Conservation Engagement, Communication & Training

Contributed Paper
ROOM: HCCC, Room 16

8:10AM Is It Time for an Additional Approach to Wildlife Education: Better Preparing Graduates By Including the Professional Science Master’s in Our Educational Repertoire
Michael W. Eichholz
In the 1930s, Aldo Leopold first recognized the need to actively manage wildlife, forming one of the first academic programs emphasizing the management of wildlife populations. Since then, universities developed undergraduate and graduate programs that emphasized applied research of wildlife ecology, population dynamics, and habitat management, dramatically increasing our understanding of the information required to properly manage and administer wildlife populations. Increased knowledge has led to a dramatic increase in the number of courses offered in wildlife programs, forcing to students to choose among the many beneficial classes. The Wildlife Society’s Wildlife Biologist Certification Program prioritizes these offerings by identifying course requirements for Certified Wildlife Biologists, but this doesn’t address the fact that, because a Bachelor of Science degree is limited to 120 credit hours at most universities, students are unable to enroll in a number of courses that would be beneficial to their career. Furthermore, because of limitations imposed by the 120 credit-hour B.S. degree, even TWS’ efforts has been less than successful in preparing graduates with a BS for the modern requirements of a conservation/wildlife lands manager in the eyes of many potential employers. With this presentation, I discuss why a new program is necessary and using the new Professional Science Master’s in Wildlife Administration and Management at SIUC as a case study. Professional science Master’s are programs accredited by the National Professional Science Master’s Association. Course requirements are developed by an external advisory board consisting of individuals from agencies or organizations that are likely to hire program graduates. The degree is similar to the MS but requires students to complete an internship instead of a thesis, and in this case, specifically prepares graduates to be conservation/wildlife lands consultants and managers.
8:30AM Seeing between the Sightings: Citizen Science Fills Data Gaps in Hawaiian Monk Seal Reproductive Histories
Stacie Robinson; Tracy Mercer; Albert Harting; Jason Baker; Thea Johanos
How can biologists count animals they can’t find? This problem challenges Hawaiian monk seal biologists who endeavor to monitor the population of this endangered seal. With only about 1400 Hawaiian monk seals (Neomonachus schauinslandi) left, and only about 350 of those in the main islands, every seal counts. Getting accurate data on breeding females and their pups is especially important for calculating reproductive rates and estimating the growth potential in the population. However, we have long suspected that many pups born in remote or unsurveyed areas remain undetected each year. While the main islands may have relatively few seals, they are home to many monk seal enthusiasts, many of whom report seal sightings to a hotline or even volunteer to monitor seals. NOAA’s Hawaiian Monk Seal Research Program has harnessed this citizen science energy to generate quality data to fill in gaps in monk seal reproductive data. Specifically, we plotted the sighting histories of individual adult females to identify patterns in their nursing and molting dates that indicated possible unobserved pupping events. This study included 79 female seal sighted as adults from Hawaii Island to Kauai from 1988 through 2017. The analysis identified 25 likely, and 132 possible, missed pupping events. When these probable, but unobserved pups are used to supplement our tally of known (observed) pups, we are able to refine our estimated reproductive curves for the main islands seal population. After accounting for unobserved pups, reproductive rates were higher in the main Hawaiian Islands than elsewhere in the monk seals’ range. Such advances in our understanding of the monk seal population are possible thanks to the participation of Hawaii’s many dedicated citizen scientists.
8:50AM The Phragmites Adaptive Management Framework (Pamf): Decision Support Meets Citizen Science
Christine E. Dumoulin; Karen Alexander; Maria Sanchez Garces; Daniel Engel; Kurt Kowalski; Clinton T. Moore
Phragmites australis is a widespread invasive grass in North America, infesting 60,000 acres along the Great Lakes coastline alone. Control efforts are expensive, and their effectiveness varies across locations. The Phragmites Adaptive Management Framework (PAMF) is a citizen science initiative that seeks to improve Phragmites control in the Great Lakes basin by tracking management outcomes in a standardized way, and by using this information to provide annual guidance to managers. To translate past outcomes into management guidance, PAMF uses a set of state-transition matrices to characterize what is known about the effectiveness of various management actions. Transition probabilities are initialized with experts’ estimates of management effectiveness and updated annually with participants’ reports on (a) actions undertaken, and (b) the change in Phragmites infestation at each location. We conceptualize this set of matrices, our list of possible actions, and a reward function based on participant-reported costs as a Markov Decision Process, which we solve to find the optimal next action for each infestation. PAMF’s approach is designed to respond to uncertainty in the effectiveness of different control measures, and a basin-wide demand for decision support. Considerable disagreement among experts in the initial elicitation demonstrates the extent of this uncertainty and highlights the need to track management outcomes. Moreover, in PAMF’s pilot year alone, 35 participants representing a range of government and private entities enrolled 92 management units (330 acres) in four U.S. states and one Canadian province. The most frequent reason given for joining was a desire for science-based management guidance. As PAMF reflects on its pilot year and evaluates the first round of model updating, this presentation will cover lessons learned about implementing decision support in a citizen science context, and how expert opinion can be combined with on-the-ground data collection to improve decision making across the Great Lakes basin.
9:10AM Developing Shared Measures for Conservation Communication: A Case Study of the Great Lakes Phragmites Collaborative
Heather Braun; Elaine Ferrier; Kurt Kowalski
Non-native Phragmites australis is an invasive perennial grass found throughout North America that now covers more than 24,000 ha of Great Lakes coastline and costs millions annually to manage across the 8-state, 2-province region. To address the spread of Phragmites in the Great Lakes, researchers at the U.S. Geological Survey – Great Lakes Science Center partnered with the Great Lakes Commission in 2012 to establish the Great Lakes Phragmites Collaborative (GLPC). The GLPC is a regional partnership established to improve coordination and communication among stakeholders and increase the effectiveness and efficiency of Phragmites management and research. The GLPC follows the principles of Collective Impact, a structured form of collaboration. This method engages stakeholders, guides progress, and aligns resources to address this complex regional challenge. With input from steering and advisory committees, the GLPC is pursuing the five conditions of Collective Impact: a common agenda, shared measures, mutually reinforcing activities, continuous communication, and a backbone organization. The development of a joint plan of action for all objectives outlined in the common agenda is challenging, and the GLPC is currently focused on developing shared measures for Phragmites management and communications. This presentation focuses on the development of shared measures to evaluate the GLPC’s progress toward achieving its communications objectives. We will describe the process of identifying metrics, engaging stakeholders, collecting and analyzing data, evaluating results and realigning efforts. Phragmites management is complex and the stakeholders engaged in management are diverse and wide-ranging. The collaborative approach used by the GLPC allows us to leverage existing lines of communication to consolidate outreach efforts, deliver messaging more effectively, and facilitate more efficient collaboration across multi-jurisdictional partners.
9:30AM Strategic Use of Deer Management Cooperatives in Conservation Planning
Hunter P. Pruitt; Mark D. McConnell; Bynum B. Boley; Gino J. D’Angelo; Brian P. Murphy
Deer management cooperatives (DMCs) are a novel approach by private landowners and hunters to voluntarily and collaboratively work ‘to improve the quality of wildlife, habitat, and hunting experiences on their collective acreages’. By aggregating multiple properties under cooperative management, hunters and landowners may facilitate highly connected managed areas within the landscape matrix. The potential increase in cooperative habitat management conducted within DMCs may increase conservation value within the surrounding landscape. Thus, DMCs may provide a method to counter decreasing connectivity between habitat patches, while simultaneously increasing active habitat management to the benefit of species other than white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus). To test the effect of DMCs on landscape connectivity, we compared landscape composition and configuration between 32 DMCs, covering over 190,000 acres across four U.S. states (Georgia, Michigan, Missouri, and New York), and adjacent landscapes using FRAGSTATS® software. We found greater amounts of various ‘wildlife centric’ land cover within DMCs in all four states, and lesser amounts of ‘agriculture centric’ land cover within DMCs in three of four states. We also surveyed DMC members in the previously mentioned states, with the addition of Texas, totaling over 480 responses to better understand factors leading to successful DMC implementation. We found differing motives for DMC formation, conducted importance-performance analysis (IPA) to evaluate aspects of current DMC success or failure, and describe member willingness to engage in habitat management. We conclude that landscape-level differences, triggered by DMC landowner motivations, may provide conservation benefits to other game and non-game cohabitating species not previously described.


Contributed Paper
Location: Huntington Convention Center of Cleveland Date: October 11, 2018 Time: 8:10 am - 9:50 am