Document Type

Honors Thesis




Danielle Levesque

Committee Members

Edward Bernard, Sean Birkel, Julie DellaMattera, Allison Gardner

Graduation Year

May 2021

Publication Date

Spring 5-2021


Species distribution and movement are increasingly influenced by climate change and human expansion. The Virginia opossum (Didelphis virginiana) has been observed expanding their range northward due to the warming temperatures and urbanization. The Virginia opossums’ northern range is thought to be restricted by two abiotic winter factors, snow cover and low temperatures, which prevents foraging and ultimately leads to starvation. For this study, I predicted the movement of the Virginia opossum northward into central Maine and beyond based on current climate change trends. Microclimate temperatures were recorded using data-loggers and climate variable datasets were used to determine if the climate conditions permit establishment of stable opossum populations. The trends in the climate data suggest that central and northern Maine’s climate will continue to become favorable for stable populations of the Virginia opossum. The establishment of more suburban areas will positively affect the species’ expansion. As a new addition to the biodiversity of central Maine, the opossum’s impact on the environment is important to understand. Virginia opossum can be a pest and vector of disease; however, the species also has the capacity of benefiting new environments by being an important prey and a predator of ticks. Predicting how species distribution will change due to the rapid rate of climate change and urbanization can give insight on a species movement into new areas and how their arrival will affect the environment.