Mizuki Wittmer

Mizuki Wittmer, Undergraduate student, environmental science and Spanish

Tracks urban wildlife diversity

“This project changed Mizuki’s view of nature and wildlife by putting it into an urban setting. Her initial thought was that she would need to go somewhere abroad to study ecology topics on a larger scale; she has since learned that she can look for topics right in her home state.” -Melinda Licht, program coordinator, Iowa Center for Research by Undergraduates

Hometown: Sagamihara, Japan

Faculty mentor/advisor: Heather Sander, PhD, associate professor, geographical and sustainability sciences, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

What is your degree program and expected graduate date? Environmental Science BS, Spanish BA, Italian minor. Expected graduation: May 2023.

Please describe your research: My research focuses on studying small mammal populations across an urban gradient and seeing how predator and prey diversity changes depending on how urbanized an area is. I do small mammal trapping alongside a graduate student to identify their population present at different sites. In addition, I use wildlife camera traps to identify the presence and diversity of predators and prey species. With this data, I will be studying the relationships between predator and prey diversity, small mammal population, and level of urbanization.

In simple terms, why does this research matter? With increasing urbanization, humans continue to alter landscapes and leave fewer “natural” sites for species to live. As we face rapid changes in our environment, it is important to understand how urbanization is affecting biodiversity and population of especially small mammals since they play an important role in ecological systems. A better understanding of the relationship between predator/prey species diversity and abundance across urban gradients can allow us to gain a better understanding of how to support the design and management of biodiversity-rich and wildlife inclusive cities.

How soon after starting at the University of Iowa were you able to participate in research? I started participating in research the summer after my sophomore year

How has being involved in research made you more successful at the University of Iowa? Being involved in research has allowed me to gain valuable experiences to better prepare me for my future career after I graduate. Doing field work and research has also helped me explore my interests in environmental science. Additionally, it has improved my critical thinking skills and helped me apply concepts I learned in the classroom to real world situations.

What are your career goals and/or plans after graduation? After graduation I am considering attending graduate school to pursue a PhD and further my education around conservation and urban ecology. I hope to continue doing field work and seek a career that focuses on environmental conservation.

Banner location: Downtown—Washington St., in front of US Bank