Biological Diversity and Endangered Species Conservation


  • Invasive Species Impacts on Threatened and Endangered Taxa*
  • Emily Ritter; Lauren Bleyer; Aaron Haines; Mathias Leu; Delaney Costante; Gokul Achayaraj; Lauren French; Laura Lielbriedis
    Behind habitat alteration, invasive species impact is the second leading threat causing native species to require federal protection under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in the United States (US). This threat continues to grow due to continued species introductions into the US. The goal of this project is to identify the top invasive species that threaten wildlife protected under the ESA, how invasive species impacts vary by protected species taxa, and where are the invasive species’ regions of origin. We reviewed federal register listing documents for all threatened and endangered (T&E) species from 1975 through 2019. We identified all T&E species impacted by invasive species, and the taxa of these invasive species. We also summarized how specific invasive species taxa negatively impact T&E species through various interaction types (e.g., competition, predation, herbivory, disease, parasitism, adverse habitat modification etc.). Based on this analysis, we hope to provide guidance on invasive species mitigation efforts to both the National Invasive Species Council and National Environmental Coalition on Invasive Species.

  • Plasticity in Gopher Tortoise Nesting Behaviors and Fecundity in a Translocated Population
  • Nicole DeSha; Kevin J. Loope; Matthew J. Aresco; Kevin T. Shoemaker; Elizabeth A. Hunter
    Understanding how species will respond to climate change is crucial to conserving global biodiversity. The intensity and rapidness with which the climate is changing suggests that adaptive evolution could be too slow to keep pace with climate change, and alternative mechanisms, such as physiological and behavioral plasticity, may be required for species to persist. Gopher tortoises (Gopherus polyphemus) are a threatened, keystone species that play important roles in upland habitats throughout the southeastern United States. Climate change could have diverse and strong effects on the fecundity and population demographics of gopher tortoises, as they are long-lived reptiles that rely on environmental temperatures for thermoregulation and sex determination. We used a population of translocated gopher tortoises at Nokuse Plantation, located in the panhandle of Florida, as a common garden experiment to assess whether plasticity of several nesting behaviors (i.e. nest temperature, depth, and orientation) and components of fecundity (i.e., clutch size, egg size, hatching success, sex ratios) can compensate for changes in environmental conditions. If tortoises exhibit plasticity by matching nesting behavior to local conditions, we predicted that distance from natal site would have no effect on nesting behaviors and fecundity. We compared nest characteristics among translocated females (from across the state of Florida) and examine how geographic and environmental distance from natal origin impacted aspects of fecundity. Our findings indicate that distance from natal site has no impact on female fecundity or nesting behavior. These results indicate that females adjust to novel environments by altering their nesting strategies to create suitable incubation conditions for developing offspring. Our findings contribute to understanding of resilience of gopher tortoises to impending environmental changes, and also inform managers on best practices for translocations in terms of suitable translocation distance from natal site.

  • Nest Site, Nest Temperature, and Hatching Outcomes Across An Environmental Gradient in the Gopher Tortoise
  • Kevin J. Loope; J. Nicole DeSha; David C. Rostal; Betsie B. Rothermel; Lora L. Smith; Kevin T. Shoemaker; Elizabeth A. Hunter
    Understanding how population vital rates respond to environmental factors across an existing gradient can reveal the degree to which species may be vulnerable or resistant to decline following anthropogenic climate change. In long-lived species, adult survival is likely to be robust to climate variation, whereas components of fecundity are more likely to be sensitive to environmental variation. Here, we investigate how female nesting decisions (nest depth and shadiness) are related to nest temperatures, and how these variables influence two aspects of fecundity, hatching success and hatchling sex ratios, in the gopher tortoise (Gopherus polyphemus), a species of conservation concern with environmentally determined sex. We compare these relationships across a climatic gradient of five sites from Georgia and Florida, USA, using a dataset of 68 wild nests from 2018 and 2019 with nest temperature data recorded using iButton temperature dataloggers. As expected, mean nest temperature is significantly predicted by latitude, as well as nest shadiness and depth, indicating that female nesting behaviors influence the nest thermal environment. Nest thermal environment was important for fitness: we found a positive effect of daily maximum nest temperature on hatching success. Nest bottom depth also had a positive effect on hatching success, indicating that depth itself has additional effects on hatching beyond the effect of temperature. Interestingly, the effects of both temperature and nest bottom depth on hatching success were pronounced only in some populations, and there was no clear trend with latitude. We also present preliminary data on the interactions between nest temperature, site and hatchling sex ratios. Understanding the differences among populations could inform prioritization of conservation areas as well as translocation strategies for mitigating the effects of climate change.

  • Is Climate Change Increasing Predation on Hoary Marmots in North Cascades National Park?
  • Logan Whiles; Jocelyn Akins; Roger Christopherson; Jason Ransom; Lisa Shipley; Daniel Thornton
    Climatic changes are projected to restructure communities and reduce habitat for high-elevation specialists such as the hoary marmot (Marmota caligata), a hibernating rodent of subalpine meadows in talus fields. Some marmot species have exhibited recent population declines due to increases in predation, but the effects of predation remain largely unexplored in hoary marmots. Our project follows point count surveys for hoary marmots during 2007-2008 and 2016-2017 in the North Cascades National Park (NOCA) that recorded a decline in observed abundance of >50%. The objectives of our project are to investigate the: 1) effect of snow persistence on generalist and specialist carnivore distributions using camera trapping and occupancy modeling, 2) dietary composition of carnivores in marmot habitat using genetic analyses of scat samples, 3) effect of perceived predator presence on marmot vigilance using scan sampling, focal-animal sampling, and flight initiation distance trials, and 4) to continue point count surveys of hoary marmots in NOCA during 2018-2019. In 2018, across 69 remote cameras placed within 1 km of hoary marmot colonies, we recorded: Pacific martens (Martes caurina) at 42%, cougars (Puma concolor) at 13%, bobcats (Lynx rufus) at 10%, grey wolves (Canis lupus) at 7%, coyotes (Canis latrans) at 7%, and Canada lynx (Lynx canadensis) at 6% of our cameras. Metabarcoding of carnivore scat revealed hoary marmot sequences in 8% of samples; frequency of occurrence was highest within Canidae samples (~30%), followed by cougar (~20%) and Pacific marten (~5%). After increasing point count effort threefold, we recorded reduced observable abundance at ~70% of hoary marmot colonies, an increase at ~20% of colonies, and no change at ~10% of colonies between 2007-2018. Overall, our preliminary findings corroborate assumptions of a declining hoary marmot population and highlight potential, as well as novel, predators in this system.

  • Assessing the Influence of Greening in Urban Residential Neighborhoods on Biodiversity and Human Health*
  • Clay Bliznick; Howard Whiteman; Ted Smith; Aruni Bhatnagar; Andrea Darracq
    Globally, the functioning of ecosystems and the services they provide are declining due to human-driven landscape conversion, fragmentation, and degradation. To mitigate these effects, there have been increased efforts to restore ecosystem function in degraded landscapes, including greening in urban environments. This degradation, specifically the ecological systems that support green vegetation have to be associated with poor human health outcomes. The objective of our research is to assess the broader biodiversity associated with urban greening and relate that to human health outcomes. Specifically, we are monitoring birds, bats, and butterflies within greening (n =34) and control areas (n=106) in residential neighborhoods in Louisville, Kentucky. Our sites are a part of the Greenheart Project, which is a five-year prospective interventional clinical trial. We collected biodiversity data pre-greening on our urban sites in July/August 2019 and will collect post-greening data next summer. We use point counts to document bird species, Pollard walks for butterflies, and bioacoustics for bats. We observed 54 bird species, 11 butterfly species, and 3 bat species combined across urban sites. Using this data, we plan to quantify diversity overall, by taxonomic group (birds, butterflies, and bats), and by guild and will compare these metrics between greened and non-greened sites. While there has not been extensive study on the effects of urban greening on biodiversity, an assessment of bird richness in community-driven greening projects in Boston, MA demonstrated greater species richness within greening project areas compared to random urban areas without greening (Strohbach et al. 2013). Similarly, we expect increases in species richness and diversity among surveyed taxa in pre-greening versus post-greening assessments.

  • King Rail Microhabitat Use in the Migratory Range*
  • Dustin E. Brewer; Thomas M. Gehring; Brendan T. Shirkey
    The King Rail (Rallus elegans) is listed as ‘threatened’ or ‘endangered’ in 12 states in its migratory range, where populations have declined due to habitat loss. For my dissertation research, I’m currently investigating microhabitat use by King Rails in southeast Michigan and northwest Ohio, which is in the migratory range. In 2019 and 2020 (if not cancelled due to covid-19), between May and August, I caught King Rails in Ohio and attached radio transmitters (n = 1 in 2019; 2020 field season not completed upon abstract submission). I tracked these birds to ‘homing’ locations where I described habitat variables within plots including: vegetative coverage, vegetative density, open water coverage, and crayfish abundance. I also measured these habitat variables 50 m away in a random direction from each homing location. Upon completion of data collection in 2021, I’ll statistically compare habitat at the homing and random locations to determine which habitat characteristics are associated with King Rail occurrence. For this conference, I’ll report descriptive statistics which result from the 2020 field study or, if the field season is cancelled due to covid-19, I’ll describe my research plans for 2021. My results will improve the ability of wildlife managers to create or maintain habitat for King Rails.

  • Masked Bobwhite Recovery Efforts – High Points and Hurdles
  • Donald H. Wolfe; Lacrecia A. Johnson; Rebecca Chester; John G. Goodwin, Jr.
    Masked Bobwhite (Colinus virginianus ridgwayii) are a critically endangered quail historically found in the Sonoran grasslands of southern Arizona, USA, and northern Sonora Mexico. Native populations of Masked Bobwhite may already be extinct in the wild, but captive populations exist at Buenos Aires National Wildlife Refuge, Africam Safari, and G. M. Sutton Avian Research Center. Recovery efforts in the 1970s and 1980s were initially successful, but suffered debilitating setbacks in the mid to late 1980s and 1990s that ultimately resulted in failure. In the subsequent decades, land acquisition and improved habitat restoration efforts led to the belief that reintroductions could again be attempted and successful, and in 2016-2017 plans were developed to increase captive propagation and release efforts. Overwinter survivorship of birds released in 2018 (~20%) was encouraging, and reproduction of wild birds was documented in 2019. Although overwinter survival of 2019 releases was lower, an existing base of wild birds, in addition to improvements in rearing and release methods along with increased production from captive facilities has renewed hope that full recovery of the species in Arizona is possible. Release techniques, habitat restoration, updates, and future plans will be discussed.

  • Increasing Trends in the Mosquito Vector for Avian Malaria in Core Endangered Forest Bird Sites on Kaua’I, Hawaii
  • Bryn Webber; Lisa Crampton; Kim Shoback; Dennis LaPointe
    Mosquitoes pose a threat to Hawaii’s native forest birds as vectors of avian malaria. The situation is particularly dire on Kauai, the lowest of the main Hawaiian Islands that still has a relatively intact avifauna, including three endangered forest bird species. Consequently, we have been working to understand the abundance, distribution, and seasonality of the malaria-carrying mosquito, Culex quinquefasciatus, at mid and high-elevation sites known as core habitat for Kauai’s native forest birds. In 2011-14, we surveyed adult and larval mosquitoes at two sites, one in the core and one in the periphery of current forest bird range. To survey adults, we used CO2 and gravid traps, and to survey larvae we conducted dip surveys in stream margins and overland transects. In 2018-19, we repeated the core site surveys, and added six new sites at 2500-3000’ around the Plateau. Results suggest that 1) mosquito numbers increased over the decade; 2) core habitat is largely mosquito-free from January-July, but not other months (48 adults were captured over just seven trap nights in August); and 3) sites within 4km of core habitat contain high densities of mosquitoes as early as April. Most adult mosquitoes were caught in CO2 traps and very few larvae were found, suggesting among other possibilities that mosquitoes are immigrating from outside the study area. We will validate these results with additional surveys this fall. Understanding the distribution, seasonality, and survivorship of C. quinquefasciatus in Kaua’i will help lead to safe, effective, and cost-efficient mosquito control techniques for use across the state.

  • Bats and Hummingbird Feeders: Simulating Different Monitoring Techniques to Examine Utilization of Introduced Alternative Food Sources by Long-Nosed Bats*
  • Mallory L. Davies; Theresa M. Laverty; Kathryn E. Stoner
    The endangered Mexican long-nosed bat (Leptonycteris nivalis) and the recently delisted lesser long-nosed bat (Leptonycteris yerbabuenae) migrate north by following nectar corridors as plant food sources flower, such as columnar cacti and paniculate agave. Loss of these plants within the nectar corridor can jeopardize long-nosed bat populations. However, in areas of low flowering plant densities, L. yerbabuenae have been observed utilizing hummingbird feeders as an alternative food source as early as the 1970s. Managers and researchers are interested in learning about the utilization of artificial nectar feeders (ANFs) as an alternative food source and applying findings to future conservation efforts. We developed a simulation in Program MARK to examine the statistical power and financial feasibility of including data collected from different detection devices to answer two main questions: 1) Do long-nosed bats utilize ANFs more frequently as available forage declines? 2) Do long-nosed bats utilize high density ANFs more than low density ANFs? In each simulated scenario, we assessed the contribution of data collected from either acoustic monitors, camera traps, or PIT tags to our simulated field study design. In the field, we will set up high (5 ANFs) and low (1 ANF) density treatment plots that are filled daily with sugar water. For each treatment plot, we will establish control plots of 1 or 5 empty ANFs 500m away. All treatment and control plots will be placed within 30m of an agave patch with flowering stalks emerging. We will discuss results from our simulation and their implications for conducting our 2021 field study in the northern portion of Leptonycteris’ range, southwestern New Mexico. Our findings, paired with careful planning, are important first steps to achieving a meaningful impact on future management decisions and conservation efforts of Leptonycteris species and their plant food sources.

  • Year-Round Northern Long-Eared Bat Acoustic Activity at Fire Island National Seashore*
  • Katherine Gorman; Tomás Nocera; Elaine Barr; W. Mark Ford; Lindsay Ries
    We sought to characterize year-round bat acoustic activity at the National Park Service’s Fire Island National Seashore on Long Island, New York. Our emphasis was on the threatened northern long-eared bat (Myotis septentrionalis), in order to determine possible overwintering presence, post-hibernation arrival, pre-hibernation exit and/or maternity colony activity relative to meteorological and temporal variables.
    Since April of 2018 to present, we have maintained 5-19 zero-crossing, frequency-division detectors continuously on the William Floyd Estate portion of the park. Early spring and late fall detection of northern long-eared bats indicates the possibility of their use of local, atypical hibernacula. Summer acoustic presence coupled with an ongoing radio-tagging study has shown strong fidelity to the site by northern long-eared bats in the maternity period. Moreover, variation in recorded activity levels indicate that discrete areas in the park are important for foraging and day-roosting; confirmed by known locations of day-roosting bats.
    Activity is correlated with air temperature, but relationships with wind and precipitation have been equivocal. Given the highly developed suburbs surrounding the park, little typical day-roost or foraging habitat occurs locally on this part of Long Island except for within the park. Accordingly, the William Floyd Estate may be an important conservation area for the northern long-eared bat in the Long Island area.

  • Monitoring Freshwater Mussel Health Using Stable Isotope Analysis*
  • Alexandra M. Hicks; Nancy Boedeker; Brant Fisher; Casey Maynard; Elizabeth A. Flaherty
    Declines and extinctions in freshwater mussel populations across North America have resulted in the extirpation of 16 species in Indiana and the listing of 10 species as federally threatened or endangered. Research priorities for freshwater mussels often focus on monitoring population abundance, distribution, and habitat change with limited efforts towards monitoring health. Development of health parameters and monitoring protocols could lead to an improved understanding of challenges facing these species while also informing management and conservation efforts. As part of a larger project to develop comprehensive health monitoring protocols for freshwater bivalves in Indiana, our objectives were to develop and test a health monitoring protocol using stable isotope analysis to evaluate changes in resource use and detect changes in water quality and stream nutrients. We collected body tissue samples from plain pocketbook (Lampsilis cardium), fatmucket (Lampsilis siliquoidea), and Asian clam (Corbicula fluminea) from 3 sites in Indiana, upstream of an urban area, downstream of the same urban area, and a rural site, and analyzed them for carbon (δ13C) and nitrogen (δ15N) stable isotopes. Our results indicated a significant difference in δ13C and δ15N between sampling sites and changes across sampling periods. We also identified overlap in signatures between species and within sampling periods indicating interspecific competition between native mussels and the highly invasive Asian clam. By collecting and analyzing samples regularly, stable isotope analysis will allow managers to monitor for changes in health parameters, chronic disturbances, changes in environmental quality, inter- and intraspecific competition, and ecological niche overlap. Combined with measurements of other health parameters, these protocols have the potential to provide a comprehensive program for understanding challenges to mussel populations while informing management and conservation especially regarding population restoration.

  • Effects of Roads on Endangered Mount Graham Red Squirrel: Impacts of Wildfire
  • Hejie Xu; John Koprowski
    Multiple reasons are behind a species’ endangerment in the modern world, including human activities, climate change, and anthropogenic infrastructure such as roads. Increased forest fire fueled by multiple anthropogenic and environmental factors has contributed to widespread forest mortality, carbon emissions, periods of degraded air quality; which would have potential effects on wildlife’s behavior. As one of the most abundant infrastructures, roads can be a direct cause of habitat fragmentation, which is a major threat to biodiversity. Understanding animal behavioral responses to roads and traffic provides valuable insight into causes and mechanisms of the effects of linear development on wildlife and aids effective mitigation and conservation. An endangered forest-dependent species, the Mount Graham red squirrel (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus grahamensis) is the study organism to test hypotheses to explain the negative effects of roads on animal occurrence. Mount Graham in southeastern Arizona is the only place in the world that this subspecies of squirrel call home, which burned more than 48,0000 acres by Frye Fire (caused by lightning) in 2017. The goal of this research is to compare the probability of red squirrel home ranges that included roads and random lines in forests, and assessed effects of traffic intensity on the rate of road crossing and movement patterns with pre-fire data. Permitting identification of potential shifts of wildlife’s behavior and ecology through the effects of roads on wildlife after major habitat-destruction natural disasters. This research will highlight the importance of the level of traffic noise at a local scale when investigating potential behavior differences in burned an unburned habitat and monitoring effects of anthropogenic noise on wildlife. By understanding how animals would respond to road activities would provide valuable insights on future conservation paths on aspects of movement ecology, especially during the essential recovering period after serious natural disasters such as wildfire.

  • The Presence of Snake Fungal Disease in Wild and Captive Populations in North Georgia*
  • Elizabeth Jeanne Noble
    Snake Fungal Disease (SFD) emerged and spread throughout the eastern United States during the last several years. The disease is caused by a naturally occurring fungal pathogen, Ophidiomyces ophiodiicola, that acts as an opportunistic invader and results in a high mortality rate among infected snakes after exposure. The fungal disease has been confirmed throughout southern Georgia and surrounding states; however, little is known about SFD in northern Georgia, and the paucity of research in the area hampers conservation efforts in the state. In this study, we surveyed wild and captive snake populations in northern Georgia to both confirm and monitor the occurrence of SFD in the region. Wild snake populations were surveyed at sites throughout several north Georgia counties and captured specimens were swabbed for presence of the fungal pathogen. In addition to swabbing, data were collected at each site such as location (e.g., GPS coordinates, habitat type), a morphological assessment (e.g., species, sex, mass, age) and a health examination (e.g., the presence of lesions, behavior) prior to release. Similar sampling protocols were followed with a group of captive snakes at the Elachee Nature Center in Gainesville, Georgia. Lab results confirmed presence of O. ophiodiicola in 10 of the 33 swabbed snakes. Seven of the confirmed positive samples were collected from wild snakes collected from several north Georgia counties, and 3 confirmed positive samples were collected from the captive snakes. This project deepens our understanding of how SFD is threatening wild snake populations in Georgia, and how infected captive snakes may alter behavior to enhance recovery after exposure to the pathogenic fungus. Our data can benefit conservation and management efforts as researchers collaborate with organizations such as the Georgia Department of Natural Resources and The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

  • Combining Field Sampling and Existing Data to Reveal Statewide Distributions of Mammals
  • Amanda E. Cheeseman; Shannon Farrell; James Gibbs
    Understanding species-ecosystem associations and current species distributions enables prediction of species range expansion and contraction, which is useful for determining species status and identifying conservation actions for species recovery. Data used to assess distributions are often leveraged from existing datasets such as museum records, citizen-sourced data, or regional monitoring programs; however, certain geographic areas and cryptic taxa are often poorly represented in such databases limited their value for modeling species range dynamics. In New York State, there has never been a formal statewide survey of mammals. Current records of small, cryptic mammals are lacking and the status of many of these species is unknown. Many common species also lack suitable distribution data for effectively monitoring distributional shifts over time. The New York Mammal Survey (NYMS) is pursuing the first statewide survey of the status and distribution of all New York mammals. We have compiled nearly 200,000 records of New York mammals and are continuing to leverage mammal occurrence data from publications, unpublished research, citizen science forums, and social media. To ensure coverage of small mammals in the database, we are augmenting these data with statewide standardized field surveys using Sherman, pitfall, tomahawk and camera traps. Integration of geographically haphazard historical data on mammal occurrence with data from location-targeted contemporary field surveys fills knowledge gaps and enables mapping current distributions, assessing changes in distributions through time. All data are now incorporated into the NYMS website where locality records can be searched, viewed, mapped through time relative to environmental and landscape covariates.

  • Importance of the Early Environment on Amphibian Development: Applications for Head-Start, Translocation, and Reintroduction Programs
  • Bernardo A. Traversari; Erica J. Crespi
    Studies have demonstrated that environmental conditions experienced during larval development can affect the morphology, physiology and behavior of amphibians after metamorphosis. These carry-over effects are particularly important to consider in head-start conservation programs in which amphibian larvae are reared in captivity and released into the wild to enhance population persistence. If captive rearing conditions are not optimal, then the survival of released animals could be compromised. Yet, despite the increase in the number of these programs, little research has been conducted to test for adaptive carry-over effects in captive environments. In Washington, a head-starting program is currently underway for the Northern Leopard Frog (Lithobates pipiens), headed by the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife and in collaboration with Washington State University and the Oregon Zoo. In an effort to help maximize the program’s success, we carried out a larval rearing experiment looking at the effects of different aquatic environments on Northern Leopard Frog development. Specifically, we evaluated whether water from the Oregon Zoo’s salmonid exhibit could serve as an optimal rearing environment for the species in comparison to both charcoal-filtered Oregon Zoo water and treated tap water. Our results showed that while there were no significant differences between water types used, larvae tended to develop faster and achieve greater size and weight when reared in Oregon Zoo water. In addition, we were able to establish the use of active-charcoal filtration as a viable method for eliminating potential water contaminants, including steroid hormones, that could negatively affect amphibian well-being while in captivity. Though more research is needed to support these findings, they nonetheless provide important insights for the captive-rearing and reintroduction of Northern Leopard Frogs in Washington.

  • Parasite Evaluation in Endangered Mount Graham Red Squirrels and Invasive Abert’s Squirrels*
  • Deandra Jones; Dr. John Koprowski
    Invasive species are among the leading global threats to native wildlife and are a factor in the decline of 42 percent of threatened and endangered species. Invasive species can influence the ecosystem health through parasite loads that they introduce during establishment in new areas. In the 1940s, Abert squirrels (Sciurus aberti ) were introduced to the Pinaleño mountains in southeastern Arizona where they currently co-occur with endemic endangered red squirrels (Tamiasciurus fremonti grahamensis). There is little understanding of parasite loads between invaders and imperiled endemic species, including S. aberti and T. f. grahamensis; we will identify and quantify parasites in this important system. We will analyze over 60 Abert squirrels from their breeding season, between late February and early June, and targeting both sexes as equally as possible. All samples of Mt Graham red squirrels (T. h. grahamensis) will be sampled regardless of dates collected or sex only because samples of the endangered red squirrels are only limited to natural, accidental, and predatorial deaths. The entire gastrointestinal tract is examined for endoparasites following standard parasitological procedures and fecal samples are analyzed through qualitative flotation methods. From the study we hope to gain a better insight into possible parasite transmission routes and the role that parasites play in biological invasion. We strive to understand all aspects of factors that place species at risk of extinction, so that we can provide future management and conservation strategies for similarly threatened or endangered species.

  • Noninvasive Genetic Investigation of Canids on Galveston Island, Texas*
  • Tanner Michael Barnes; Melissa T. Karlin; Kristin E. Brzeski
    Hybridization has historically been considered a threat to biodiversity. Rates of hybridization and introgression have increased worldwide due to habitat modification and human-mediated animal translocations. However, natural hybridization has been recognized as a potential mechanism of adaptation. Introgressions through hybridization can blur species distinctions, creating conservation and policy challenges. With the recent advancement in sequencing technology researchers are better able to detect these introgressions and solve these challenges. Two species of canids, the coyote and red wolf, historically hybridized along the American Gulf Coast as red wolf populations declined in the mid-1900s. Red wolves were declared extinct from the wild by 1980 and only 14 captive wolves remained. Recently, two independent studies rediscovered red wolf genetics persisting in hybrid canids along the gulf coast of Texas and Louisiana prompting new investment for the critically endangered species. We utilized the advancements in sequencing technologies to noninvasively investigate canids on Galveston Island, Texas where red wolf ancestry has been documented. Our study has the potential to benefit the endangered red wolf through the rediscovery of genetic variation and advance a better understanding of how hybridization facilitates adaptation.

  • Remote Acoustic Surveys to Detect Bat Activity along the Kittatinny Ridge of Pennsylvania
  • Aaron Haines; Nicole Notarianni; Julie Zeyzus; John Chenger; Bryan Butler
    Bats are considered keystone species, providing a range of ecosystem services from control of important agricultural pests, to pollination and the spreading of seeds. As nocturnal foragers, bats use species-specific vocalizations in the form of echolocation to locate prey, which can be detected and logged using ultrasonic recording devices. Our objective for this project was to employ remote acoustic devices to record bat vocalizations as an index of bat species activity at natural areas along the Kittatinny Ridge of Pennsylvania. These natural areas included Hawk Mountain Sanctuary, Cowans Gap State Park, Jacobsburg Environmental Education Center, Swatara State Park, Lehigh Gap Nature Center, and Boyd Big Tree Preserve. Each site was surveyed for 26-31 nights within the summer of 2018, the spring of 2019 and the summer of 2019. We detected a total of 9 bat species along the Kittatinny Ridge: Big brown bat (Eptesicus fuscus), Eastern red bat (Lasiurus borealis), Hoary bat (Aeorestes cinereus), Silver-haired bat (Lasionycteris noctivagans), Evening bat (Nycticeius humeralis), Tricolored bat (Perimyotis subflavus), Eastern small-footed bat (Myotis leibii), Little brown bat (Myotis lucifugus) and Northern long-eared bat (Myotis septentrionalis). Boyd Big Tree Preserve was the site that had the greatest diversity of bat activity, while Cowans Gap State Park and Hawk Mountain had the highest recorded species richness based on recorded bat vocalizations. We recommend continued remote acoustic survey efforts along the Kittatinny Ridge and the enactment of conservation measures to protect ecologically important areas that support bat hibernation, roosting, and feeding habitat in order to maintain and increase bat populations.


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