Campus: Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo --April 5, 2000

Cal Poly Math Students' Project Aims to Increase California Condor Population

A team of Cal Poly students is helping to increase the California condor population with a project that has also earned them top honors in the 1999 MathServe Mathematical Community Service Projects Competition.

Last year students Judy Fetcho, Joel Fish, Jeff Gray, Jeff Mintz, David Mintz, Andy Oster, Brian Miceli and Ryan Tully-Doyle and faculty advisor Professor Thomas O'Neil became involved with the Ventana Wilderness Society's California Condor Restoration Project at Big Sur.

The team developed a mathematical model and is using a computer simulation to make population projections.

"The simulation programs to make population projections will benefit the overall California condor program in terms of deciding on the most effective restoration strategy," said Kelly Sorenson, wildlife restoration coordinator.

The students are also creating a database that includes information on every living condor, both captive and wild, and all that have died since 1987.

"Critical to any population projection program is good survival rate data," O'Neil said. "Little is known about how California condors hatched and reared in captivity will fare in the wild.

"We decided that to estimate the survival rates with some degree of accuracy, we would need to establish a database of every bird in captivity and the wild, living or dead since 1987," said O'Neil.

"An up-to-date database is essential for our work," Sorenson said. "The students' desire to create such a database shows me their commitment to the project."

The students' project earned the highest designation -- "Outstanding" -- from the MathServe Mathematical Community Service Projects Competition.

Their paper will appear in the Vol. 20.4 1999 issue of the Journal of Undergraduate Mathematics and Its Applications and in both Nonprofit World and The Journal of Volunteer Administration.

The competition, sponsored by the Consortium for Mathematics and Its Applications, is designed to provide mathematical support to a public or nonprofit agency. Projects are judged on the impact of the service to the community, the degree to which the relationship is built, and the mathematical modeling and quantitative analysis used in the project.

Fetcho, a graduate student, lives in Los Osos; Fish is from Woodland; Gray, Santa Maria; Jeff Mintz and David Mintz are from San Luis Obispo; Oster, Capitola; Miceli, San Jose; and Tully-Doyle, San Diego.

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