Theses and Dissertations

Issuing Body

Mississippi State University


Barton, Brandon

Committee Member

Brooks, Christopher P.

Committee Member

Demarais, Stephen

Date of Degree


Document Type

Graduate Thesis - Open Access


Biological Sciences

Degree Name

Master of Science


College of Arts and Sciences


Department of Biological Sciences


Climate change can alter the ecology of natural systems through various mechanisms, such as direct thermal effects on a consumer. However, consumers may employ behavioral mechanisms in response to warming. Among these may be spatial or temporal shifts in activity, making use of thermal heterogeneity on the landscape. Despite this, few studies consider the role of behavioral plasticity and spatial or temporal heterogeneity in the context of climate change. I conducted experiments to evaluate the importance of behavior in mediating the net effects of warming at the population and the individual level using captive white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus). I created thermal heterogeneity over feeding stations using opaque and translucent roofing material. Feeding activity and consumption were monitored at these feeders. Activity patterns revealed deer disproportionally used the shaded feeder during the daytime and the unshaded feeder during crepuscular periods. I found that deer consumed less feed in group and individual experiments when feeders were unshaded. My results suggest that deer can use heterogeneity in the environment that may mediate the net effects of climate change. Furthermore, maintaining thermal heterogeneity may mitigate the direct effects of climate change on the consumer, but may lead to indirect effects at the community level.