Poster Session I

ROOM: CC, Ballroom C

1 A Proposed Study of Genetic, Plumage, and Vocal Variation of Wild Turkey in the United States
Brittaney Buchanan; Robert Zink; Hernan Vázquez-Miranda
The reintroduction of the wild turkey (Meleagris gallopavo) can be considered one of the greatest wildlife management successes. Currently, turkeys have significant economic importance to biologists and hunters. This project will analyze plumage, genetic, and vocal variation in wild turkeys across their range in the continental U.S. to determine if there are six distinct geographical groupings traditionally recognized by taxonomists and hunters. To accomplish this, three different variables will be analyzed: genomics, upper tail covert tip coloration, and vocalization characteristics. The genomics include SNP’s, shared and unique loci of each subspecies can be identified and used to determine if an individual has diagnostic alleles of a particular subspecies. Color of upper tail covert tips is a widely used method by biologists and hunters to identify subspecies. A spectrophotometer will be used to analyze coloration for each individual, to determine if the main subspecies characteristics can be replicated and matched to genomic data. Analyses of male gobbles, available online, will include duration and frequency. With these variables combined, this project will determine if the geographic groupings of subspecies as shown by current subspecies maps are supported. The results of this project will have potential implications for how both biologists and hunters classify turkey subspecies.
2 A Range-Wide Geolocator Project to Fill Critical Knowledge Gaps of Our Understanding of the Full Annual Cycle of Cerulean Warblers
Douglas Raybuck; Scott Stoleson; Jeffrey Larkin; Than Boves; David Buehler
Cerulean Warblers (Setophaga cerulea) are a declining Nearctic-Neotropical migrant species of concern throughout their range. Implementing full annual cycle (FAC) conservation strategies to facilitate their recovery has been difficult in part because we know little about their migratory period and have had little information to connect specific North American breeding regions with specific South American non-breeding regions. Cerulean Warblers spend over half of their adult lives in the northern Andes Mountains, where much of their humid montane forest habitat has been lost over the past half century while the species has declined at nearly 3% per year. Knowledge of migratory connectivity would allow for enhanced effectiveness of conservation planning through focused conservation efforts in regions of the Andes connected to priority populations on the breeding grounds (e.g., protecting existing habitat in non-breeding regions associated with relatively stable breeding populations and working toward adding quality habitat in non-breeding regions associated with the most imperiled and declining breeding regions). An improved understanding of connectivity would also improve FAC population modeling efforts. Furthermore, identification and protection of habitat in critical stopover regions could benefit the species by improving both annual survival and their body condition upon arrival on the breeding grounds. Frrom 2014-2017, we deployed 255 light-level geolocators on male Cerulean Warblers at 11 study sites strategically spread throughout the breeding range with the objectives of a) tracking the approximate migration routes of individual Cerulean Warblers; b) evaluating the strength of connectivity between breeding and non-breeding regions; c) identifying stopover regions and duration of stay; and d) documenting migration chronology. We are currently awaiting returns from the 166 individuals we tagged in 2017 and will be retrieving data from returnees in May-July 2018. Here, we present an overview of this collaborative research project as well as preliminary data analysis from recovered geolocators.
3 Artificial Nesting Island and Breeding Success of Least Terns in Central Florida Mine Sites
Michael Newhouse; Anabel Lereculeur
Artificial Nesting Island and Breeding Success of Least Terns in Central Florida Mine Sites Abstract- A combination of active land management and unique color-banding were used to study inland breeding colonies of Least Terns (Sternula antillarum) on mine sites in central Florida. Habitat loss and disturbance in coastal areas have forced this Florida state-listed threatened species to find alternative nesting locations on roof tops and inland areas. Our objectives were to document breeding colonies of Least Terns on active and reclaimed mine sites, to initiate color-banding of juveniles Least Terns, and to apply experimental land management practices to improve suitability of reclaimed mine sites. An island located on reclaimed site was restored and managed specifically for nesting Least Terns. Management tools included chemical and mechanical vegetation treatment, prescribed burning and installation of decoys. We monitored three Least Tern colonies on active mine sites and one on the reclaimed island in Hillsborough County. Twenty juvenile Least Terns were color-banded from three colonies for future identification. We relied upon birding websites and other researchers to identify banded birds that dispersed to other locations. Three banded least terns were re-sighted before migration between 40 and 65 miles of their natal site. Overall, Least Terns were successful in rearing young in inland mining sites, but predation and environmental factors affected breeding success. Further monitoring and re-sighting will yield data on survival rate, site fidelity and migration patterns. Management of the reclaimed island was successful and such practices should be included into mining reclamation plans to provide suitable nesting habitat for Least Terns and limit disturbance caused by active mining.
4 Assessing Influences of Land Management on Fine-Scale Microclimate Conditions for Ground Nesting Birds in an Intensively Managed Landscape
Daniel U. Greene; Blake A. Grisham; Sarah R. Fritts; Jonathan Lautenbach; Manuel Silva; Samuel Harryman; Cody Griffin; Christian Hagen; Willard Heck
The extent of sand shinnery oak (Quercus harvardii) prairies (SSOP) in the southwestern United States have declined precipitously in the past century. Land-use change through the conversion of native prairies to agriculture, unmanaged grazing, and energy development are the primary drivers. Management efforts to restore SSOP include managed cattle grazing (a major land use) and herbicide applications (tebuthiuron) to control shrubs and promote grass production. However, short- and long-term implications for native wildlife from these restoration practices are poorly understood. For example, effects on ground nesting birds include, but are not limited to: declines of nesting and brood-rearing habitat, shifts in food availability, and reduced amount of thermal refugia on the landscape. SSOP are already marked by an extreme climate; ambient temperatures range from -33-44°C, average annual precipitation is approximately 46 cm, and droughts are frequent. Moreover, climate change forecasts predict the Southern Great Plains will become drier with more frequent extreme heat events. Therefore, to understand how land management efforts alter fine-scale thermal profiles, and how these changes may influence ground nesting birds, we evaluated influences of vegetation structure, topography, and management type (control sites, and grazing and herbicide treatments) on thermal profiles (temperature and relative humidity [RH] 7.5 cm above the surface of the soil) across seasons within the Southern Great Plains. Management practices that mimic natural ecological drivers increased habitat heterogeneity relative to vegetation composition and structure and microclimate. This was particularly true during nesting months, when average maximum temperatures and RH values were most variable between treatments. However, thermal profiles were most homogeneous in the summer, when conditions are more likely to influence thermal stress and desiccation of chicks and brood-rearing parents. Understanding how these predictors influence thermal profiles at local spatial scales provide critical information for the conservation and management ground-nesting birds, including at-risk species.
5 Bald Eagle Mortalities and Injuries at Wind Energy Facilities in the United States
Kevin J. Kritz; Margaret Rheude; Brian Millsap; Meghan Sadlowski; Joel Pagel; Matthew Stuber; Corrie Borgman; Thomas Wittig; Jordan Muir; Heather Beeler
The wind energy industry has continued to grow and expand rapidly in the United States with an estimate of about 54,000 wind turbines installed, and a related capacity of about 89,000 MW of electrical production, by the end of 2017. The rapid growth of the wind energy industry in the United States has raised concern about the effect of lethal collisions at wind energy facilities on Bald Eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalis). In this poster, we present information collected by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) on documented mortalities and injuries of Bald Eagles at wind energy facilities in the United States between 2013 and 2018. A search of sources available to us resulted in 44 records of Bald Eagle mortalities or injuries at wind energy facilities from 15 states during this time span. Most of these records were actual mortalities of Bald Eagles, and most were found incidentally as opposed to being located during formal post-construction mortality monitoring surveys. These records represent over seven times more mortalities and injuries of Bald Eagles at wind energy facilities than have been previously reported for the United States. We will provide a summary and analysis of these records including their geographic distribution and a breakdown by year. Given the general lack of rigorous monitoring and reporting of Bald Eagle mortalities at wind facilities we assert that these records likely underestimate, perhaps substantially, the actual take of this species due to wind energy. These results support our current policy of taking seriously the lethal risk to Bald Eagles from wind energy. Finally, given that Bald Eagle populations continue to expand, and the continued expansion of wind energy, we project that the frequency of Bald Eagle mortalities at wind energy facilities will increase.
6 Before-After-Control-Impact Experiment to Evaluate Change in Relative Abundance of Common Raven after Lethal Removal in Sagebrush Habitat of Eastern Oregon
Lindsey Perry; Terrah Owens; Jonathan Dinkins; Lee Foster; Jacqueline Cupples; Jimmy Taylor
Common ravens (Corvus corax; hereafter, ravens) use multiple habitat types throughout western North America. In sagebrush ecosystems, ravens utilize anthropogenic structures such as power lines, irrigation equipment, and buildings for perching, nesting, or roosting. Human activity in sagebrush ecosystems, such as agricultural expansion, road development, and urbanization, has provided ravens with a greater availability of foraging opportunities (e.g., dead livestock, garbage, road-kill) and water resources (e.g., irrigation, water troughs). As a result, there may be negative effects on vulnerable sagebrush-obligate species. For example, ravens depredate greater sage-grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus; hereafter, sage-grouse) nests, and increased raven abundance was connected to lower sage-grouse lek counts in Wyoming. In eastern Oregon, the sage-grouse population within the Baker Priority Area of Conservation (PAC) has sharply declined during the past decade, and high raven density has been recorded. A BACI study design will be used to evaluate the efficacy of lethal raven removal in the Baker PAC. In addition, raven ecology in sagebrush habitat will be evaluated to identify potential non-lethal deterrents. Preliminary data from our study includes raven nest-site selection and density estimates from two treatment and one reference site (Baker and Cow Lakes PACs, and Bully Creek PAC, respectively). Active raven nests were identified throughout the breeding and fledging seasons in May 2017-July 2018. We estimated raven abundance from 99 random point count locations within the three PACs. We also assessed the influence of habitat covariates on local raven density, including power line and road density, landcover type, and topographic ruggedness.
7 Carcass Persistence and Searcher Efficiency Trials Reveal the Number of Raptor Mortalities along Interstate 80 in Central Nebraska
Shannon M. Schlater; Nate Bickford; Dustin H. Ranglack; Letitia M. Reichart
Birds of prey are common victims to vehicle collisions, though little research has been done to determine the severity of this problem. We conducted raptor carcass surveys for two 128 km routes on Interstate 80 in central Nebraska. Given the surveys were completed once every two weeks on a high-speed interstate, it is probable that carcasses were missed or had already disappeared before the survey was performed. Using similar methods from those used for wind farms, we have utilized searcher efficiency and carcass persistence trials to statistically correct our raw number of raptor mortalities. We used searcher efficiency trials to determine the detection rate of our surveyors. Our surveyors performed a normal survey after a known number of raptor and quail carcasses were placed along the survey route at varying detectability difficulties. Quail were included in order to represent small raptor species, thereby allowing us to determine detectability rates of both large and small raptors at varying distances off the side of the highway. Persistence trials were then performed by placing fresh raptor, quail, and chicken carcasses along the side of the interstate and then checked every day for 10 days, and on days 14, 21, and 30. This allowed us to model the average time a carcass might persist on the highway and the likelihood it would be gone before a carcass survey was performed. Both persistence and detection trials were conducted once each season to adequately represent the vegetation and weather conditions associated with the different seasons. Our corrected number of raptor mortalities along this stretch of the interstate alone is expected to be very high, and when extrapolated to other high-speed roads we expect an otherwise unaddressed crisis will be recognized.
8 Determining Origin of Northern Saw-Whet Owls in Indiana Using Stable Isotope Analysis
Landon K. Neumann; Ashley E. Higdon; Elizabeth A. Flaherty; John B. Dunning
The Northern Saw-whet Owl (Aegolius acadicus) is a highly migratory owl that occurs throughout North America. Banding stations have been used to study the migratory habits of this species, however these studies rarely recover data regarding the origin of this species in Indiana. While much is known about the timing of Northern Saw-whet Owls migration, little is known about the origin of these avian migrants from region to region. We used stable isotope analysis of δ 18O and δ 2H to determine breeding origins for Indiana Northern Saw-whet Owls. We collected feather samples from migrating owls at five different banding stations across Indiana from October to November 2017. We used a 2 cm sample from primary feather 1 from each hatch-year owl (n=41) for analysis. Because of higher enrichment in adult owl feathers that would complicate analysis, we only used samples from hatch-year individuals for this study. Subsamples were sent in duplicate to the Stable Isotope Facility at the University of Wyoming for final analysis. The resulting isotope signatures will be compared with current isoscapes to obtain location estimates of breeding origin for Indiana owls. The results from this research will provide improved understanding of the migratory behavior of this species. This will provided needed information for conservation and management of breeding and stopover habitat for subpopulations of Northern Saw-whet Owl.
9 Does Diet Composition Influence Plasma-Lipid Metabolites Concentrations in Lesser Scaup?
Eric Smith; Heath Hagy; Michael Anteau; Christopher Jacques
Lipid reserves are important energy stores for endurance flights and egg production in wild birds. Plasma-lipid metabolites have been useful in assessing habitat quality for avian species during migration, particularly for wetland-obligate species. Physiological measures can provide information on whether individuals are catabolizing or accumulating lipids. Comparing known daily mass changes (DMC) with plasma-lipid metabolite concentrations provides a quantitative method to index spatial and temporal changes in lipid reserves, and thus provides a reliable technique for assessing foraging habitat quality during migration. However, there is little information regarding the effects of diet composition on metabolite concentrations. Our objective was to quantify the relationship of plasma-lipid metabolite concentrations (free triglycerides and β-hydroxybutyrate; hereafter TRIG and BOHB) and diet composition. During spring migration 2017, we captured and held wild lesser scaup (Aythya affinis) in short-term captivity to control for feeding rates, amount and type of ingesta. Scaup were assigned to one of three experimental diet types (i.e., amphipods, n = 20; chironomids, n = 20; and corn, n = 19), and manually fed for the duration of captivity (~ 24 hrs). Further, we included scaup that had been fasted over duration in captivity to represent individuals that were catabolizing lipids. We obtained plasma samples upon completion of trials, froze at -20° C, and analyzed by endpoint and kinetic assays using established protocols. We used multiple linear regression to evaluate if variation in DMC was explained by TRIG and BOHB between diet types; corn diet (R2 = 0.48, P < 0.001), chironomid diet (R2 = 0.13, P = 0.03), and amphipod diet (R2 = 0.07, P = 0.18). Though we are awaiting results from proximate analysis on diet nutritional values, our preliminary results suggest that diet may influence plasma-lipid metabolite concentrations and therefore, the ability to predict short-term mass changes in lesser scaup.
10 Ecology of Box-Nesting Waterfowl in Central Wisconsin: Biological Versus Societal Benefits
Sean Mason; Leah Bell; Jacob Straub
Cavity nesting birds rely on nest boxes in areas where natural cavities are not available. In Wisconsin, specifically the Mead Wildlife Area in Marathon County, Lophodytes cucullatus (hooded merganser) and Aix sponsa (wood duck) use tree cavities or nest boxes for their eggs. While nest box use by these species has varied over time, recently managers have inquired which if any factors predict if a nest box will be successful, especially considering all the societal (student TWS chapter, other volunteers) interest. However, success can be quantified in a variety of ways, including use (i.e., a primary species nest there), nest success (i.e., at least one egg hatches), parasitism (a nest contains eggs from one or more individuals) or non-biological success (e.g., education, outreach, etc). Our study aims to assist field biologists by evaluating if five independent predictor variables have any significant effect on our response variables. Specifically, we aim to evaluate competing model sets with a single or combinations of the following variables: species, year, use from previous year, location, and age of box. The data has been collected annually since 2008 by the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point Wildlife Society. We check 78-129 boxes in January and February by opening the boxes, removing, examining the contents, and recording any type of use. The location, and establishment year of each box was recorded upon implement of the box. The boxes have remained unchanged unless the repair or removal was necessary. Because other studies in our study site have demonstrated low use rates (<15%) by waterfowl in most years we hope to better understand the ecological role of duck boxes at the Mead Wildlife Area. If the data does not support the ecological role, this would suggest artificial box programs might only support sociological aspects.
11 Effects of Free-Roaming Cats on Migratory Birds Throughout the Annual Cycle
Claire Nemes
Predation by free-roaming domestic cats (Felis catus) has been estimated to kill more birds per year in North America than any other single source of anthropogenic mortality. Few studies have considered how cat predation on migratory birds during different seasons influences population-level processes. Additionally, little information exists regarding cat densities on the wintering grounds of migratory species, where these birds spend a substantial portion of the year. Events during the migratory and winter periods have the potential to drive population processes, emphasizing the need for full annual cycle studies examining the threats posed by cats at different seasons and locations. Here I provide an overview of my proposed dissertation research as a student at the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science Appalachian Laboratory. My research objectives are: (1) link a seasonal population model for Neotropical migrant bird species to explore the varying effects of cat predation occurring during different seasons; (2) estimate free-roaming cat densities at urban and suburban sites in the Neotropics using distance transect sampling; (3) determine which geographic regions should be prioritized for cat management efforts in order to provide the greatest benefit to migratory bird population viability; and (4) work with local stakeholders in the Neotropics to determine attitudes toward, and acceptability of, possible cat management strategies to mitigate risks to birds.
12 Estimating a “True” Cost of Rehabilitating Bald Eagles for Use in Mitigation Estimates.
Margaret G. Rheude; Marge C. Gibson; Kay Neumann; Julia Ponder
The US Fish and Wildlife Service (Service) requires “replacement mitigation” for eagles to achieve no-net loss for take permits where thresholds are not high enough to permit estimated impact. Currently the Service uses power pole retrofits to reduce eagle electrocutions. However, an eagle permittee may wish to provide compensatory mitigation even if off-setting mitigation is not required, such as the requirement of net benefit for nest removal permits, or to provide positive impacts for bald eagles (in addition to permit conditions). Because these situations do not require offsetting eagle deaths in the environment, mitigation opportunities can be more flexible. The greatest source of injury and death for bald eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) in the midwestern United States (according to Service Injury and Mortality reports, as well as state and rehabilitation data) is lead poisoning combined with a secondary trauma (generally from vehicle strikes). In order to quantify an appropriate level of compensatory mitigation, we assessed cost of rehabilitating a bald eagle that had been exposed to lead toxicity and subsequently sustained an orthopedic injury. Because raptor rehabilitation facilities rely heavily on volunteers and many costs are not obvious, we attempted to account for all aspects of the rehabilitation, including hidden costs such as volunteer time and donated items. Total cost for rehabilitation of a lead-poisoned eagle (and return it to the environment) ranged from $18,521 – 31,869 for an average of $25,238 for one eagle. Because we did not account for future fecundity and mortality rates of eagles once released, this mitigation estimate is not intended to achieve a no-net loss of eagles. However, we have provided an accurate representation of the true cost of rehabilitating an eagle for common injuries as a mitigation alternative.
13 Evaluation of Female Monogamy in the American Kestrel
Connor W. Gale
It has been suggested that extra pair copulation does not occur within mating pairs of the American Kestrel (Falco sparverius), though limited research has been done to support or refute this idea. I plan to evaluate the monogamy of female kestrels, through DNA microsatellite testing of offspring. My study area consists of 150 nest boxes placed throughout Northwestern Franklin county and Eastern St. Lawrence county, in upstate New York. During the breeding season, May-July, each nest box will be inspected. Once any offspring in the nest boxes are mature enough to be sexed by evaluating the dimorphic feather coloration, nestlings will be removed from the box, and measurements will be taken. The nestling will be banded with a US Fish and Wildlife band, a feather and a buccal swab will be collected for DNA testing, and the bird will be returned to the nest box. Once the buccal swabs and feathers have been collected, DNA microsatellite testing will be completed, to determine if different chicks from the same next box have the same parents or if an extra pair copulation has occurred.
14 Examining the Correlation between Burrowing Owl Nest Success and Black-Tailed Prairie Dog Density at the United States Army Pueblo Chemical Depot
Jessica L. Gorski; Dr. Claire Varian Ramos; Clark Jones
The Burrowing Owl (Athene cunicularia) is an important contributor to the shortgrass prairie ecosystem. This predator aides in controlling the insect and small mammal populations that inhabit the prairies. However, populations have been steadily declining in the past 20 years mainly due to habitat destruction and the loss of white and black-tailed prairie dogs (Cynomys leucurus, Cynomys ludovicianus) across the greater portion of their range. The intent of this research project was to establish a baseline metric to measure the population density of Burrowing Owls on US Army Pueblo Chemical Depot (USAPCD). The point count method of surveying was used to establish the baseline metric and resulted in 63% detection rate for 70 active nest sites surveyed. Of the 70 sites surveyed, 37% were deemed occupied for the breeding season. Occupancy was highest around prairie dog towns and in areas of low road density. This research is an ongoing study and will be continued into the summer of 2018. In the future we hope to determine nest success rates of Burrowing Owl pairs that nest within prairie dog towns, compared to those that do not. Developing more understanding of this prairie ecosystem dynamic may help improve Burrowing Owl conservation efforts.
15 Explaining Variation in Colorado Songbird Blood Mercury Using Behavior and Diet
Claire W. Varian Ramos; Carley J. Knutsen
Methylmercury is a contaminant of growing global concern that has been shown to accumulate in a variety of taxa, including terrestrial songbirds. Birds in the same area can accumulate mercury to strikingly different levels. While diet and trophic level clearly play an important role in mercury bioaccumulation and biomagnification, other factors including foraging guilds and migratory behavior may influence mercury levels as well. Here we examine interspecific variation in blood mercury levels in songbirds living in the Fountain Creek watershed on the Front Range of Colorado. We found that the species with the highest mercury had blood mercury concentrations over 75 times higher than the species with the lowest levels. Carnivores had the highest blood mercury levels, but ground foraging and long distance migration also were correlated with higher mercury concentrations. This information may shed light on what species are most at risk from mercury pollution and help to target conservation resources at contaminated sites.
16 Factors Impacting Lark Bunting Reproductive Success in Southern Colorado.
Connor Dowd
Lark Buntings (Calamospiza melanocorys) are native to the prairie regions of North America and the state bird of Colorado. In recent years their populations have declined by 10% a year in Colorado, yet they remain an understudied species. Reproductive success is an important component of population viability. The research objective was to determine how habitat factors affect Lark Bunting reproductive success in the southern part of their breeding range. In order to determine the reproductive success, nests were found and monitored for predation rates and the number of offspring produced. Adult birds were trapped and marked as well. Vegetation characteristics of nests sites were recorded and correlated with reproductive success. Daily success rate was calculated to be 88.1%, therefore in a 25 day nesting cycle only 4.3 % of nests survived. A logistic exposure model was used to test how different nest site factors impact the daily nest survival. Predation rates were higher during the incubation stage and for nests that were more visible. The low nest success rate suggests that our study site may represent a population sink for Lark Buntings. We plan to continue this research to examine inter-year variation and include the effects of weather. This research could provide information for future Lark Bunting conservation in the southern part of their range.
17 Fine Scale Seasonal Movements and Habitat Selection By Eastern Wild Turkeys
J. Conner Amond; Guiming Wang; Kiristine Evans; Marcus Lashley; Adam Butler
An important theme of ecology is understanding animal movement in the landscape in the context of resource acquisition strategies to increase fitness. Animal movement and habitat selection may vary at multiple spatial and temporal scales in response to spatiotemporal variation in resource variability. Therefore, it is indispensable to identify the spatial scales, at which an organism forages and moves during different seasons. Eastern wild turkeys (Meleagris gallapavo silvestris; hereafter, wild turkeys) are mobile habitat generalists with limited dispersal distance; thus, wild turkeys are a model species for evaluating the responses of movement and habitat selection by animals to spatiotemporal variability in resource availability. We predict that as landscape heterogeneity increases, wild turkeys would enlarge the spatial scale of foraging and encamped movement (hereafter, foraging-movement). We also predict that as resource availability increases, the foraging-movement spatial scale of wild turkeys would decrease. We will attach GPS transmitters to approximately 45 wild turkeys in four counties in Mississippi with a 14-hour daily duty cycle and 15- or 30- minute relocation schedule. We will use first passage time (FPT) analysis and spatial cluster analysis to estimate the spatial scales of seasonal foraging-movement. We will determine seasonal habitat selection by wild turkeys using a continuous-time hidden Markov movement model. Having such fine-scale data on movement and habitat selection will enable us to understand how wild turkeys move through the landscape year-round and to determine detailed seasonal habitat characteristics relevant to wild turkey management in Mississippi.
18 Forestry Management Through Group-Harvest Selection to Create Early-Successional Habitat Without Negatively Impacting Mature Forest Songbirds
Kelsey Pangman
Abstract Early-successional species of songbirds are in sharp decline especially in eastern North America. These species colonize early-successional forest that are currently near historic lows for most of the northeastern United States. Intentional management for these species often recruits predators, invasive plants or nest parasites, depending on landscape context. Managing for early-successional species can negatively affect late-successional species dependent on mature forest. Currently, habitat for early-successional species is declining due to urban expansion and natural maturation of early-successional vegetation into more mature forests. By creating a mosaic of small group-selections within mature mixed deciduous-coniferous forest, we attempted to recruit early-successional breeding species without decreasing the abundance or reproductive performance of late-successional species. Through monitoring fledging success of three early-successional species, magnolia warbler (Setophaga magnolia), chestnut-sided warbler (Setophaga penslyvanica), common-yellowthroat (Geothlypis trichas) and three late successional species, black-throated-blue warbler (Setophaga caerulescens), hermit thrush (Catharus guttatus) and ovenbird (Seiurus aurocapillus), and conducting point counts before and after harvest, we assessed habitat suitability of the resulting mosaic to these six species. Though the first field season in 2017 we did not include hermit thrush or oven bird in our study our monitoring data showed that both early and late-successional species paired and fledged young at rates that suggest the habitat was suitable to each suite of species. Point counts reveled that immediately post-harvest, species diversity increased and continued to increase significantly through the recruitment of several early-successional species. More than half of New Hampshire is privately owned and so landowners and consulting foresters can play a critical role in sustaining early-successional habitat without negatively impacting late-successional migratory birds.
19 Ghosts of Habitat Past Or Future? the Role of Wintering and Breeding Locations on Spring Body Condition in a Long Distant Migrant
Drew N Fowler; Lisa B Webb; Keith A Hobson; Mark P Vrtiska
Long distance migratory birds use flexible behavioral strategies to cope with the energetic costs of migration and acquire sufficient nutrients at migration stopover sites. Length of migration and individual body size can determine the extent of endogenous reserves allocated to reproductive efforts and individuals of species breeding at varying latitudes may rely on different nutrient acquisition strategies during spring migration in preparation for breeding. Similarly, wintering habitat use is often a tradeoff between habitat availability and energetic expenditure. Midcontinent lesser snow geese (Anser caerulescens caerulescens) breed across 30 degrees of latitude in Canada and overwinter in diverse coastal and agricultural habitats. However, it is not clear what role future breeding destination or previous winter habitat use have on body condition during early spring migration. We used deuterium isotopic values (δ2H) in feathers of lesser snow geese collected during early spring migration 2015 and 2016 to establish breeding subregion associations for 477 geese based on the previous year’s molt location. In a subset of individuals (n = 105) we used δ2H, δ13C, δ15N, and δ34S values from bicep muscle to elucidate overwinter habitat use. We assessed lipid and protein reserves for geese collected during early spring migration within the Mississippi and Central flyways and evaluated the relative influence of breeding association, winter habitat and body size to explain variation in body condition during spring migration. Preliminary results suggest that body size varies across breeding subregions, but not among individuals using different wintering habitats, suggesting that life history strategies across breeding regions can influence body size but not in such a way that constrains decisions regarding choice of winter habitat. Additionally, winter habitat use appears to more strongly influences variation in early spring body condition, particularly lipid reserves, than future breeding destination.
20 Habitat Relationships of Virginia Rails and Soras in Impounded Marshes in the Western Basin of Lake Erie in Ohio
Nicole Hengst; James Hansen; Brendan Shirkey; John Simpson; Robert Gates
Secretive marsh bird populations are threatened by habitat loss throughout their ranges. In Ohio, Virginia rails (Rallus limicola) and soras (Porzana carolina) are species of concern and legally harvested. Managed wetlands are an important source of rail habitat in Ohio, yet little is known about how manipulation of water levels to produce food and cover for waterfowl affects migrating and breeding rails. Very little work has been conducted to understand movements and habitat selection by Virginia rails and soras in coastal wetlands of the western Lake Erie basin. Virginia rails and soras were captured and fitted with VHF radio-transmitters and tracked daily during March-September, 2016-2018. Twenty-seven percent of radio-marked rails disappeared within 1-2 days of capture in May-August suggesting a floating rail population with no attachment to the study site. Mean home range sizes were 6.51 and 3.67 ha (SE = 1.40, n = 57 and SE = 0.95, n = 7) for Virginia rails and soras, respectively. Of the 166 radio-marked rails that remained at the study site at least one day after capture, 138 used only one impoundment unit at the study site. This allowed us to examine movement patterns of Virginia rails and soras in response to water level changes during 2016-2018. Vegetation surveys were conducted in 2018 to compare differences in habitat characteristics between locations of radio-marked rails and random points. Vegetation surveys were conducted weekly at individual radio-locations and at the end of the growing season within home ranges of radio-marked rails. We will compare vegetation measurements at known rail locations and random points to identify wetland habitat characteristics that Virginia rails and soras select for as water levels change. This work will provide additional understanding of rail ecology and aid in better informed wetland management for rail species in northern Ohio.
21 Habitat Use of Urban and Rural Florida Burrowing Owls
Elizabeth W. Rose
Some wildlife can inhabit and be successful in urban and suburban areas. The Florida burrowing owl (Athene cunicularia floridana) is one such species, and is found in moderately-developed urban areas as well as prairie and cattle ranch habitats. As land uses change and development intensifies within Florida, it will be necessary to understand the habitat needs of burrowing owls as well as the effects of urbanization in order to effectively conserve this species. The overall objective of this study is to quantify habitat selection for burrowing owls in urbanized and ranch habitats in southwestern Florida using backpack-style GPS units. We are measuring both the amount of space that is used by provisioning males and their resource selection to determine breeding habitat needs. With the addition of population density and reproductive output metrics across sites and habitat types, we will be able to evaluate the ability of different landscapes to support burrowing owls along with the effects of increasing urban development on this species. Results from the 2017 breeding season (n = 22) suggest that there is not a consistent difference in the amount of space required by breeding males in urban versus rural habitats, but space use decreases with increasing owl density, and productivity has a weak positive relationship with density. Within the city of Cape Coral (n = 9), there is a negative relationship between the percent of land that is developed and the amount of space used. These initial results suggest that density reflects breeding habitat quality and that habitat changes associated with development in urban areas increase resource availability for provisioning burrowing owls. We are deploying additional GPS units on urban and rural burrowing owls during the 2018 breeding season, and will use these data to measure resource selection across habitats.
22 Impacts of Cattle Grazing on Wetland-Dependent Birds
Marissa Cent
Minnesota has lost more than 99% of its original tallgrass prairie due to habitat destruction and degradation. Suppression of fires has allowed shrubs, trees, and nonnative species to infiltrate remnant and restored prairies. Today, in the absence of natural disturbances, land managers must recreate the effects of past fires. While prescribed burning can be an effective disturbance tool, it is difficult to burn at the intensity and frequency that are needed to maintain the integrity of intact prairies. Hence, land managers are becoming more interested in conservation grazing as a practical alternative for managing prairies. But before grazing programs can be broadly implemented, we need to determine the impacts that grazing has on wildlife species that utilize the system. Our study investigates how breeding populations of ground-nesting waterfowl, upland grassland birds, and secretive marsh birds respond to different frequencies of cattle grazing. Field sampling began the summer of 2017 on Waterfowl Production Areas in western Minnesota. We adapted the standardized protocol developed by Courtney Conway to survey for secretive marsh birds using call and response surveys and included point count surveys for all bird species. We also conducted brood-pair counts which will be used to estimate waterfowl breeding productivity. Preliminary analysis of marsh bird surveys shows that frequency of grazing has species-specific effects on some secretive marsh bird species. While frequency of grazing does not appear to affect occupancy of Virginia Rails, increased grazing frequency is positively correlated with occupancy of Least Bitterns and negatively correlated with occupancy of Pied-Billed Grebes, Soras, and American Bitterns. We are still in the process of analyzing data from point count surveys and brood-pair surveys but will have results by the conference. Our primary objective will be to help inform Best Management Practices for federal and state land managers.
23 Intersexual Differences in Plasma-Lipid Metabolite Concentrations in Lesser Scaup (Aythya Affinis)
Eric J. Smith; Heath M. Hagy; Michael J. Anteau; Christopher N. Jacques
Nutrient acquisition and storage during migration are important for survival and reproduction; specifically, lipids have been identified as an important nutrient for endurance flights and egg production. Previously, plasma-lipid metabolites (Triglyceride and β-hydroxybutyrate; hereafter TRIG and BOHB) have been used to estimate rates of lipid accumulation or catabolism in free-living lesser scaup which were useful in evaluating foraging habitat quality during migration. However, further development and refining of plasma-lipid metabolite indices (PLMIs) is needed to understand the effects of wetland degradation on migratory waterfowl. Further, there is potential for intersexual differences in metabolite concentrations that may influence PLMIs and have yet to be explored. We held wild lesser scaup in short-term captivity to create an index for determining whether individuals are accumulating or catabolizing lipid reserves by regressing known daily mass changes with plasma-lipid metabolite concentrations. We used backwards elimination procedures to select the best model (R2 = 0.68, F3,54 = 37.79, P < 0.001); predictive equation for application across sexes: DMC = - 69.82 + [(41.36 Female or 19.93 Male)TRIG] - 26.73 BOHBln. The relationship of TRIG and BOHBln to daily mass changes that we observed was generally consistent with other studies and therefore, provides verification for the utility of lipid metabolites as an indicator of short-term mass change. Our estimates for BOHBln were similar to a previous index for male lesser scaup, and were similar across sexes. In contrast, our estimates of TRIG were higher in males and reflect a marked difference regarding females. Additionally, our results should be useful in evaluating landscape level inferences about foraging habitat quality for lesser scaup given that the relationship of TRIG to mass change appears to be dynamic and may not be a direct indicator of lipid deposition, but rather one of foraging income.
24 Investigating the Effect of Polarized Light on Bird Collisions with Buildings
Sirena Lao; Abigail W. Anderson; Robert B. Blair; Joanna W. Eckles; Bruce A. Robertson; Reed J. Turner; Scott R. Loss
Collisions with transparent and reflective surfaces on buildings are a large source of human-caused bird mortality. Most studies investigating correlates of bird-building collisions have assessed factors such as glass area and proximity of vegetation to windows because birds may be unable to perceive glass as a barrier. However, birds perceive and respond to their surroundings differently than humans, and few collision studies account for differences between avian and human vision. One very poorly understood aspect of avian visual perception is the degree to which birds can detect polarized light and whether polarized light is an attractant that influences collision risk. Surfaces that reflect high degrees of polarized light are known to attract some insects because the polarization signatures resemble those reflected by water bodies and used by insects to locate feeding and breeding locations. Some evidence indicates some bird species may respond similarly to polarized light. Our objectives were to assess whether bird-building collisions are related to the degree of light polarization from building surfaces. If birds respond to polarized light reflected from buildings, surfaces reflecting light with higher degrees of polarization should correlate with higher numbers of bird collisions. To test this hypothesis, we conducted daily mortality surveys at selected buildings in downtown Minneapolis, Minnesota, and used a modified camera to measure the degree of polarized light reflected from building surfaces. Linear models were used to determine whether degree of polarization correlates with collision mortality. This study is novel because no previous research has addressed the role of polarized light in bird collisions. If bird collisions are correlated with the degree of polarization reflected from building façades, then follow-up research is warranted to test mechanisms behind this association and to evaluate solutions for altering building surfaces to reduce the impact of polarized light on birds.
25 Kestrel Occupancy and Productivity of Nest Boxes Located along Highway Corridors in Southeast Ohio: 20-Year Trends
Donald P. Althoff; Henry J. Barrows, III
We established a network of nest boxes in southeast Ohio to monitor kestrel (Falco sparverius) in occupancy and productivity trends. Modeled after the Iowa Department of Natural Resources kestrel program where boxes were erected on the back of highway signs, starting in 1997 we attached wooden nest boxes to support poles of billboard signs, predominately along 4-lane highway corridors. We expanded the network in 2014 and 2015 with boxes placed on the backs of state highway signs. By 2015, the network consisted of 50 boxes. For the 20-year period from 1998-2017, we observed a mean occupancy rate of 25% (range 8%-55%). The mean annual rate of occupied boxes that produced >1 fledglings was 74% (range 20-100%); a total of 325 kestrels were banded. Sex ratios were 1:1 for 5 of the 20 years monitored, whereas sex ratios favoring females were observed 10 years. During the past 12 years, starling occupancy of boxes increased, typically ranging from 40-60% of the available boxes. Considering that starlings typically initiate nest building and egg laying in this region 2-4 weeks before we first observe kestrel eggs in boxes, starlings may be reducing kestrel reproductive success by occupying boxes first. Because excellent foraging habitat often exists along state and federal highways throughout the region, we recommend conservation organizations and agencies establish nest boxes for conservation of kestrels wherever possible and monitor their usage. Although we deem our nest box program an overall success, we are concerned by the more recent decline in kestrel occupancy and productivity coupled with an increased rate of occupancy by starlings. Identifying landscape features along highway corridors that minimize the likelihood of starling nest box occupancy may improve kestrel usage and productivity when new box sites are being considered.
26 King Rail Migration, Breeding Home Range, and Habitat Use in Lake Erie Coastal Wetlands
Michelle E. Kane; Thomas M. Gehring
The migratory population of King Rails (Rallus elegans) has shown long term declines over the last 50 years. Gaining a further understanding of the migrant Midwest population of king rails and their habitat is critical for conservation. The objectives of this research are to determine migration and wintering locations for king rails breeding at Winous Point Marsh Conservancy (WPMC) and compare this to hunting seasons for king rail, analyze the home range of breeding king rails at WPMC, compare detection rates of king rails with camera traps and call-broadcast surveys, create an occupancy model to gain a better understanding of king rail habitat needs and relationship with other secretive marshbirds, and compare the outputs of occupancy and MaxEnt modelling. Previously collected data from eight satellite transmitters placed on king rails at WPMC will be used to compare migration routes, wintering locations, and dates of migration from four birds to hunting seasons. Summer satellite locations will be used to construct 95% kernel density home ranges and 50% core areas. To gather presence-absence data, trail cameras will be placed in wetlands during the summers of 2018 and 2019. To increase the detection probability of king rails, an automated call-broadcast system will be used. Habitat information will be collected from GIS data. Call-broadcast surveys will also be conducted at each wetland. Detection rates of king rails with camera traps and with call-broadcast surveys will be compared using a Wilcoxon signed-rank test. Occupancy and detection probabilities will then be estimated with the program PRESENCE. In addition, data will be obtained from eBird for the Midwest region. MaxEnt models will be run with the same candidate models used in occupancy modeling. Spearman’s correlation coefficient will be used to determine how similarly cells are ranked in MaxEnt and occupancy modeling.
27 Land Trusts and Birds: Partners in Strategic Conservation
Sara Barker Swarthout; Ronald W. Rohrbaugh; Ashley A. Dayer; Amanda D. Rodewald
More than 60% of the land area in the United States is privately owned, and more than 100 bird species have >50% of their U.S. breeding distributions on those lands. Unfortunately, conserving private lands is complicated by both individual and institutional barriers, thus leaving birds reliant on private lands with inadequate protection and management. Land trusts are an increasingly popular mechanism to protect private lands and potentially conserve birds and their habitats. In 2013, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology used social science-based methodology to conduct a national, online survey of land trusts and their attitudes toward bird conservation. Results indicated that land trusts, if supported with science and technology, could achieve landscape-scale conservation for birds. To develop mutually beneficial collaborations between land trusts and the bird conservation community, we established the Land Trust Bird Conservation Initiative. The initiative provides: 1) access to science-based information about birds to inform strategic conservation planning, investment decisions, prioritization of easements and acquisitions, grant writing, and landowner engagement; 2) resources and tips on bird-focused funding opportunities; 3) ideas to cultivate new members and volunteers by engaging birdwatchers, bird organizations, and bird conservation advocates; 4) guidance for habitat management on fee-owned lands and resources for landowners holding easements; 5) connections with science-based bird conservation resources and land trust success stories; and 6) assistance with monitoring birds and visualizing data through Our poster will summarize the survey and describe how the Initiative is using science and outreach to conserve bird populations on private lands.
28 Measuring the Influence of the Traffic Noise on Songbird Vocalizations
Robert Cromer
Songbirds are a group of perching birds from the order, Passeriformes that possess a uniquely developed syrinx allowing for production of distinctive songs. Research suggests that songbird vocalizations can be influenced by their environment. The objective of this experiment is to test whether traffic noise can alter songbird vocalizations in comparison to songbirds in naturally less noisy settings, i.e. parks, forests and marshes. Recordings were taken at Pendleton King Park, Brick Pond Park, University Village trail, Phinizy Swamp and near the Interstate 20. The recordings of both the low-noise natural and high-noise interstate settings were then analyzed using the software Songscope®. We evaluated song interval and frequency and compared experimental groups using a Student’s paired T-test.
29 Modeling the Density, Abundance, and Distribution of Pheasants Across Heterogeneous Landscape Configurations
Hilary Syvertson; Andrew Gregory; Sprih Harsh
Ring-necked pheasants (Phasianus colchicus) and pheasant hunting are a significant contributor to the South Dakota economy, and are an important cultural icon of eastern South Dakota. Since successful introduction of pheasants to South Dakota in 1908, the population has been highly variable. However, pheasant populations have been in decline for the past 10 years causing concern about the long-term viability of the landscape to support pheasants. In 2017, we initiated a field effort to better understand landscape drivers of pheasant population viability in South Dakota. One aspect of this effort is to model the current distribution and density of pheasant populations across a gradient of adjacent human land uses, in an effort to better understand how changes in human land use are influencing pheasant occupancy patterns. To estimate density and abundance of pheasants, we randomly placed single observer point transects across six adjoining townships of varying landscape heterogeneity. Each transect was surveyed twice per season (fall, winter, and spring) at dawn. Each time a pheasant was observed we recorded distance to bird, cluster size, and behavior. We then classified the landscape adjacent to each point by percentage of cultivated agriculture in 300 m focal blocks surrounding each pheasant observation. We used Program DISTANCE to conduct a preliminarily estimate of seasonal pheasant density and abundance throughout the study area during fall and winter. Analysis using detection function: hazard rate with simple polynomial adjustments estimated N=11,417.76 (95% CI:2179-59845) pheasants in the study area during October 2017. Winter pheasant population estimates differed from fall estimates. We then mapped local estimated pheasant density as a function of agriculture composition of the landscape. We found that pheasant density was not dependent on agriculture land cover. Further investigation will be conducted to determine if pheasants are codependent on different landscapes and greater spatial resolutions interactions.
30 Multi-Species Occupancy of Appalachian Pastureland Birds and Use of Conspecific Stimuli to Increase Loggerhead Shrike Detection
Laura Graham; Christopher Lituma
Pastures in Appalachian West Virginia and Virginia are a persistent source of early successional habitat supporting a range of bird species, including loggerhead shrikes (Lanius ludovicianus), which have declined range-wide in the last 50 years. Loggerhead shrikes are a species of regional conservation concern and may act as an umbrella species for other early successional birds. My objective is to determine whether loggerhead shrikes are an umbrella species for other Appalachian pastureland birds, and whether conspecific stimulus can increase shrike detection. To characterize this bird community, I conducted 893 roadside and 63 off-road point counts in pasture-dominated landscapes from April 28 through July 31, 2017. I included habitat covariates at the patch and landscape scale to develop multi-species occupancy models, and a single-species occupancy model to define loggerhead shrike habitat associations and habitat availability. I also tested whether conspecific stimuli can increase loggerhead shrike detection during point count surveys by experimentally applying audio playback and/ or 3D-printed decoys on roadside and off-road surveys. Most common early successional species by proportion of points where detected were song sparrow (Melospiza melodia) [82%], followed by red-winged blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus) [76%] and American goldfinch (Spinus tristis) [76%]. Loggerhead shrikes were recorded on <1% of survey points, with 20 observations recorded on surveys. I will continue surveys from April 10 through June 31, 2018 which I will use to better inform multi-species and single species occupancy models. This information will provide management recommendations to benefit this Appalachian pastureland bird community, as well as elucidate how conspecific stimuli can be used on point counts to increase loggerhead shrike detection.
31 Northern Bobwhite Anti-Predator Behavior in Response to Rabbit Hunting Disturbance
Jessica L. Mohlman; Rachel R. Gardner; Nathan G. Wilhite; I.B. Parnell; Michael J. Sheriff; James A. Martin
Hunting disturbance is known to cause anti-predator behavior in prey as a way to mitigate the risk of predation. Such anti-predator behavior is not always beneficial to the species, and often has negative effects on fitness. While the direct effects of hunting disturbance are well known, the indirect effects on non-target prey species are less known. Eastern cottontails (Sylvilagus floridanus) are an actively hunted species, which share a hunting season and habitat with Northern Bobwhite (Colinus virginianus), a species of conservation priority. The effect of rabbit hunting on bobwhite stress and anti-predator behavior is currently unknown. Increased perceived risk of predation by bobwhite may elicit anti-predator behavior, altering their movement patterns and stress levels. Through the lens of risk-allocation hypothesis and optimal foraging theory, we explore bobwhite anti-predator responses to rabbit hunting. We determined these effects through the analysis of corticosterone via fecal collection and movement behavior through telemetry across varying rabbit hunting intensities. Fecal collection occurred during rabbit hunting seasons with additional time points to examine seasonal change. Telemetry conducted on bobwhite occurred from sunrise to sunset during hunting and non-hunting days of both bobwhite and rabbit species to examine movement. Fecal glucocorticoid metabolites were used to infer corticosterone stress hormone levels in bobwhite through radioimmunoassay. Bobwhite movements were analyzed using hidden Markov models and dynamic Brownian Bridge movement models. Utilization distributions (UD) indicated that there was a difference in the average core-use areas of bobwhite, with individuals utilizing more space in the most intensely hunted rabbit treatment (50% UD 0.67±0.17 ha, 95% UD 3.56±0.98 ha) compared to the control (50% UD 0.42±0.08 ha, 95% UD 2.15±0.29 ha). Our study will inform policy on public hunting areas where both species occur.
32 Occupancy of Fragmented Woodlots By Migratory and Cavity-Nesting Avian Species in the Lower Mississippi Alluvial Valley of Northeast Arkansas
Joseph Youtz; Rhett Raibley; Than Boves
Habitat conversion and fragmentation can change habitat features at a variety of scales; which can isolate or displace wildlife populations resulting in localized extinction. In contrast, large core areas support historical habitat conditions, and may support greater biodiversity than communities in areas where landscape or micro-habitat features have been altered. Historically, the Lower Mississippi Alluvial Valley (LMAV) in the south-central United States contained over 4.5 million hectares of bottomland hardwood forest, but nearly 75% has been converted for row crop agriculture and urbanization. Remaining forest patches are small (60% ≤ in fragments of ≤ 10 hectares) isolated, and privately-owned; and it is unknown to what degree habitat loss and fragmentation has affected the resident and migratory bird communities of this region. Therefore, our objectives for this project are 1) to assess landscape and fine-scale habitat features associated with bird occupancy in isolated woodlots of the LMAV of northeast Arkansas and 2) develop species richness and occupancy models for the selected study species. We performed repeated point count surveys at 2 core wildlife management areas (WMAs) and 22 surrounding woodlots (that vary in size and distance from the WMAs) and recorded detections of (n=25) study species, which vary in nesting and migratory strategy. Landscape features will be analyzed with remote-sensed data and habitat data was collected at each point count location. Next, we will create species and guild occupancy models in Program MARK to understand what features promote occupancy of each species or group. We will then create species richness models in Project R to understand which sites contain the greatest species richness across the study area. With this work we intend to understand features that determine occupancy of the selected species, and recommend areas for restoration that will benefit ongoing bird conservation programs throughout this region.
33 Population Ecology of Eastern Wild Turkeys in Northeastern South Dakota
Reina M. Tyl; Christopher T. Rota; Chadwick P. Lehman
Since their reintroduction in the 1990s, eastern wild turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo silvestris) have become a culturally and economically important game species in northeastern South Dakota. While the establishment of a growing population of eastern wild turkeys appeared to be successful in the years immediately following reintroduction, recent harvest trends suggest declining abundance in the region. Current vital rate estimates are needed to develop biologically justifiable management strategies. The objectives of this study are to (1) obtain annual survival and reproductive rates for both adult and yearling age classes of female eastern wild turkeys, (2) incorporate vital rate estimates into a female-only, age-based demographic model to project the population growth rate (λ), and (3) perform prospective analyses, including a life-stage simulation analysis (LSA), to determine the sensitivity and elasticity of the population growth rate to demographic change. We captured and radio-marked 43 adult and 37 yearling hens (n = 80) in the winter of 2017. Hens were monitored for survival year-round, and data was collected relative to their reproductive success during the spring and summer. All lower-level vital rate estimates, and their associated variances, were calculated using generalized linear models. Our analyses indicate a declining population (λ = 0.7816). Variance-scaled sensitivities and elasticities of matrix elements indicate that λ is most affected by changes in yearling hen annual survival; however, the results of the LSA indicate that λ is most greatly affected by changes in yearling hen fecundity (R2 = 0.3255). Management activities should focus on improving yearling hen survival and fecundity in northeastern South Dakota. Improvements to annual survival and fecundity of eastern wild turkey hens in northeastern South Dakota are necessary to improve the population growth rate and reverse the decline.
34 Quail and Rainfall: Does Management Matter?
Alec D. Ritzell*; Fidel Hernández; Eric D. Grahmann; John T. Edwards; Dale Rollins
Rainfall is a strong driver of quail populations on southwestern rangelands and may account for a large portion (70-90%) of the variability in regional quail production and abundance. Landowners have attempted to modulate these boom-and-bust fluctuations via management, but presently it is unknown whether quail management indeed can increase or stabilize northern bobwhite (Colinus virginianus) populations on semi-arid rangelands subject to erratic rainfall. The objective of our research is to evaluate the efficacy of bobwhite management at mitigating the effects of rainfall on semi-arid rangelands. This study is being conducted in the Rio Grande Plains (n = 6 ranches; ≈20,000 ha total) and Rolling Plains (n = 4 ranches; ≈15,000 ha total) of Texas. Quail density is being estimated on each ranch during December 2017 and 2018 using helicopter surveys within a distance-sampling framework and will build upon a longer-term dataset (2014-2018) of quail density. For this analysis, we categorized ranches into 2 relative categories of management intensity: low or high. In the Rio Grande Plains, mean bobwhite density was numerically greater on ranches with high-intensity management (0.37 ± 0.12 bobwhites/ha; mean ± SE) than low-intensity management (0.28 ± 0.08 bobwhites/ha). However, variation in bobwhite density among years was high for both high-intensity management (CV: 63%) and low-intensity management ranches (CV: 56%). Similarly, mean bobwhite density in the Rolling Plains was greater in ranches with high-intensity management (0.34 ± 0.07 bobwhites/ha) than low-intensity management (0.19 ± 0.04 bobwhites/ha) and also exhibited moderate-to-high variation within management levels (CV: 37% vs. 34%, respectively). These preliminary results suggest that management may be able to increase quail density beyond that of less managed properties but may not completely eliminate the inter-annual fluctuations. However, this study is in-progress and conclusions cannot be drawn until project completion.
35 Refueling Performance in Migratory Songbirds at Two Long-Term Bird Banding Sites
Andrea L. Crary
Migratory songbirds face many anthropogenic threats throughout their annual cycles, one of which is a steadily warming global climate. Studies of changes in migratory behavior show clear, but inconsistent, responses to changing climate, with many species shifting the timing or rate at which they migrate. Birds increase fat accumulation prior to migration to fuel their long-distance flights and periodically stop to refill fat stores before continuing or completing migration. Some birds may be forced to adjust the rate at which they refuel in response to advanced or delayed migratory behavior, changes in stopover habitat quality, or other environmental factors related to climate change. We used data from two long-term bird banding operations, Powdermill Nature Reserve, southwestern Pennsylvania (1961-2017) and Black Swamp Bird Observatory, northwestern Ohio (1992-2015) to compare refueling rates of short- and long-distance migratory songbirds during spring and fall migration. We compared refueling rates at each individual station to determine if rates have changed over time or with variation in temperature and precipitation. We also assessed whether refueling rates differed between these stations; Powdermill (an inland site in a primarily forested landscape) and Black Swamp (a lake-shoreline site in a highly fragmented landscape). We used linear models to estimate hourly mass gain by regressing size-corrected mass by capture time. Estimates of hourly mass gain varied among years and species, with few species exhibiting significant long-term patterns. Weather variables had little overall effect on refueling performance in the fall and at Powdermill Nature Reserve, but some (42%) spring migrants increased refueling performance with increasing temperature or over time at Black Swamp Bird Observatory. Our results indicate that food availability at these sites is apparently sufficient for stopover refueling, and highlights the importance of managing high-quality habitat in all landcover types.
36 Relationships between Songbird Populations and Productivity in Sagebrush-Steppe of Montana
Kayla A. Ruth; Lorelle I. Berkeley; Victoria J. Dreitz
A large portion of sagebrush-steppe across the western United States is used for grazing of domestic livestock. Rest-rotation grazing systems have been used as a conservation management tool, most recently, by the Natural Resource Conservation Service – Sage Grouse Initiative (SGI). The goal of SGI is to encourage private landowners to graze livestock more sustainably in order to maintain or improve habitat for greater sage-grouse (Centrocercus urophasianus), as well as to improve rangeland productivity. Songbirds are often used as biological indicators including the assessment of the health of sagebrush environments. However, often only adult songbird abundance or density is considered, without examination of other aspects of population dynamics, specifically breeding status. As well as estimating adult density, we estimated nest densities of sagebrush-steppe songbirds in central Montana across five breeding seasons to determine if adult density reflects songbird breeding status on the landscape. We compare these parameters between lands enrolled in SGI versus those that were not enrolled to further evaluate conservation managed grazing regimes. Variable responses in adult and nest densities were found across species, likely because of individual functional traits of the suite of songbird species. This study provides knowledge on how multiple species in the sagebrush-steppe songbird community in central Montana respond to current land management, and provides information that will aid in developing management strategies for these species.
37 Reproductive Ecology of Female Eastern Wild Turkeys in the Piedmont Region of Georgia
Ashley K. Lohr; Calvin T. Wakefield; Kelsey L. McClearn; Bradley S. Cohen; Michael J. Chamberlain
Eastern wild turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo silvestris; hereafter, turkey) are an important game species throughout their range. Recently, declines in productivity have been reported throughout the Southeast, believed to be related to reduced reproductive success via reductions in nest and brood success. These declines warrant research on aspects of female reproductive ecology, such as movement, survival, and habitat selection during nesting and brood-rearing. Our objectives are to assess nesting and brooding ecology of female turkeys, focusing on survival, space use, and site selection. We captured 82 female turkeys on 2 pine-dominated study sites located in the Piedmont region of Georgia. We equipped each turkey with a µGPS unit to collect fine-scale movement and behavioral data. In 2017, 37 of 43 (86%) females incubated 57 nests, of which 20 (35%) were renest attempts. The earliest and latest incubation dates were March 20 and July 7, respectively. Nest success was 12%, and 3 of 7 broods (43%) survived to 28 days. We are using dynamic Brownian bridge movement models to estimate seasonal areas of use based on daily locations. Likewise, we are using a geographic information system to develop a land cover database that allows assessments of habitat selection at multiple spatial scales. Understanding nesting and brooding ecology, and how habitat selection influences nest and brood success, are fundamental to elucidating mechanisms underlying declines in productivity.
38 Rotational Grazing of Beef Cattle to Support Bobolink Breeding Success
Andrew J. Campomizzi; Zoe M. Lebrun-Southcott; Laura Van Vliet; Gerald A. Morris
Conservation actions for the federally- and provincially-threatened bobolink (Dolichonyx oryzivorus) in Ontario, Canada are ongoing in agricultural landscapes, including cattle pastures. However, conditions conducive to bobolink fledging young from breeding territories in pastures that are rotationally-grazed by beef cattle (Bos taurus) are not well understood. We tested if (1) the percent of territories that fledged young in un-grazed refuge paddocks (1.8 to 7.4 ha) during 1 of the 2 years of the experiment was greater than the other year, when the same paddocks were grazed during the breeding season and (2) bobolink could fledge young in paddocks that were grazed lightly, soon after birds established territories. We used spot mapping and nest monitoring to determine if young fledged in 83 bobolink territories in 2016 and 72 territories in 2017 on 6 farms in the Ottawa Valley, Ontario. In refuge paddocks, 54% (n = 28) of bobolink territories fledged young in 8 un-grazed paddocks during 1 year, compared to 16% (n = 25) when these paddocks were grazed during the other year. Under light spring grazing conditions, 67% (n = 12) of territories fledged young from 4 paddocks that were grazed with a low stocking rate (i.e., no. cattle × days grazed / area grazed [ha]) between 21 May and 03 June 2017. Additionally, predictions from a logistic regression model indicated the probability of young fledging from a territory (n = 118) decreased from 0.53 to 0 across the range of stocking rates (0 to 174) while most nests were active (i.e., 27 May through 24 June). Paddocks on rotationally-grazed beef cattle farms that are un-grazed until bobolink finish breeding or grazed lightly soon after bobolink begin nesting can provide areas that enable bobolink to fledge young from nests.
39 Sex Ratio Biasing in Lark Buntings
Makenna B. Fair; Claire W. V. Ramos
According to the Fisherian sex ratio theory, sexual selection leads to an equal investment in male and female offspring. Thus, many species have relatively equal numbers of males and females. Lark Buntings, Calamospiza melanocorys, a migratory songbird which breeds on the Great Plains of Colorado, have been shown to have an adult male-biased sex ratio. However, the source of the bias is currently unknown. It could arise either in the primary sex ratio through the biasing of offspring sex by female birds, or in the secondary (mature) sex ratios through differential mortality between the sexes. Therefore, the purpose of our study was to determine at what point in the Lark Bunting life cycle is the male sex ratio bias established within the population of Lark Buntings nesting at the U.S. Army Pueblo Chemical Depot in southwestern Colorado. Adults were captured, and the adult sex ratio was determined using plumage characteristics. Hatchlings were captured from the nests and were sexed genetically using markers found on the W and Z chromosomes. Our results showed that there was a male biased secondary sex ratio and a female biased primary sex ratio.
40 Spatial Position and Orientation of Ruffed Grouse Drumming Logs
Joseph Quehl; Jeffrey Williams; Benjamin Tjepkes; Brandon Rochefort; Rachel Martin
Ruffed grouse ( Bonasa umbellus ) are an important game bird in the upper Midwest. Males perform a unique drumming display atop fallen logs to attract females and maintain their territory. We aim to evaluate drumming log characteristics and selection in northern Wisconsin as part of a UW-Stevens Point student chapter research project. Auditory drumming surveys were conducted between the months of March and May of 2016 and 2017 to locate used logs. We will then compare the elevation of these used logs to the average elevation within distinct buffers around drumming logs. We believe ruffed grouse are selecting local highpoints within these respective locations. Locations will be analyzed using ArcGIS Pro and conducting a spatial and contour analysis on these known points. From these points we will evaluate drumming log orientation and spatial position within local topography. We hope this information will be used to better understand how drumming logs are selected by male ruffed grouse.
41 The Camera Never Lies: Summer Activities of Nesting Mallards in Central North Dakota Using Surveillance Cameras
Allicyn Nelson; Jaylin Solberg; Ryann Cressey; Mason Sieges; Kaylan Carrlson; Susan Ellis-Felege
The mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) is a well-known and studied North American duck species, but the details of daily nesting patterns of hens remains unknown. Our research involved observing nest attendance patterns of female mallards using surveillance cameras to address parental investment questions. In May-July of 2017 and 2018, we located mallard nests at the Ducks Unlimited Coteau Ranch and The Nature Conservancy Davis Ranch in Denhoff, North Dakota. We recorded clutch size, incubation stage, and vegetation height at each nest. At a subset of mallard nests, we installed surveillance cameras after start of incubation. A total of 21 cameras were deployed in the 2017 field season and 14 of these had usable data to review for nest behaviors. We recorded number and duration of recess events (time off nest by hen), daily incubation constancy (proportion of time nest attended by female), and identified predators at the nest. We found mallard hens take an average of 1.9 recesses per day, for an average of 160 minutes in duration. We found 19% (4/14) of camera nests hatched least one egg which is considered successful. Badgers (Taxidea taxus) were responsible for most depredations (41%; 7/17), followed by raccoons (Procyon lotor) (6%; 1/17), and coyotes (Canas latrans) (6%; 1/17). We found that cameras can provide us with information about general attendance patterns that can shed light on hen condition, times best for nest searching, and identify with certainty the predators responsible for nest failure.
42 The Impacts of Human Development on Ground Foraging Bird Populations and Their Effects on Tick and Lyme Disease Prevalence in Central New York
Kurt H. Gielow
The disruption of natural areas and increased levels of fragmentation have been shown to affect wildlife populations and even increase the risk of diseases. While much attention has been given to mammalian hosts, knowledge is limited about how well other taxa can harbor or spread Borellia burgdorferi, the bacteria that causes Lyme disease in humans. Previous research has found that ground foraging avian species can be hosts for ticks and competent reservoirs for B. burgdorferi, suggesting that birds may be an understudied component in the distribution and dispersal of ticks and Lyme disease. We are investigating ground foraging bird populations and the role they play in the life cycle of black legged ticks and Borellia burgdorferi within Onondaga and Cortland counties of central New York. Our objective is to investigate the relationship between ticks and ground foraging birds along an urban to wildland human development gradient. This is done by surveying avian abundances and sampling captured birds to estimate the infestation rates, as well as B. burgdorferi infection rates of both the ticks and their avian hosts. We survey and sample several ground foraging bird species within various landscapes along a gradient of human development ranging from heavily forested to highly developed. Species we sample include American Robin, Gray Catbird, Eastern Towhee, Northern Cardinal, and Song Sparrow. Sampling is achieved by mist-netting for birds within an array of these landscapes. Each captured bird is examined, all ticks are removed, and a small blood sample is taken. DNA is extracted from each tick and blood sample, and PCR is used to detect B. burgdorferi infection rates. Once these rates are determined, we will look for any correlation of avian abundance, tick infestation, or B. burgdorferi infection within the various levels of human development.
43 The Role of Wetland Buffer Width in Maintaining American Black Duck Populations in New Brunswick Commercial Forests
Kelly McLean; Bruce Pollard; Nic McLellan; Joseph Nocera
Commercial forestry is an important industry in New Brunswick and should balance high economic yield with a strong environmental responsibility. One way to achieve this is to maintain forested riparian buffer zones (buffers) around waterbodies. Buffers are important to the industrial forest as they reduce the negative effects of land uses adjacent to aquatic systems. In New Brunswick, forestry operations must maintain ≥30m buffers around waterbodies. However, there has been little empirical examination of the response by non-fishes to this buffer requirement. Waterfowl are potential indicators of ecosystem health in eastern North America because they experience perturbations in both terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. The American Black Duck (“black duck”; Anas rubripes) is a socially, economically, and ecologically important waterfowl species in New Brunswick. However, midwinter inventories conducted on black duck wintering grounds in the United States demonstrated a >50% decline in black duck populations from the 1950’s to the 1980’s. Management has increased black duck populations in some areas, except in the commercially forested region of interior New Brunswick where they exhibit notable local extirpations. We examine the role of wetland buffer width in the persistence of black duck populations. We used a geographic information system to overlay forest harvest data with georeferenced black duck observation data from 1996-2017 in 13 plots surveyed by the Canadian Wildlife Service. Plots are 25km2 and surveyed in a rotational schedule (among years). Preliminary results suggest that a smaller mean distance to harvest from a wetland edge has a negative influence on the number of black duck observations. We will use these results to develop a dynamic model to determine the optimal buffer size to maintain black duck populations in New Brunswick and conduct field experiments to assess the effects of buffer width on black duck nest success and susceptibility to anthropogenic disturbance.
44 Vegetation Mapping and White-Tailed Ptarmigan Occupancy in the Sangre De Cristo Mountains, New Mexico.
Donald H. Wolfe; Chris Hise; Lena C. Larsson; Virginia A. Seamster
The Sangre de Cristo Mountains of northern New Mexico are at the southern extent of the White-tailed Ptarmigan (Lagopus leucura) distribution in North America, and these peripheral ptarmigan populations in New Mexico are vulnerable to local extinction. The Sangre de Cristo Mountains encompass 85 square kilometers of alpine habitat (> 3658 meters ASL). One possible limiting factor is the extent of alpine shrub and mat willows (Salix spp.). From 2011 to 2017, we mapped the full extent of alpine willows across ~82 square kilometers of alpine habitat, using ground-truth data and spectral analysis of commercial satellite imagery. Overall extent of alpine willows was approximately 9.0%. Of the nine mapped regions, the four that are currently or were recently occupied by ptarmigan had a willow extent ranging from 5.7% to 25.5%. The extent of willows in unoccupied regions ranged from 0.7% to 12.1%. Additionally, willows in unoccupied regions were predominately or exclusively in mat form, often considered of less food value, while occupied regions contained both mat and shrub forms of willows. As willow stands typically encompass herbaceous vegetation and other shrubs, including Engelmann spruce (Picea engelmanni), currants (Ribes spp.), and shrubby cinquefoil (Potentilla fruticosa), the actual amount or density of willows may be considerably lower than indicated by extent mapping alone. There is concern that warming temperatures and less snowfall may lead to reduction of alpine willows and subsequent reduction in habitable range, or complete extirpation, of White-tailed Ptarmigan.
45 Vegetative Effects on Grassland Bird Biodiversity in Southwest Michigan
Michael Hindy; Travis Mangione; Rob Keys
In response to the decline of grassland birds and their habitat, the Pierce Cedar Creek Institute has been working to restore portions of their property to a prairie habitat. Obligate grassland bird species, including the Henslow’s sparrow (Ammodramus henslowii) and grasshopper sparrow (Ammodramus savannarum), have avoided these grasslands despite a decade of the prairie restoration. In the summer of 2016, we investigated the vegetation of grasslands and restored prairies throughout Southwest Michigan to determine if vegetation characteristics within these restored prairies are driving site selection. Our bird and vegetation surveys found significant differences in vegetative density, litter depth, vegetative height and cool/warm season mixes between restored prairies and other grasslands in regards to obligate grassland birds. We found obligate grassland birds preferred a mean vertical density of 46.6 cm, 3.56 cm litter depth, 70.3 cm vegetation height, and 61.32% cool-season plant dominance. These parameters are significantly different than what is found in restored prairies, which were nearly void of obligate grassland birds. This information helps to inform the Institute’s management plans to increase grassland bird biodiversity in their prairies.
46 Waterfowl Migration Chronology and Associated Wetland Food Production at Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge
Frank K. Ammer; Sean Knox; Meta Griffin
To effectively manage wetlands for certain waterfowl species, knowledge of area-specific migration trends and wetland food production is key. This study documents the waterfowl migration chronology and associated food production of five managed freshwater wetlands located within Great Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, Morris County, New Jersey. To determine migration chronology, weekly ground surveys were conducted in the spring and fall of 2015 and 2016. Food production was quantified by sampling aquatic invertebrates, seeds, and vegetation during spring and fall migratory seasons. Fifteen species of waterfowl used the Refuge during migration; the most abundant were the Mallard, Canada Goose, American Black Duck, Wood Duck, Green-winged Teal, Ring-necked Duck, American Wigeon, and Northern Pintail. Overall, dabbling ducks (9 species) made greater use of the Refuge than diving ducks (4 species). Measures of diversity were similar among the wetlands, but a greater number of species used Pool 1 (10 to 14 species) than the other wetland units (3 to 10 species). Emergent perennials, woody shrubs, and submerged aquatic vegetation made up the majority of the dominant plant species in the five wetland units. Submerged aquatic vegetation contributed higher biomass values during both fall seasons. Macroinvertebrates contributed high biomass values during both spring and fall migration periods and values were similar across wetland units. Macroinvertebrate species documented during the surveys comprised 14 of 23 major taxa considered to be high quality food for waterfowl. Summer vegetation surveys revealed that emergent perennials, woody shrubs, and submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV) made up the majority of the dominant plant species in each of the Refuge’s wetlands. Overall plant biomass varied greatly among both wetlands and seasons. This study provided site specific information for waterfowl species that use the Refuge during migration and will serve as a baseline reference for the Refuge staff.
47 Wood Duck Survival in Central Wisconsin during the Breeding Season
Kali Rush
The wood duck (Aix sponsa) is a focal species in the Upper Mississippi River and Great Lakes Region Joint Venture’s (JV) waterfowl habitat conservation strategy. The JV estimates the regional breeding population is 145, 000 less than their population objective. In Wisconsin, the wood duck is the second most abundant breeding duck , but their population is declining similar to other Great Lakes States populations. To better understand population vital rates that could be related to the observed declines in abundance, our objectives were to quantify hen and brood survival during the breeding season. We captured female wood ducks using decoy and nest box traps from 7 April to 5 July 2017 prior to nest initiation and fitted hens with VHF radio transmitters (ATS 3930, 7g) to quantify hen and brood survival during the breeding season. Hen and brood survival estimates were estimated and compared between nest types of natural cavities and artificial nest boxes and among predominant habitat type used including emergent wetlands, scrub-shrub, and forested wetlands. We also monitored individuals and nest sites to estimate breeding propensity, clutch size, and nest success. In 2017, 68 wood ducks (18 female and 50 male) were captured in 118 trap days (capture rate = 0.15 female /day). In total, we deployed twenty-three transmitters which resulted in 3 total broods of which one was successful. We used a known-fate model in program MARK to model of hen and brood survival as a function of nest and habitat types. This approach yielded heretofore unavailable hen and brood survival estimates for breeding wood ducks in the state of Wisconsin to improve our knowledge of how wood duck populations are changing.
48 Analysis and Prediction of Population of Lionfish: A Major Marine Invader
Mikail Akshin Bakhtiyarov
Analysis and Prediction of Population of Lionfish – A Major Marine Invader Mikail A. Bakhtiyarov Deep Run School, Columbia, MD Abstract Invasive species is defined as a species that is non-native to the ecosystem under consideration and whose introduction causes harm to economy, environment or human health. Invasive species can be plants, animals, and other organisms. Human actions are the primary means of invasive species introductions. Lionfish is considered as a major marine invader. They are found in the South Pacific and Indian Oceans (Indo-Pacifc region) and the Red Sea. Therefore, the lionfishes in other regions are considered an invasive species. Some lionfishes migrated through the Suez Canal and established in the Mediterranean Sea. Lionfish (Pterois volitans and Pterois miles) belong to the scorpionfishes (Scorpaenidae) family which includes about five hundred different species. There are ten species of lionfish in the genus. Lionfish inhabit at depths of about 300 meters. In their native habitat grouper, cornet fish, gray triggerfish, bobbit worms, frog fish, sharks and large eels are predators of lionfish. However, no predators are known outside of its native habitat. A female lionfish can produce between 10,000 and 30,000 eggs every four days year around. Lionfish are known to eat almost every sea creature such as small fishes, invertebrates and mollusks. In this study we analyzed the information provided in recent publications on dynamics of lionfish population in their non-native habitat and the major sources of their occurrence in non-native habitat (aquarium trade stakeholders, hurricanes, etc.). This paper also considers ecological effects of the lionfish (invader) on native fish populations in various environmental conditions.
49 Determining Feral Pig (Sus Scrofa) Attractant Selection Preference and Response to Traps in Order to Improve Eradication Programs, Mountain Home, Texas
Melissa Karlin; Harun Khan
Feral pigs (Sus scrofa) are an invasive exotic pest that have been expanding in population throughout the United States. Numerous studies have tested a variety of baits and attractants for feral pig management, with corn and other grains being the most widely used baits, and scent attractants including commercial options and non-traditional scents, such as strawberry. Trapping, in conjunction with bait, is the most commonly used method for controlling feral pigs, even though its success rate is low. The purpose of this study was to determine frequency of visitation by feral pigs to a variety of scent and bait stations, with and without the presence of mock corral traps. The objectives were to determine if there was a preferred scent or bait, and if mock corral traps influenced visitation rates. Eleven stations were established on 41 ha: 3 with mock corral traps and non-traditional scent attractants, and 3 with only scents; 2 with mock corral traps and traditional corn/orange flavored corn and 2 with only corn; and 1 station with no trap or bait (control). Monitoring periods coincided with peak reproductive cycles (July 2017, November 2017, and March 2018). At each station, infrared flash trail cameras were used to record visitation by animal species and stations for the deployment periods. Friedman’s 2-way analysis of variance determined a significant difference in visitation frequency between stations (p=0.031). Results indicated highest visitation at the orange flavored corn station without a mock corral (63% of sightings), followed by the regular corn with a mock corral trap station (22% of sightings). There was no difference in visitation rates to each scent variation. Our findings suggest that feral pigs will select a preferred bait, in the presence of a corral trap, although at a lower frequency if a preferred bait without a trap presence is offered.
50 Effects of Feral Cat Removal on Rat Abundance on a Micronesian Island
Douglas A. Page
The colonization of rats (Rattus spp.) on islands is known to contribute to the decline of native birds. Rats can be highly arboreal and can consume the eggs, nestlings, and adults of avian species. Feral cats (Felis catus) also cause deleterious effects and have been responsible for the decline of island bird species globally. Controlling feral cats is often important to the recovery of bird species and has shown to be effective, especially complete eradication. On the island of Rota, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, cats are being lethally removed to conserve two endangered bird species. Although cats are controlled to reduce impacts on birds, they can also prey heavily on sympatric rats. I found that 60% of stomachs from euthanized cats contained ≥1 rat. Heavy predation on rats by cats could create a system of top-down control of rats, and feral cat control might lead to increased rat abundance as cat numbers decrease. To determine if the level of cat control being conducted on Rota is having a positive effect on rat abundance, I conducted a robust design mark-recapture of rats using a before-after-control-impact design, in two areas where the ongoing cat removal was not being conducted. Between primary rat trapping occasions, I hunted and trapped cats from one of the two rat trapping areas, using a level of effort similar to that of the ongoing cat control in other areas of Rota. I will use program MARK to build robust design models using the experimental cat removal as a group parameter in some models. An effect will be evident if the best model, ranked by Akaike’s information criterion, includes this parameter and if change in abundance of rats was greater in the group with cat removal.
51 Evaluation of Wild Pig Behavior after Exposure to Visual and Olfactory Stimuli on Cowden Plantation, Jackson, South Carolina
Samantha R. Hitchens; Bruce Saul
Current management of wild pigs (Sus scrofa) in Georgia and South Carolina primarily consists of lethal removal or trapping efforts. These procedures may not be applicable in all situations. Our efforts have focused on determining a readily available natural substance that is capable of successfully excluding wild pigs from a targeted area. Scents tested in our studies have included the following oils or substances: dog hair, habanero extract, and Carolina Reaper peppers. Various application colors have also been examined to gauge effects on wild pigs. Centralized and perimeter based scent dispersion arrays were also tested. Pig behavior was documented using camera trapping on a private plantation in the Savannah River swamp area of Jackson, SC. Sample sites have historically experienced consistently large acreages of pig damage. Wild pig behavior appeared unaffected by most scent and color applications as long as food (dried corn) was present in the test array. Measurements of presence versus absence of wild pigs in these tested areas indicated a decrease in activities when dog hair was applied.
52 Mentor Marsh Part Ii: A Phragmites Control Approach
David J. Goerig; David Kriska
Mentor Marsh Part II: A Phragmites Control Approach Mentor Marsh has been designated by the National Park Service as the Natural Nature Landmark since 1965. It was named Ohio’s first State nature preserve in 1971. In the late 1960’s salt mine tailings leached into the marsh from one of the tributaries with devastating effects. By the early 1970’s most of the native vegetation had died over this nearly 800-acre site. Over time the marsh became inundated with reed grass (Phragmites australis). In 2015, Cleveland Museum of Natural History lead a large-scale restoration research effort to reduce the stand of this invasive colony. This presentation will detail the approach used by the Cleveland Museum of Natural History and the Davey Resource Group to eliminate this invasive vegetation.
53 Red-Imported Fire Ant Management Alters the Diet of Southern Toads
Lee Neighbors
Red-imported fire ants (Solenopsis invicta; hereafter RIFAs) are an invasive predator and prey that were introduced into the southeastern United States in the 1930s. Most research has focused on the role of RIFAs as predators, while few studies have addressed their role as prey or how management to reduce RIFAs may influence the diets of insectivores. We used southern toads (Anaxyrus terrestris) as a model species to assess if management for RIFAs and/or RIFA presence may influence the diversity or abundance of different arthropod orders and genera of Formicidae in a largely terrestrial amphibian. We stocked 4 juvenile southern toads into 8 enclosures either treated with a granular insecticide to reduce RIFAs (RIFA-) or maintained at ambient RIFA conditions (RIFA+). We recaptured the toads after one month and used gut flushing to collect and subsequently identify the stomach contents of each individual to order and all formicidae to genus or species. There was no difference in overall toad diet diversity, formicidae diversity, or total arthropod abundance. Toads in enclosures with RIFA(+) consumed 2 times more formicidae than those in RIFA(-) enclosures. RIFAs and Pheidole sp. were 3.2 and 7.6 times more abundant in the diet of toads within the RIFA (+) enclosures and Nylanderia sp. 4.1 more times more abundant in the diet of toads in the RIFA (-) enclosures. These results suggest that management for RIFAs may impact the diet of southern toads by reducing their consumption of ants. However, in landscapes with large populations of RIFAs, this may be beneficial because consumption of RIFAs can lead to mortality. Future studies should attempt to elucidate the impact of management for RIFAs versus general RIFA presence, on the diet of native insectivores.
55 Cost-Benefit Analysis for Invasive Species Control: the Case of Greater Canada Goose Branta Canadensis in Flanders (Northern Belgium)
Frank Huysentruyt; Nikolaas Reyns; Jim Casaer; Lieven De Smet; Koen Devos; Peter A. Robertson; Tom Verbeke; Tim Adriaens
Sound decisions on control actions for established invasive alien species (IAS) require information on ecological as well as socio-economic impact of the species and of its management. Cost-benefit analysis provides part of this information, yet has received relatively little attention in the scientific literature on IAS. We apply a bio-economic model in a cost-benefit analysis framework to greater Canada goose Branta canadensis, an IAS with documented social, economic and ecological impacts in Flanders (northern Belgium). We compared a business as usual (BAU) scenario which involved non-coordinated hunting and egg destruction with an enhanced scenario based on a continuation of these activities but supplemented with coordinated capture of moulting birds. To assess population growth under the BAU scenario we fitted a logistic growth model to the observed pre-moult capture population. Projected damage costs included water eutrophication and damage to cultivated grasslands and were calculated for all scenarios. Management costs of the moult captures were based on a representative average of the actual cost of planning and executing moult captures. Comparing the scenarios with different capture rates, different costs for eutrophication and various discount rates, showed avoided damage costs were in the range of 21.15 M€ to 45.82 M€ under the moult capture scenario. The lowest value for the avoided costs applied to the scenario where we lowered the capture rate by 10%. The highest value occurred in the scenario where we lowered the real discount rate from 4% to 2.5%. The reduction in damage costs always outweighed the additional management costs of moult captures. Therefore, additional coordinated moult captures could be applied to limit the negative economic impact of greater Canada goose at a regional scale. We further discuss the strengths and weaknesses of our approach and its potential application to other IAS.
56 Determining Palatability of Common Midwestern Cover Crops to Voles
Abby-Gayle Prieur; Robert K. Swihart
Over the last 8 years, Midwestern farmers have dramatically increased their use of cover crops to improve soil health in row-crop agriculture. Cover crops are non-commodity species planted in fall and terminated in spring, shortly before cash crops are planted. In addition to improving soil health and water quality, cover crops provide vegetative cover that may support more diverse wildlife communities than those found in traditional agricultural systems. Though farmers enjoy the benefits of cover crops, they also have reported increased soybean damage in their fields. Anecdotal evidence suggests that populations of small mammals, most notably voles (Microtus), may reside and even flourish in cover-cropped fields through winter, but likely experience food shortages once cover crops are terminated in spring that lead voles to feed on newly emerged soybeans. Because cover cropping is a relatively new conservation practice in intensive agriculture, practically no research has been done on small mammal responses to cover crops or management techniques for reducing vole populations. We will investigate the palatability of 15 cover crops commonly planted in the Midwest using cafeteria-style feeding trials with wild-caught voles. In 5 subsequent trials, we will remove the plant species most preferred by each vole. Trial 6 will include only the 10 least-palatable species, averaged across all voles, and Trial 7 will include species not eaten during the entire experiment. Order of plant choice will be monitored using remotely triggered cameras. We will present preliminary results indicating plants most-preferred and avoided by voles. Identifying plants of low palatability would allow farmers to plant cover crops that improve soil health but are not a preferred food source for voles, thus reducing field populations and the attendant negative consequences that might otherwise limit future adoption of a valuable soil conservation practice.
57 Ecosystem Impacts of Double-Crested Cormorant Breeding Colonies in a Southeastern Reservoir System
Leah Moran Veum; R.J. Moore; Brian Dorr; Katie Hanson-Dorr; Scott A. Rush; Garrett M. Street
Double-crested Cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus) effects on vegetation, soil chemistry and tree health have been documented on colonies in the northern breeding grounds of Canada and the United States (U.S.). Little evaluation of these changes has been conducted in the southeastern U.S, where colonies have been documented since the early 2000’s. Vegetation and tree metrics, such as structure and diversity, and soil chemistry were compared among colony islands, uninhabited islands and abandoned colony islands within Guntersville Reservoir, Alabama. Avian diversity was also quantified per these islands to assess if the current or past presence of a cormorant colony can affect other avian species. Potassium, phosphorus, nitrate and pH were negatively related to past and current cormorant use, while plant and tree diversity were lower on historic (plant mean = 5.91 ± 3.03; tree mean = 4.35 ± 2.46 species) and colony (plant mean = 5.97 ± 3.55; tree mean = 3.91 ± 3.12 species) islands than on control islands (plant mean = 8.48 ± 3.69; tree mean = 9.11 ± 3.88 species). Canopy cover was less (min: < 20%), and midstories denser on colony and historic islands relative to control islands. Avian diversity was significantly lower for colony islands (mean = 6 ± 3 species) than both control (11 ± 7 species) and historic (10 ± 7 species) islands. These effects of cormorant nesting can be seen even after 10 years of abandonment and additionally, this study identifies how these habitat changes influences songbird diversity, one of the first to do so. These findings support that cormorants have long term effects on their nesting sites, even on southeastern aquatic systems. Early detection and action can be a useful tool to decrease effects of cormorants in these systems, with long-term effects of cormorants on nesting islands potentially curtailed or decreased.
58 Estimating Interspecific Economic Risk of Bird Strikes with Aircraft
Travis L. DeVault; Bradley F. Blackwell; Thomas W. Seamans; Michael J. Begier; Jason D. Kougher; Jenny E. Washburn; Phyllis R. Miller; Richard A. Dolbeer
The International Civil Aviation Organization promotes prioritization of wildlife management on airports, among other safety issues, by emphasizing the risk of wildlife-aircraft collisions (strikes). In its basic form, strike risk comprises a frequency component (i.e., how often strikes occur) and a severity component reflecting the cost of the incident. However, there is no widely accepted formula for estimating strike risk. Our goal was to develop a probabilistic risk metric that is adaptable for airports to use. Our specific objectives were to 1) update species-specific, relative hazard scores (i.e., the likelihood of aircraft damage or effect on flight when strikes occur) using recent U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) wildlife strike data (2010-2015); 2) develop 4 a priori risk models, reflecting species-specific strike data and updated relative hazard scores; 3) test these models against independent data (monetary costs associated with strikes); and 4) apply our best model to strike data from 4 large, FAA-certificated airports to illustrate its application at the local level. Our best-fitting risk model included an independent variable that was an interaction of quadratic transformed relative hazard score and number of wildlife strikes (r2 = 0.74). Top species in terms of estimated risk nationally were red-tailed hawk (Buteo jamaicensis), Canada goose (Branta canadensis), turkey vulture (Cathartes aura), rock pigeon (Columba livia), and mourning dove (Zenaida macroura). We found substantial overlap among the top 5 riskiest species locally across 3 of 4 airports considered, illustrating the degree of site-specific differences that affect risk. Strike risk is dynamic; therefore, future work on risk estimation should allow for model adjustment to reflect ongoing wildlife management actions at airports that could influence future strike risk.
59 Managing Wildlife Hazards at Airports Around the World: Environmental and Cultural Challenges
Megan Baker
Managing wildlife hazards to aviation is one component of maintaining a safe environment at airports. Airports come in all shapes and sizes and have many similarities. Air traffic control towers, runways, and taxiways are common features but no two airports are the same when it comes to managing for wildlife hazards. Bird and other wildlife strikes account for nearly $1.3 billion (USD) in terms of damage and other costs annually at civil airports across the world. The combined costs to military international aviation are unknown but in the U.S. it is approximately $10 million (USD) per year. Different types of habitat support a variety of wildlife that will vary between airfields. Wildlife biologists at airports employ an integrated wildlife management program to assess and mitigate hazardous wildlife to protect aircraft, crew, and property; but every airport has its own unique challenges. Recommended actions that work in the arctic may not be as successful in the desert given differences in wildlife species behavior, response to mitigation techniques, and general tolerance of human presence. Biologists continuously develop new practices to respond based on changes in the environment. Additionally, the culture at and surrounding airfields can vary as well. Language barriers, religion, and politics, are major factors on how wildlife is viewed culturally and managed. Animals that are considered a nuisance in one place can be sacred in another. These factors and encounters with wildlife ranging from musk ox (Ovibos moschatus), rock pigeons (Columba livia), golden jackals (Canis aureusto), and various birds of prey species in arctic, temperate, and desert climates will be discussed.
60 Non-Fatal Black Bear Attacks in the Lower 48 States between 2000-2017
Janel M. Scharhag
Injuries to humans by black bears (Ursus americanus) and grizzly bears (Ursus arctos) are increasing in the United States. State and federal agencies are responsible for bear management and are required to make decisions that mitigate public risk. When a risk management decision is made, and an injury or attack follows in time, agencies have been held legally responsible. To both reduce risk to the public and better protect agencies from litigation, there has been a call for a more refined management model to assess attack risk by bear species. There is information and statistics regarding fatal attacks of both black and grizzly bears, and non-fatal attacks by grizzlies. There is no comprehensive research on purely non-fatal black bear attacks. Our study will address this information gap by analyzing agency confirmed non-fatal black bear attacks in the 48 conterminous United States from the years 2000-2017. Our analysis will track 17 biological, managerial, and victim specific metrics for each case, where available. Preliminary results indicate that there are approximately 150 cases that meet our definition of attack [An intentional contact by a non-captive, non-rabid bear on a human that results in injury which occurred at a single location and point in time.]. Our project results will fill the data gap for non-fatal black bear attacks and provide needed information that will assist in the evaluation of attack risk and risk management decision making.
61 Quantifying the Efficacy of Donkeys as Livestock Guarding Animals on Florida Rangelands
Sam Baraoidan; Raoul Boughton
Coyotes (Canis latrans) occur in all 67 Florida counties and are the state’s most commonly reported livestock predator. With cattle being Florida’s most economically important livestock, calf depredation is the primary source of conflict between coyotes and Florida’s rangeland managers. Coyote depredation patterns are highly variable across space and time, even within a single ranch. This has led ranchers to adopt a variety of depredation management practices. One such practice that is rapidly gaining popularity in Florida is the use of livestock guarding animals (LGAs). Globally, domestic dogs are the most commonly used species of LGA; however, non-canine LGAs, such as donkeys (Equus asinus) or llamas (Lama glama), are becoming increasingly common. Donkeys in particular could be a valuable tool for Florida ranchers, as they are hardy enough to withstand Florida’s high heat and humidity and often display an instinctual aggression toward canids. At our field site on Buck Island Ranch at the MacArthur Agro-ecology Research Center, we deployed a systematic site-wide grid of 44 game cameras in September 2015. In March 2016, donkeys were introduced to the ranch and paired with selected cattle herds in an effort to mitigate coyote depredation on calves. We are using photos from the game cameras to quantify how the presence or absence of donkeys influences coyote activity in specific pastures. Data analysis is currently in progress, with data being analyzed in a BACI (Before-After-Control-Impact) framework. We are also exploring how other factors, such as time of year, pasture size, and reproductive stage of cattle, might influence the relationship between donkey presence and coyote activity. This analysis is the first to quantitatively analyze the effects of donkeys as LGAs in Florida, and one of few of its kind nationwide. Results will help Florida ranchers make more scientifically informed management decisions to reduce calf loss.
62 Raptor Use of Artificial Perches in Fields with Cover Crops
Megan E. Zagorski; Robert K. Swihart
Cover crops are an increasingly popular agricultural practice throughout the Corn Belt with benefits to soil health, water quality, and improvement of wildlife habitat. However, cover crops also benefit species such as voles (Microtus), which can become pests. Vole damage to soybeans (Glycine max) planted in cover-cropped fields has led some farmers to consider reducing or abandoning their use of cover crops. Predation, particularly by raptors, could limit vole numbers and subsequent damage to cash crops. However, most species of raptors in the Corn Belt are limited by perch availability when hunting. To determine raptor use of cover-cropped fields in year 1 of the study, we counted raptors on >400 km of road transects in west-central Indiana. We will compare raptor sightings with cover-crop adoption to determine if raptors preferentially utilize cover crop fields. We also will investigate whether raptors use artificial perches within cover-cropped fields by establishing 3-meter high artificial perches in the interiors of 8 fields. Within each field, perches were placed at intervals of 50, 125, and 200 m from permanent habitat for a total of 24 perches. We recorded raptor interactions with the perches using trail cameras, and will analyze images for frequency of use and distance effects. Upon completion, our study will inform producers of general raptor use of cover-cropped fields as well as raptor willingness and ability to use artificial perches and hence limit vole populations.
63 Timing and Impact of Habitat Type on Black Bear Corn Crop Damage
Alec S. Baker; Keely T. Roen
Black bears (Ursus americanus) can cause significant damage to agricultural crops. Our study compared bear damage to corn fields in two surrounding habitat types: forest cover in northern Clarion County (n=5) and agriculture in southern Clarion County (n=5). We established a walkable perimeter and a grid of transects 100-m apart. Field size varied from 10,934 m2 to 181,526 m2. Trail cameras were deployed at anticipated areas of bear entrance or where previous scat and tracks were observed. Damage was surveyed weekly and confirmed as bear damage by the presence of scat and tracks, damage characteristics, and trail camera photos from 13 August 2017 to 22 October 2017. Percent damage ranged from 0 to 1.95% (0 to 831 m2) in the south and 0.55% to 14.58% (211 to 8445 m2) in the north. Mean damage to southern and northern fields was 0.474% and 4.644% respectively. There was strong evidence that surrounding habitat type had a significant impact on percentage of damage (p = 0.016). While the difference in mean amount of damage was not significant (p = 0.116) between the two habitat types, there was a tendency toward more damage in the northern fields. The earliest onset of damage was 13 August 2017 in a southern field. The remaining seven fields had damage by 20 August 2017. The majority of new damage was completed by 2 September 2017 at all study sites. This is consistent with a North Carolina study that documented 0.6% of bear-caused damage to corn, with the majority of damage occurring in a two-week period. Since our data suggest a time-sensitive pattern of damage, deterrent and repellent measures could be timed to the onset or peak of damage to reduce farmer and wildlife agency cost and effort.
64 White-Tailed Deer Fawn Survival in a Community with an Urban Hunting Program.
Martin J. Feehan; Paul D. Curtis; Raymond E. Rainbolt
Over-abundant white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) are an increasing problem in urban/suburban communities throughout the country. Many communities have considered urban hunting programs to lower densities. These programs often focus on increasing antlerless deer harvest to decrease breeding females and to remove fawns before they become part of the breeding population. Fort Drum, an Army installation in New York, has been attempting to manage their increasing deer herd within the cantonment area for 15+ years using an urban hunting program. The cantonment area is 32.8km2 with more than 3,100 buildings. It is similar to many urban communities with dense housing, office buildings, commercial real-estate, and industrial areas. The intensive harvest program opens up 13.4km2 or 40.7% of the area to bow/crossbow hunting. They effectively dispense unlimited antlerless Deer Management Assistant Program (DMAP) permits, since they have never used their entire allotment among their 200+ hunters annually. In order to better understand the demographic and recruitment impact of an urban harvest program we completed a three year fawn survival study from 2015-2018. We captured and radio collared 102 total fawns using a mixture of vaginal implant transmitters (VIT), ground searching, and opportunistic captures. Using a nest survival model, the annual survival was 50.1% (95% CI= 40.0-60.2%). The primary causes of mortality were coyote predation and hunter harvest each making up 11 (25%) of the total 44 mortalities, with 7(15.9%) vehicle collisions next highest. Survival prior to the fall harvest season was 62.4% (95% CI=50.8-72.7%). Harvest and collisions made up 17/18 mortalities from the beginning of the fall season through the end of the annual period. The urban hunting program is having a measurable impact on fawn survival, however, not enough to help stabilize densities, let alone to lead to a reduction in density.
65 Developing the Next Generation of Systems-Level Conservationists Through International Undergraduate Research and Extension
Adam S. Willcox; Emma V. Willcox; John Stier; David Butler; Donald Hodges; Amanda Kaeser; Tom Gill; Cortney Ohs; Michael Andreu
One of the most complex agricultural and natural resources challenges of our time is sustainably feeding the world while concurrently conserving wildlife and biodiversity. To address this challenge, we are working in Belize with local agriculture and conservation NGO partners to improve understanding of conservation agriculture. Our project goal is to develop leaders in agriculture and natural resources research and extension who can synthesize the complexity of agricultural systems to address natural resources conservation and sustainable global food security. Our 3-year experiential research and extension project brings together 14 undergraduate students and 10 mentors to investigate smallholder farms practicing conservation and traditional agriculture adjacent to the Vaca Forest Reserve in western Belize. Through the project, we train students through one-on-one student-mentor focused projects, which have both a research and extension component. Student fellows conduct research in their first summer in Belize and follow this with a second summer conducting extension projects based on research results and local needs. We are conducting projects on crop production and soil health, social and economic systems, wildlife, forestry, and ecosystem services. Our first cohort of 7 fellows realized their research projects in Summer 2017. These students have presented research results at 9 scientific conferences, submitted one manuscript to an international conservation journal, and are in various stages of preparing an additional 6 manuscripts for submission to peer-reviewed journals. At TWS 2018, we will briefly share research results in an agroecological context, however, primarily focus on the effectiveness of our model to improve international undergraduate research and extension for student development.
66 Establishing Measureable Quality Objectives for Assessing Wildlife and Habitat Monitoring Variables
Craig Palmer
Have you ever questioned the reliability of your data when monitoring wildlife or their habitats? (Be honest!) The collection of ecological data for monitoring presents many challenges. In particular, many variables require data collection based on observations and best professional judgment by field personnel. These can be difficult to obtain in an accurate and reproducible manner. In collaboration with the U.S. EPA Great Lakes National Program Office and an interagency committee, we have developed guidance on the application of quality assurance principles applicable to short- and long-term monitoring programs. Our goal is to assist individuals with strategies for maximizing the quality of data generated for their monitoring programs. A critical planning component is to establish quality objectives for indicators of data quality relating to precision, bias and accuracy – and which can be represented by a measurement error tolerance and frequency of compliance. These quality objectives are useful to train and certify field crews, conduct quality control during data collection efforts, and provide a standard necessary for data quality assessment and reporting. Examples will be provided to demonstrate a five-step process for establishing quality objectives that are achievable and meaningful. It is hoped that these simple steps will be considered for including in future wildlife education, citizen-monitoring, or other training and certification efforts.
67 Impact of a Summer Field Practicum on the Development of Students’ Professional Wildlife Identity
Cortney Mycroft; Elizabeth A. Flaherty
Summer field courses, science camps, or practicums once were a relatively common component of undergraduate wildlife programs. Because of increasing costs, liability issues, constraints on faculty time and promotion expectations, and the need for students to work during the summer to cover their personal expenses for college, many universities removed the field-based summer program component of their wildlife major. Learning objectives, field techniques, and content covered during these summer programs were moved to on-campus fall or spring semester courses. However, other less tangible aspects of the summer field course were lost from the undergraduate experience including professional social opportunities and increased familiarity with the professional environment. We assessed the professional social benefits of wildlife students participating in a 5-week off-campus summer field course. Using voluntary pre- and post-practicum surveys and reflection essays, we evaluated the summer field practicum experience in terms of providing students with a unique environment to build professional social skills and develop their professional identity in addition to mastering the techniques and content covered in the field courses. Our results suggest that undergraduate wildlife programs should be encouraged to maintain off-campus field practicum courses to prepare future natural resource professionals because students were able to development their personal identity as a wildlife professional; cultivate stronger professional relationships with peers, faculty, and staff; and thoroughly evaluate their career choice better than they while on campus in typical undergraduate lecture and lab courses.
68 Pedagogy and Practice in Stem Field Experiences: Intersections of Student and Mentor Identity and Impacts Upon Student Outcomes
Christopher J. Felege; Cheryl Hunter; Joshua Hunter; Susan Felege
Practicums, internships, and field experiences are essential components in many fields. These varied experiences embed both students and their mentors in immersive experiences. Such immersive experiences are essential for STEM students preparing for future jobs, yet little is known about how these research-intensive and immersive experiences impact the practice of teaching in the natural sciences. In order to evaluate the impact, opportunities, and challenges associated with such experiences, our team collected and analyzed end-of-semester reflections from five students and their faculty mentor. Thematic analysis related to inferences and implications about the impacts of the experience showed a need to formalize and further develop an understanding of both students’ self-identity and the cultural attitudes of the students and the mentor.
69 The National Conservation Training Center: Expanding Professional Training Beyond Wildlife and Fisheries Sciences Towards Leadership, Communications, Conservation Policy and Decision-Making
Eric T. Tsakiris; Jim Siegel
Conservation practitioners are faced with duel tasks of protecting fish and wildlife populations and their habitats while navigating the complex human element of resource management. As such, they require skills in project management, leadership and supervision, communications, implementing conservation policy and decision-making in addition to natural sciences; however, research continues to demonstrate that recent graduates often lack certain requisite skills for professional careers in conservation. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s (USFWS) National Conservation Training Center (NCTC), in operation for over 20 years, has worked to close this skills gap to increase the effectiveness of their employees and their conservation partners. Here, we present demographic data of all participants trained though NCTC from 2006 – 2017 and provide examples of how training in so called “people” or “soft” skills has helped prepare conservationists for leading and managing programs, building relationships and working in interdisciplinary teams. All NCTC courses taught, excluding those specific to USFWS operations, were categorized into two broad skill groups: soft skills, including leadership, conservation policy, public outreach, decision analysis, communication and human dimensions; and hard skills, including habitat management, climate change, geospatial technologies, statistics and modeling, aquatic and wildlife biology. In total, NCTC has trained over 40,000 participants in the 11 years examined, and more than two-thirds of the courses offered were focused on training soft skills. Leadership, conservation policy and public outreach were the top three subjects offered. We argue that soft skills are equally important in the practitioner’s tool kit, and that NCTC is bridging the skills gap necessary for professionals to successfully implement conservation in the real-world. We urge universities and training institutions to expand their curriculums to train in the skills needed for the human elements of conservation and resource management.


Location: Cleveland CC Date: October 8, 2018 Time: 9:00 am - 5:00 pm