Date of Graduation

Fall 12-16-2011

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science in Biology


College of Arts and Sciences



First Advisor

Jennifer Dever

Second Advisor

Scott Nunes

Third Advisor

Christina Tzagakaris-Foster


Urocitellus beldingi (Belding's ground squirrel), previously known as Spermophilus beldingi, is a social, montane rodent that occupies alpine and subalpine meadows in the Sierra Nevadas (Helgen et al. 2009). The Tioga Pass meadow (Mono Co. CA) population has been studied behaviorally and demographically for several decades. Microsatellites were developed for this species and conditions for polymerase chain reaction (PCR) were defined. Nine microsatellite loci amplified adequately and were in Hardy-Weinberg equilibrium, displaying an average heterozygosity of 0.67±0.19. These nine microsatellite loci were analyzed via PCR to elucidate the fine scale genetic structure, offering insight into population health, stochastic events, and dispersal. Two populations were identified, corresponding to the elevation differences between the sites (FST = 0.054605 pm) of 8.66. These populations appear to maintain a stable size and are not adversely affected by inbreeding. Urocitellus beldingi maternity can be deduced by observing female burrows usage during gestation and which offspring first emerge from the burrow associated with that particular female. Paternity, however, can only be posited by observation of mating because the species exhibits multiple mating in both sexes, though not all matings necessarily result in offspring. Multiple paternity has been previously verified through allozyme analysis. Microsatellites were used to verify maternity and determine paternity. Analysis of ten litters demonstrated an average of 1 father per 1.35 pups in a litter. Sibship deduced from maternity and paternity analysis was then compared with previously collected behavioral data. While previous observations indicate preference of fullsib play partners in juveniles, our findings do not corroborate this, though the results were not significant.