Wyoming Spring Creek: Prairie Dogs Holes and the Surrounding Soil

When deciding what I wanted to do for my independent project, I knew that I wanted to do something related to the animals on the property. I’m specifically interested in small mammals, and the abundance of prairie dogs on the property made choosing them to research was an easy choice. Along with their strong presence on the property, they are also extremely fascinating and some hypothesize they are a keystone species. I enjoyed doing some research on the adorable creatures, but I ultimately chose to take a closer look at the soil surrounding their holes because I read how important they are to surrounding species and wondered how they benefit the surrounding land. I also noticed more vegetation around prairie dog holes, which sparked my curiosity. The hypothesis I came up with it – in varying rock formations, the soil closest to prairie dog holes will be less acidic and have higher amounts of phosphorous, potassium, and nitrogen due to more abundance of vegetation and mixed soil. I began some pH testing at the property and some of the soil showed no change in pH in the soils closest to the holes, but I still need to test the soil from holes in the other two rock formations.

The methods I am using to determine is there is a difference in soils closer to prairie dog holes, was to take samples at the hole, and the every couple meters away. I decided the second day to go back to two spots in each rock formation to get a soil core at the hole as well as eight meters away. This will allow me to test some deeper soil to see if there is also a difference in the soil layers. Once I collected my data during the data collection days on the property, I test the soil for pH, potassium, phosphorus, and nitrogen. I am doubtful the pH will be much different due to some tests I have already done, but hopefully when I test the soil for the other elements there will be a change like I predict.

James and Chad helping me get my last few soil cores.

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