Publication Date


Advisor(s) - Committee Chair

Dr. Michael Stokes (Director), Dr. Albert Meier, Dr. Philip W. Lienesch

Degree Program

Department of Biology

Degree Type

Master of Science


Termites ecologically engineer their environment by producing termitaria (mounds) used by many other species as dens, lookouts or food sources. The role of termite mounds in biological communities is relatively unknown, despite their ubiquitous nature. I investigated their impact on vertebrates in the Tsavo region of Kenya. Through the characterization of mounds, trapping, direct observation, and collecting microclimate data, I was able to determine the importance of mounds to vertebrates. I found uniform dispersion of mounds, that soil type is correlated with the size of mounds, and that vertebrate activity increases with mound size. I also found no significant differences in overall numbers of animals and species between mound and non-mound areas. Reptiles were found at mound sites significantly more than at non-mound sites, especially the great plated lizard and short-necked skink. I determined that mounds’ microclimate is less variable than that of the ambient. More work is needed to further our understanding of termite mounds' impacts on vertebrates. This study led to discoveries of species not known to be in the area by myself or my affiliated parties.


Biology | Other Ecology and Evolutionary Biology