Human Dimensions II

Contributed Oral Presentations


Contributed paper sessions will be available on-demand for the duration of the conference, then again at the conclusion of the conference.


Road Ecology in Southern Appalachia: Research to Guide Road Mitigation and Restore Wildlife Connectivity Near Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Elizabeth M. Hillard; Steve Goodman; Ron Sutherland; Jeff Hunter
One of the most important opportunities in the eastern United States for mitigating highway effects on wildlife is in the Pigeon River Gorge (PRG) area where Interstate 40 winds through the mountains of NC and TN, cutting off the tremendous diversity of Great Smoky Mountains National Park from extensive national forest lands to the northeast. This region is home to abundant large-bodied wildlife species such as elk, black bear, and white-tailed deer, in addition to an incredible diversity of smaller species ranging from snakes to bobcats to salamanders. Given the ecological diversity and importance of the region and the severity of elk- and bear- vehicle collisions, conservationists are seeking ways to alleviate roadway barrier effects, restore connectivity, and protect wildlife and human safety. With support from state, federal, and NGO partners, our multifaceted field research approach focuses on a 28-mile section of I-40 where we’ve been working since 2018 to meet the following objectives: (1) evaluate existing levels of roadway permeability by documenting wildlife use of 17 structures (i.e., culverts, bridges, underpasses) with camera traps (n=45), (2) detect areas of relatively high roadside animal activity with camera traps (n=66) placed within the forested right-of-way of a stratified sample of road segments, (3) identify locations with high incidences of wildlife road mortality through weekly driving surveys and data-sharing agreements with state DOTs and other agency partners, and (4) identify and predict elk road crossing locations using fixes from 11 GPS-collared elk and subsequent geospatial analyses. Our research will provide a framework that identifies areas along the interstate where mitigation strategies such as road crossing structures could be best implemented to reduce wildlife vehicle collisions and increase wildlife habitat connectivity. This presentation will focus on the collaborative process of this project as well as our survey methodology and recent findings.
Citizen Science Positively Impacts Public Support for Wildlife Conservation: Evidence from the Nc Candid Critters Project
Justin Beall; Charmaine Pedrozo; Lincoln R. Larson; Stephanie Schuttler; Roland Kays; Caren B. Cooper; Kathryn Stevenson; Ann May
Research shows that public participation in scientific research (i.e., citizen science) can generate valuable data to address ecological research questions. However, while the value of crowdsourced data collection is widely recognized, less is known about the impacts of citizen science on participants themselves. Can engagement in a project impact volunteers’ beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors, potentially leading to enhanced support for wildlife conservation? To explore this possibility, we studied volunteers participating in the NC Candid Critters (NCCC) project, a citizen science effort sponsored by the NC Wildlife Resources Commission and conducted by the NC Museum of Natural Sciences. The project employs camera trapping as a tool to generate scientific data on mammal habitat use while engaging the public in wildlife research. Participants are trained to set camera traps and share the photos in an online database that researchers and other volunteers can view and use to answer scientific questions. Using a quasi-experimental, pre-post survey approach, we compared volunteers who actively engaged in the NCCC project by deploying at least one camera (treatment group, n = 61) and those who registered but did not participate (control group, n = 52). We investigated outcomes including cognitive variables (wildlife value orientations, coexistence), affective variables (emotions towards wildlife, sense of place, and connection to nature), wildlife conservation behavior, and science efficacy. After controlling for demographic differences and accounting for small sample size and multiple comparisons, we found the treatment had significant positive effects on beliefs about coexistence with wildlife and two affective variables: sense of place and connection to nature. NCCC also increased volunteers’ science efficacy, helping them build scientific skills and increase their affinity for science. Results suggest that citizen science projects do more than just generate data; they also enhance volunteers’ connection with nature and support for science and wildlife conservation.
Priorities and Barriers for Undergraduate Students Participating in Field Experiences: Attracting Diverse Talent Requires Adequate Pay and Flexibility
Sara Bombaci; Alex J. Jensen; Laura C. Gigliotti; Stephen Harris; Courtney Marneweck; Mike Muthersbaugh; Blaise Newman; Elizabeth Saldo; Kyle Shute; Anna Siegfried; Keifer Titus; Amanda Williams; Sze Wing Yu; David S. Jachowski
Field experiences and internships provide undergraduate students with valuable exposure to potential career pathways in environmental science, ecology, and conservation. When done well, these high impact learning experiences link college to careers and connect students to valuable professional networks. Despite these benefits and a growing interest among the environmental science community to attract and retain diverse talent, minimal data exists on what factors undergraduate students across diverse demographic groups prioritize when applying to field experiences. We used a nationwide survey of undergraduate students across the US to understand students’ motivations and barriers to participation in field experiences. We found that pay and skill development are among the top factors prioritized by students when considering internships, and those that identified as ethnic or racial minorities, males, non-heterosexuals, disabled, and first-generation students desired higher pay. Other factors such as study species/taxonomic group and location were ranked high by respondents, but were less important than pay and skill development, and employer was ranked as least important among the options provided. Forty-seven percent of students indicated that their level of income has been a barrier in their academic career, and twenty-five percent of respondents indicated there were other factors that affected their willingness to participate in internships, including the timing of the internship, conflicts with work, school, extracurricular, cultural or religious activities, a lack of transportation or housing, conflicts with family care responsibilities, difficult or hostile working conditions, a lack of safe and inclusive spaces, and mental and physical health limitations. By highlighting major priorities and limitations for students participating in field experiences, our findings provide important insights for attracting a diverse workforce to this often critical stage in career advancement.
Recovering America’s Wildlife Act: How to Engage Students
Kathryn L. Burton; Heather A. Mathewson; Jake S. Hill; Forrest Cobb; Richard Heilbrun; Rachel Rommel
Texas made immense progress in regard to promoting Recovering America’s Wildlife Act (HR 3742) from years 2018 to 2020 and has acted as a model for student engagement in wildlife policy. Student involvement, spear-headed by the 2018 James G. Teer Conservation Leadership Institute fellows, has resulted in hundreds of letters sent to US Representatives across Texas and additional cosponsors of the bill. Texas Student Chapters of TWS promoted advancement by increasing education about the proposed bill to their members, professors, and local organizations. Students obtained resources from multiple entities including Texas Alliance for America’s Fish and Wildlife, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, and the Texas Chapter of The Wildlife Society. The Texas Chapter Conservation Affairs RAWA Subcommittee continued these efforts and expanded student engagement throughout 2019 and 2020, providing additional resources to Student Chapter officers and interested members. Students continue to take initiative in creating subcommittees, contacting US Representatives, and communicating with other students and professors across the country. In terms of cosponsors, Texas is currently in the top 3 for number of cosponsors. Students and mentors aim to share these resources and tactics with other states to influence further efforts and to enable and motivate other students to bring these ideas back to their communities.
Student Advocates for Natural Resource Legislation
Jake Hill; Kathryn Burton; Daniel Scognamillo, PhD.; Laken Ganoe, M.S.
Policy has played a pivotal role in the conservation story of North America’s wildlife. Legislation such as the Pittman-Robertson Act, the Lacey Act, “Duck Stamp” Act and many others have been critical in implementing and maintaining the North American Model of Conservation. Wildlife policy and legislation remains as critical to conservation today as it ever has, especially with the rise of monumental pieces of legislation such as Recovering America’s Wildlife Act (H.R. 3742). In an effort to engage TWS student chapter members in wildlife policy and advocacy, we created an ad-hoc committee of the TWS Student Development Working Group entitled “Student Advocates for Natural Resource Legislation” to “ advance the passage of natural resource legislation that is imperative to the conservation of North America’s wildlife by means of an organized student advocacy effort.” The program currently has 12 participating universities consisting of 37 members across North America. This committee seeks to provide 1) a central unified program that will direct student advocacy efforts for legislation such as Recovering America’s Wildlife Act and other pertinent natural resource legislation, 2) communication about opportunities for wildlife students to engage in wildlife policy, legislation, and advocacy, 3) support to students in creating a science-based student voice in wildlife politics that will affect the conservation of North America’s wildlife resources.
Looking Toward Third-Generation Wildlife Action Plans: A Review of Progress in Second-Generation Plans
Vicky Meretsky; Robert L. Fischman
The primary federal grant program supporting nongame wildlife conservation funds only states that developed state wildlife action plans (SWAPs). States must update plans every decade. All completed second-generation plans by 2018. At minimum, SWAPs must identify species in greatest need of conservation (SGCN), provide information on species and habitats, describe threats and conservation actions, provide for adaptive monitoring, review and revision, and engage partners. Round two included a recommendation to address climate-change impacts. We analyzed the second-round SWAPs and our results support recommendations for plan revisions. All states listed SGCN and 23 SWAPs included both threats and actions. Fewer states prioritized threats (22) and actions (19). Regional collaborations enabled most states to employ a standardized set of threats (39) and actions (32), simplifying regional syntheses. Ten states did not identify high-value conservation areas; 39 provided maps of such areas, up from 22 in the first plans. Nineteen states stated only a general intention to manage adaptively; 4 mentioned adaptive management only as a future activity. Six states did not discuss measures of effectiveness for conservation actions; 17 indicated only a future intention to develop measures. Seventeen states included climate change in identifying SGCN and 26 incorporated it into habitat priorities. Forty-one states explicitly noted changing management needs as a result of climate-change impacts. Second-generation SWAPs provide excellent examples for all required elements even as many fall short on some elements. Guidance for third-generation SWAPs should promote these best practices and help states where SWAPs are at their weakest: prioritizing conservation actions and planning for adaptive management. States need realistic priorities and approaches that match severely limited funding. Finally, states are ready for standardized guidance on climate-change elements to facilitate regional efforts, which will ease the individual burden on each state.
Inadvertent Advocacy, What Is It and Why Should We Care?
Michael W. Eichholz
Many individuals have written on the benefits and liabilities of scientists participating as policy advocates. Some perceive policy advocacy as a responsibility of often the most educated of our society while others feel advocacy diminishes our scientific credibility. Additionally, many have highlighted how stealth advocacy, advocacy intentionally disseminated under the pretense of objective science, is inappropriate. Alternatively, inadvertent advocacy has received less attention. Furthermore, some surveys have indicated scientists, in particular those associated with universities, but also those associated with various state and federal agencies are perceived as untrustworthy by the general public relative to individuals from conservation organizations, friends, or acquaintances. For example, a survey of waterfowl hunters conducted in the Mississippi flyway found hunters deemed university scientists to be more trustworthy than only politicians when trustworthiness was compared against 5 other groups. With this presentation, I propose this lack of trust is at least partially due to a perceived bias by scientists that is associated with inadvertent advocacy found in both popular and per reviewed publications. Inadvertent advocacy can be defined as: ”the act of unintentionally expressing ethical judgments or personal policy preferences in a way that is nearly indistinguishable from scientific judgments”. During this presentation I will distinguish between intentional advocacy, stealth advocacy, and inadvertent advocacy, provide examples of inadvertent advocacy from the published literature, and provide suggestions on how to avoid this misstep in your own publications.
Human Policy Influences Roosting Ecology of An Imperiled Prairie Grouse
Evan P. Tanner; Ashley M. Tanner; Samueld D. Fuhlendorf; Dwayne Elmore; Craig A. Davis; John A. Polo
All animals must select sites to rest and may spend a large portion of their lives doing so. Yet until recently, logistical constraints often prohibited researchers from understanding roosting ecology for many species. With the advent of technology such as GPS transmitters, opportunities to obtain information on roosting sites were made easier, though roosting ecology is still largely understudied for many organisms. We sought to identify how landcover, anthropogenic features, and human policy (i.e., presence of the Conservation Reserve Program [CRP]) influenced roost site selection and movement patterns of the lesser prairie-chicken (Tympanuchus pallidicinctus; hereafter “LPC”), a declining species of North American prairie grouse. From March to May 2013-2016, we captured and fitted GPS transmitters to LPCs within Beaver County, Oklahoma and set transmitters to obtain two nocturnal locations per 24-hour period, annually. We used discrete choice models and generalized linear mixed effects models to determine what influenced roost site selection and movements to roosting sites, respectively. Roost sites were closer to CRP, leks, and croplands than would be expected at random. Conversely, roost sites were located further away from shortgrass prairie, roads, and transmission lines than random locations. Based on standardized beta coefficients, the distance to the associated lek (β = -7.20, SE = 0.77) and CRP (β = -4.21, SE = 0.54) were the two most influential variables on determining roost sites. Similarly, individuals traveled shorter distances to get to roost sites when the step length contained a greater percentage of CRP. However, movements to the roost were greater when a roost site was in CRP as opposed to outside CRP, suggesting individuals will travel longer distance to roost in CRP if they were located outside of CRP before sunset. Our results indicate that human policy is critical in influencing roosting ecology of LPCs within this region.
The Role of Road-Crossings, Land Use, and Poisons in Restoring Last Chance Corridors
Laurel EK Serieys; Matthew Rogan; Stephani Matsushima; Chris Wilmers
Landscape connectivity is essential to conserving resilient and abundant wildlife populations in the Anthropocene. Maintaining connectivity in transformed landscapes requires preserving patches of suitable habitat (structural connectivity) and accounting for the behavioral factors that determine movement (functional connectivity). We investigated landscape connectivity for bobcats (Lynx rufus) in a biodiverse system in central California threatened with complete fragmentation by ongoing urban and agricultural sprawl. We monitored 5-min movement of 36 bobcats in two study sites and used step selection functions to assess connectivity and habitat selection. We collected opportunistic mortalities to evaluate the role of edge effects as acute threats. Bobcats exhibited strong selection for natural vegetation evident at the level of a single tree or bush. Bobcats also selected for low-density housing (< 5 houses/ha) while avoiding agricultural areas, eucalyptus, and high-density housing development. Narrow (<25 m wide) riparian strips were critical to connectivity. Bobcats died from vehicles, rat poisons, and associated disease. Unexpectedly, bobcats routinely and successfully crossed the busiest highway in the landscape, likely due to the presence of bridges and culverts, but frequently died when crossing a less busy road with fewer underpasses and a high median barrier. Anticoagulant poisons were pervasive in the population and likely drove bobcat susceptibility to notoedric mange. Maintaining landscape connectivity requires conserving key habitat, mitigating the effects of infrastructure, and sustaining healthy populations that are highly mobile. We describe how our findings have translated into conservation action and demonstrate how robust, rapid data collection can facilitate real-world outcomes.
Changes in Public Opinion of White-Tailed Deer Management Over Time
Angela Holland; T. Brian Eyler; Jacob L. Bowman
Wildlife managers must balance scientific and public perception inputs when creating and implementing wildlife management strategies and policy. Over time these inputs are likely to change. Scientific information develops due to discovery of new information from improved or repeated research and public perceptions vary with available information on topics and overall societal changes. Our objective was to assess how public opinion of different white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) management practices changed over time. We conducted surveys of the general public in Maryland (MD) in 2007 and 2018. We compared responses for five questions or statements from the survey to assess how opinions may have changed. Topics included general opinion of deer hunting, necessity of hunting to maintain healthy deer populations, Sunday deer hunting, the use of sharpshooters to control populations in un-huntable areas, and evaluation of MD Department of Natural Resources (DNR) on conserving the deer population. We used a permutation test of independence to detect differences in responses for each question or statement between years. All questions or statements differed between years except for the evaluation of MD DNR on conserving the deer population. Across all questions or statements the proportion of respondents that were strongly in favor or agreement increased in 2018. Understanding how views change over time and if the public is coming to a consensus on aspects of wildlife management and policy will aid state agencies in making wildlife management decisions.


Location: Virtual Date: Time: -