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Challenge Team Interim Report

 Team Number: 054 School Name: Raton High School Area of Science: Environmental Project Title: Model of Mexican Spotted Owl Population
 Abstract Interim Final Report

The Mexican Spotted Owl is a threatened species in the United States. Therefore, the ability to predict the future population of this animal would benefit the Fish and Wildlife Services by allowing them to have accurate data when panning timber sales, or various other programs that would effect the owl's habitat. The Mexican Spotted Owl's habitat is threatened by logging, fire, and human intervention. The Gila National Forest, located in southern New Mexico, has the largest population density of the Mexican Spotted Owl. By using this region's data, this project can be used to predict Mexican Spotted Owl populations in other heavily populated regions such as regions in Arizona and Texas.

To be able to predict the populations of the Mexican Spotted Owl, we had to create a basic mathmatical model of the animal's situation. We had to study and combine individual equations into this basic equation to allow our predictions to take this predator's prey into consideration. For example, the rodent population of the region had to be a single equation in itself. This equation was then colaborated with the original equation to produce more accurate results. Variable such as the destruction and modification of habitat caused by timber harvest and fires, and the increased predation associated with habitat fragmentation, will be implimented into this equation at a later date. Once this model is complete and able to be upgraded when necessary, our computer grogramming will take its turn.

The graphing equation we are using for the interactions of the Mexican Spotted Owl is a predator versus prey graph. The predator versus prey graph, also called Gnuplot, uses two factors which are population and time. The time will be spread out into yearly fragments. Gnuplot uses an X and Y axis so that the two lines of predators and prey can easily be seen intercepting one another.

We have collected in formation on the Mexican Spotted Owl, its habitat, its prey, and its predators. We have decided to use the Gnuplot program to aid us in our progress. We are using Gnuplot to discover the increase or decrease in the Mexican Spotted Owl's population over a time span of one year. We are substituting our findings into Gnuplot's mathematical equation and also using its Y and X coordinate devices for our input, output solution.

Gnuplot is written out in the mathematical equation of the population multiplied by the time in years, which equals the population minus the time, plus half of the population, multiplied by the time, minus one. In abstract form, it would look like this: pop(t)= [pop(t)-1] + 1/2[pop(t)-1] - 1/3[pop(t)-1] The X axis would equal the population and the Y axis would equal the time in years.

To date, we have not come up with our own computer program. Several simulation programs have been recommended to us which we are investigating. It is unclear whether we should manipulate an existing program or develop an original. Our programming skills are limited and an oringinal program would not demonstrate the complexity of our model.

Using the collected data and Gnuplot's outline we plan to have a program that will be able to accurately simulate the Mexican Spotted Owl population in our chosen area of the country. Our program will aid all wildlife specialists in the observation and care of this specific animal.

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