The Small Mammal Undergraduate Research in the Forest (SMURF)

program is a collaboration between graduate students, the Natural History Museum, and the UC Natural Reserve System that monitors long term small mammal population dynamics in the UCSC Forest Ecology Research Plot. SMURF undergraduate interns trap small mammals every quarter (including summer) and then use the data to examine environmental and ecological questions.

The two main rodents that we work with are Peromyscus Californicus (The California Mouse) and Peromyscus Bolii (The Brush Deermouse). This Summer 2016, we were able to work with Gage Dayton in Fort Ord Natural Reserve and collected data for the Rodentia species found on the plots. This is the first year we will have mark/recapture data collected for SMURF on Peromyscus maniculatus, Dipodymus heermanni, Dipodymus californicus, and Chaetodipus spinatus.

Peromyscus boylii: 

p boyliii

A common medium sized rodent in SouthWest US and Mexico with small ears, long slightly bicolored tail, and usually found in busy habitats. It isn’t of special conservation concern at this time. P Boylii Species Account Here

Peromyscus californicus:

p cali

The largest species of this genus in the US, restricted to California south of the SF bay, with a tail extending longer than its head and body, and bicolored with a decent amount of hair.  P Cali Species Account Here

Peromyscus maniculatus:


Commonly known as the North American Deermouse, this species is commonly found in grasslands and forests. They are recognized  in their genus for having a white underbelly and large ears.


Dipodomys heermanni:


Heermann’s Kangaroo rat resides on sandy desert lands where they burrow in underground tunnels. Their large feet resemble that of a kangaroo and they often use them to jump around and defend themselves. They also have long tufted tails and large broad faces and can weigh 60-90 grams.

Dipodomys californicus:


Chaetodipus spinatus:



The UCSC Forest Ecology Research Plot (FERP):

“The UCSC-FERP is a 6-ha mapped forest plot in Mediterranean-climate, mixed-evergreen coastal forest in the Santa Cruz mountains, along the Central Coast of California, USA. Established in 2007 on the Campus Natural Reserve of the University of California Santa Cruz Campus, it is both part of an extensive area of protected forest habitat and just a short walk or drive from the UCSC laboratories and classrooms. It is meant to foster research and inquiry-based teaching about ecology and evolutionary biology in a changing world.”

More info can be found at

Achievements and Thank You’s

We have received a two undergraduate research grants from the Kenneth S. Norris Center for Natural History, an organization that supports natural history educational and research opportunities for students, faculty, staff, and the greater Santa Cruz community. This grant directly funds undergraduate student research and has culminated into the production of two senior theses projects.

We would also like to thank the Ecology & Evolutionary Biology Department and the UC Natural Reserve System  for supporting undergraduate interns leading the SMURF summer course and conducting independent senior theses projects.

We would like to thank Shopper’s Corner of Santa Cruz for donating a gift certificate to finance a portion of our Spring quarter trapping supplies.

Thank you to Gage Dayton who guided us on our first mark/recapture in Fort Ord Natural Reserve this Summer 2016 and providing us with an amazing kayaking day!