — the ‘canary’ in the estuary?

By Jillian Bible, Ecology

  • A plywood raft in a marsh

    A home-made research raft sets sail in Sippewissett marsh. (All photos by Lizzy Wilbanks and Victoria Orphan/UC Davis)

  • Equipment in a marsh

    Geochemistry microsensor equipment is set up in the marsh.

  • Our research team heads into the Sippewissett to take measurements.

  • Lizzie Wilbanks holding a skewer with pink berries on them

    Pink berries are skewered on silver wire to collect internal sulfide.

  • Equipment on a coil settling on a wire grid

    This custom-made microsensor is used for measuring chemicals inside pink berries.

  • Pink berries on a skewer on a ruler-like measuring device

    Pink berries are measured after overnight incubation on silver wires.

  • A series of tubes stuck into marsh sediment

    Here's how we collect sediment cores in the Sippewissett marsh.

  • Lizzie Wilbanks in the grass near the marsh

    Here I am, in the marsh, checking out another possible sampling site.

The secret lives of marsh microbes

By Lizzy Wilbanks, Microbiology

Salt marsh harvest mouse on a ruler. UC Davis home page photo by Katherine Smith

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