Human Dimensions


Shoot, Sell, Buy: Implications of the Commodification of Bird Bands for Migratory Bird Conservation and Management
Olivia Wolford, Jennifer Malpass

 The USGS Bird Banding Laboratory (BBL) provides the central repository for bird banding and encounter data used to inform annual game bird hunting regulations in North America. Metal bird bands have become a prized trophy among many waterfowl hunters, leading to the proliferation of both genuine and counterfeit metal bird bands on e-marketplaces. Markets for bird bands can potentially complicate the integrity of the data reported to the BBL when individuals misrepresent how they acquired the band or submit data for bands that were never used on live, wild birds. Through an online survey and interviews, we explored the phenomenon of bands as a prized trophy and commodity. Waterfowl hunters purchasing bands primarily fell into two categories: “Collectors,” who purchase bands that are considered to have a unique quality; and “Signalers,” who purchase contemporary bands to display as if they had hunted the banded birds themselves. Interview participants indicated waterfowl hunting media has shifted towards an emphasis on acquiring banded birds and having a large volume of kills, despite these not being typical hunting experiences. The normalization of these depictions within hunting culture can contribute to less-experienced hunters feeling pressure to legitimize themselves, leading to the purchase of bands for self-display. This group of “Signalers” are potentially the largest challenge to accurate encounter reports. Most band sellers identify as “Collectors” and engage in trading and sales to maintain their collections. Prominent online band sellers tend to be in contact with each other, and acknowledge increasing competition. As hunting media experiences generational shifts, utilizing the networks of sellers, Collectors, and Signalers to maintain a culture of respect for accurate reporting will continue to be a vital consideration; accurate data is essential to maintain the integrity of the BBL’s long-term dataset to support science-based decision making for game bird conservation and management.

Can Prescribed Fire Be a Remedy for Environmental Contamination of Baylisascaris procyonis Eggs?
Scott Henke, David Wester, Sandra Rideout-Hanzak, Clayton Hilton

Baylisascaris procyonis is a zoonotic parasite that can cause serious health issues in its intermediate hosts.  Eggs of the parasite are shed in the feces of raccoons (Procyon lotor), the definitive host, and can remain viable in the environment for years.  Temperatures above 49oC are the LD50 for B. procyonis.  Our objective was to determine the effect of prescribed fire as a lethal control of B. procyonis eggs.  Aliquots of 1000 viable B. procyonis eggs were placed on the soil surface and at a depth of 2 cm below the surface within the burn area and at 0, 0.7, 1.2, and 1.8 m from the fire’s edge of 10 m x 10 m grass plots consisting of approximately 2,000 kg/ha and 4,000 kg/ha fuel load, and within a 1 m2 circle of bare ground on the leading edge, center of circle, and trailing edge of the fire of similar plots.  Prescribed fire killed B. procyonis eggs on the soil surface up to 0.7 m from the fire’s edge at fuel loads of 4,000 kg/ha, but was ineffective at depths of 2 cm.  Fuel loads of 2,000 kg/ha killed only 50% of B. procyonis eggs on the soil surface at the fire’s edge, but was not effective killing eggs at greater distances or at soil depths.  Prescribed fire can be used to reduce the quantity of B. procyonis eggs on the soil surface within an environment, but will not be effective in eradicating the parasite eggs.

Chronobiological Patterns of White-Tailed Deer in Suburban Maryland: Implications for Deer Population Management, Human-Deer Conflict, and Zoonotic Disease Mitigation
Patrick Roden-Reynolds, Jennifer Mullinax, Cody Kent, Andrew Li

Understanding the ecology of the often highly dense white-tailed deer populations in urban and suburban landscapes is important for mitigating a variety of conflicts that arise with dense human populations. Past research has highlighted important findings of white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) in suburban areas such as small home ranges, high site fidelity, or use of residential areas when compared to rural counterparts, but these studies often lack rigorous quantification of movement and activity data. We collared white-tailed deer in Howard County, Maryland. High-resolution GPS data enabled us to create autocorrelated kernel density home ranges and model deer speed, rates of activity, and proximity to residential buildings over time. Home ranges encompassed approximately 35% residential land and an average of 71.3 and 129 residential properties were found within female and male core ranges, respectively. Sex, time of day, and day of the year all influenced deer speed, activity, and proximity to residences. Deer moved into residential areas nightly, especially in winter, and exhibited bouts of increased speed and activity shortly after sunrise and sunset, though with distinctive seasonal changes. We discuss how variation in home ranges and movement influence population management success based on periods of increased diurnal activity and explore year-round periods of increased risk of deer transporting ticks to residential areas. These findings focus our broad understanding of deer movements in suburban landscapes to improve population management, limit human wildlife conflict, and manage against the spread of ticks and tick-borne disease in residential areas.

Multimedia Is the Message: Revisiting Communication Theories for Wildlife Conservation and Biodiversity Action
Bill Dowie, Emily Thoroski, Rick Baydack

Communication and collaboration among humans are critical for wildlife conservation and biodiversity action as the planet is currently in one of the greatest extinction crises in world history. Wildlife biologists, ecologists, designers, and policy-makers not only need to work in an interdisciplinary fashion, but also need to take advantage of multimedia approaches to help reach, educate, and change behaviour of the general public. Further, given the seemingly insurmountable challenges when ecosystem management and social constructs collide, we contend that a confluence of conservation marketing, motivation theory, and behavioural science is needed to create a robust frame to secure sustainable and regenerative solutions that are needed in our ever-changing world. Canadian communication theorist, Marshall McLuhan, coined the phrase, “the medium is the message” suggesting that the communication medium used will impact the effectiveness of how the audience perceives that message and ultimately act on a decision.  An effective communication strategy will recognize that psycho-demographics of a target audience (ages, cultures, education levels, income) learn differently through various communication mediums (written text, audio-visual, experiential).  Having a diversity of mediums within a social marketing toolbox is key. Indisputably, music as a medium is a powerful communicative tool:  it can contain explicit education messages within the lyrics, cause emotional (biochemical) changes through powerful melody, and is a very shareable medium by way of modern streaming platforms, reaching billions of people.  Past examples demonstrate that music has been used effectively for social and climate justice awareness, fundraising, and peaceful demonstrations. Reaching, educating, and changing the behaviour of the general public is no easy task.  However, using seemingly disparate methods from disciplines outside of the natural sciences is how complex problems are solved.  Therefore scientists, both academic and practitioner, not only need to participate in more aggressive public outreach, but they must embrace non-traditional communication approaches.

To Fill in the Gaps: Improved Understanding of Drivers of Biodiversity Patterns in South Asian Cities
Marufa Sultana, Ilse Storch

Urban ecological understanding has advanced in the Western world but remained poor in the Global South cities. We focused on South Asia, a rapidly urbanising region, as a model of the less concentrated geographic area in urban ecology. Here, we considered bird diversity as a proxy to biodiversity and compiled bird richness data of 57 urban locations distributed across 11 cities from existing literature. With this data, we modelled bird richness with different urban environmental factors at multiple spatial scales. This comparative assessment may not provide an in-depth understanding of city-specific consequences. We thus also assessed drivers of bird diversity patterns in a single city, Dhaka, which is one of the rapidly urbanising megacities of South Asia. Here, we conducted a bird survey across the city. Using this data, we modelled the causal relationship of bird diversity with urban land cover and socioeconomic factors at the surveyed locations. Our results of the comparative study showed that generally, the interaction of imperviousness and habitat heterogeneity at any spatial scale extent drives biodiversity patterns at the urban location within South Asian cities. Besides, our single city case analysis revealed that poverty ratio directly and indirectly mediated by imperviousness affect bird diversity in South Asian tropical megacities. Our assessment fills in the gap in urban ecological understanding and provides the basis for biodiversity conservation in South Asian cities.

The Tangled Web We Weave: How Human Recreation Alters Competition and Predator-Prey Dynamics – SRIP
Eli Wildey, Nate Bickford, Matthew Rustand
Outdoor recreation extends human disturbance on landscapes beyond built environments but is often thought to be compatible with wildlife conservation. Human capability as a highly efficient predator creates a strong selective force on wildlife analogous to natural predation risk regardless of trophic level. As a chronic response to prolonged human disturbance, shifts in the spatiotemporal niche has been noted across taxa. How these changes in distribution cascade across trophic levels to impact community level processes through competition and predator-prey dynamics represents an important step in understanding, and mitigating the impact of our everyday presence on the ecosystems we depend on. Here we present results of the spatiotemporal shifts exhibited by a wildlife community by comparing animal movement between a control area and a high-use trail network. Location data were analyzed for a wildlife community composed of mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus), Merriam’s turkey (Meleagris gallopavo), mountain cottontail (Sylvilagus nutallii), gray fox (Urocyon cinereoargentus), red fox (Vulpes vulpes), bobcat (Lynx rufus) and coyote (Canis latrans). Activity patterns will be calculated using mean movement rate across the day, and habitat selection for prey species will be modelled using step selection functions (SSFs). Predator habitat selection will be calculated from foraging specific behavior as determined by Hidden Markov movement models and analyzed using resource selection functions (RSFs). It is predicted that predator species shift activity patterns nocturnally to adapt to human activities on the trail network. Mule deer and cottontails also shift activity patterns while turkeys spatially displace from human activity.
Amphibian Pet Trade Stakeholders’ Opinions, Knowledge, and Behaviors Surrounding Disease Spread – SRIP
Gia Haddock, Alexa Warwick
Amphibians face a variety of threats causing population decline including the newly identified chytrid fungus, Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans (Bsal). This pathogen caused several massive salamander mortality events in Europe. Though currently not found in North America, the most likely impending pathway of intercontinental spread is through the amphibian pet trade. The current lack of documentation and regulation in this industry may allow infected amphibians to unknowingly be transported across large geographic areas. Here, we examine amphibian pet trade stakeholders’ current knowledge of Bsal, current trade and biosecurity behaviors, and opinions on potential management practices. Participants were recruited primarily online to complete semi-structured interviews over the phone. Stakeholder recruits included amphibian pet owners, amphibian pet store owners, breeders/distributors, amphibian veterinarians, and amphibian rescues. Qualitative content analysis is currently underway. This work seeks to engage stakeholders in developing safe management strategies and inform decision-makers to increase the likelihood of a successful implementation. Furthermore, the results will aid in the development of a large-scale survey distributed through the USGS Bsal Task Force and its partners.
A Collaborative Organizational Network Analysis of the Cooperative Research Units Program – SRIP
Sarah Vogel, Cynthia Loftin, Joseph Zydlewski
The U.S. Geological Survey’s Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Units Program (CRU) establishes a relationship among the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), Wildlife Management Institute (WMI), a host university, and state resource agencies. The program’s mission is to provide education and technical assistance through graduate research in order to address the information needs of its members. Originating in 1935, it currently consists of 40 units in 38 states. Staff within the CRU have conducted decades worth of research while mentoring graduate students and providing technical assistance to cooperators on wildlife management issues. While the program’s mission has remained largely unchanged, the issues challenging fish and wildlife conservation have changed. Landscapes are increasingly fragmented, individuals are generally less attracted to outdoor activities, and wildlife use has shifted towards non-consumptive uses. This raises questions about the CRU’s support and sustainability into the future.  Our study examines the CRU model that integrates graduate education in research and technical assistance to address Cooperator information needs, to explore the relevance of the model in the current context of natural resource conservation. We are evaluating the program’s structure and socio-technical connectivity to identify motivations, relationships, and layered networks among members and their relationships to outcomes through an Organizational Network Analysis and Dynamic Network Analysis. Our investigation will include simulations informed by statistical analysis of the social networks and their evolutions and adaptations, to predict conditions under which outcomes may change. The goal is to elucidate how organizational factors may contribute to each cooperator network, how the networks have evolved, and how factors may influence future conditions of individual units and the CRU Program in general.
Incorporating Structured Decision Making and Alternative Sources of Data into Management of White-Tailed Deer in Georgia – SRIP
Amanda Van Buskirk, B. Bynumq Boley, Charlie Killmaster, Kristina Johannsen, Clinton Moore, Gino D’Angelo
Management of white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) by state wildlife agencies is a complex process that involves balancing scientific objectives related to deer populations and social objectives from multiple, often competing stakeholder groups. Structured decision-making (SDM) is a formal process that decomposes a decision into parts that are individually easy to address. This framework provides a tool for decision-makers that allows them to reach optimal solutions to complex, multi-objective problems that are often present in wildlife management. However, before SDM can be applied to specific wildlife management issues, several components of the process need to be assessed. The objective of our research is to develop a model SDM framework for white-tailed deer management that integrates the science of the problem (models of deer population dynamics) with stakeholder preferences. We will use data from deer harvested by hunters in the state of Georgia to estimate statewide deer harvest and hunter reporting-rate variability, which are two common inputs for population models that estimate species abundance. In addition, we will evaluate opinions, attitudes, and satisfaction of hunters and deer biologists in Georgia regarding deer management practices and hunting regulations and assess their support for management decisions. We will also explore state wildlife agencies’ use of citizen science for management of game species and evaluate opportunities for the inclusion of citizen science within the SDM framework. This research will provide managers with a template for implementing SDM to help them solve complex deer management problems and offer case study examples of multiple components of the SDM process.
Using System Dynamics Modeling to Inform Sustainable Wild Horse and Burro Management in the United States – SRIP
Erica Rieder
Though not native to the United States, wild horses and burros are an icon of American culture and identity. In response to the exploitation of wild horses and burros (WHBs), Congress passed the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act in 1971 to provide for the protection and management of WHBs on public lands in the United States. Since then, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has managed WHBs across 177 Herd Management Areas (27 million acres). Without many natural predators, wild horse populations grow quickly and compete with native species. To maintain the health of the landscape, BLM has set a target carrying capacity for WHBs (the Appropriate Management Level or AML). To control the WHB population  BLM has, primarily, one tool in its toolbox; physically removing WHBs. Removed animals are kept in corrals and put up for adoption or sent to long term pastures where they live out the rest of their lives.  As of 2020, there was an estimated 95,114 WHBs on BLM management areas (3.5 times target). At the same time, around 70% of BLM’s budget maintains 85,000 animals in corrals and long range pastures; leaving a limited budget for critical management needs. BLM has few tools to manage WHBs and there is frequent conflict with the public over management activities.  System dynamics modeling provides an opportunity to better understand these dynamics holistically and to test management alternatives to build a sustainable WHB program. This research is modeling the (1) dynamics behind BLM’s ability to remove horses and manage WHBs off range, (2) evaluate possibilities for BLM to remove enough horses to create a sustainable WHB program, and (3) explore potential impacts of available fertility control options on long-term population management. 
Hunting on the Border: Impacts of Hunter Activity at a Species and Community Level – SRIP
Grace Bullington, Brent Patterson, Joseph M. Northrup
White-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) are one of the most abundant large mammals in North America and are a popular game species. The primary tool for population management of deer is hunting. However, in the absence of abundant natural predators, deer have developed hunter-specific predator avoidance strategies. For example, during the hunting season, deer shift their activity patterns to avoid diurnal-only hunting or move to areas where hunting is restricted (e.g. game preserves, national parks, private properties). Such shifts have led to many of these refuges having unsustainable deer densities, with concomitant effects on community dynamics. Elucidating the potential effects of variation in harvest pressure on deer densities, activity and ultimately community dynamics is critical for wildlife management. Our first objective is to use camera traps to build a spatial count model to estimate the density of an unmarked deer population within a hunted and protected area. Our second objective is to use the same camera grid to quantify specific hunter avoidance strategies by this deer population by assessing changes in occupancy and behavior throughout the year. Our final objective is to use a multi-species occupancy model to estimate the impact of hunting on species richness and occupancy at the community level. Data collection for this project began February 8th 2021, with 100 camera traps deployed in a 16 km2 study site near Apsley, Ontario. This study site includes 6 km2 of hunted land and 10 km2 of a protected game preserve. Anticipated results by October 2021 include complete analysis of the spring survey period and partial analysis of the summer survey period.
A Case Study to Better Inform Land Managers: Using Floristic Data to Assess Fluctuations in Species Composition Under Different Landscape Contexts – SRIP
Melissa Duda, Sophie Taddeo
Many restoration projects utilize undisturbed reference sites as a basis to set restoration goals. However, plant composition and diversity in reference sites may change over time, particularly in human-dominated landscapes. Drivers of change include extreme weather events, invasive species, native plant extirpation, landscape transformations, and most importantly, human-induced climate change. Ecosystem alterations, exacerbated by climate change, have increasingly resulted in novel biotic assemblages. Currently, land managers lack explicit guidelines on how often, and under which circumstances, they should update their reference conditions to provide realistic restoration targets. To fill this knowledge gap, the objective of this study is to identify the conditions that impact the community structure and dynamics of midwestern prairie reference sites. The two hypotheses that will be evaluated are: (1) Turnover in plant composition and diversity will be more rapid in prairies that are located closer to urban centers than prairies located in rural areas (2) The sites that experience the most species turnover will have less diversity and a larger percent of invasive species. Floristic data survey collected from the Illinois Natural History Survey Critical Trends Assessment Program (CTAP), which has recorded data for over 180 prairie sites every five years since 1997, will be used to compare the degree of species turnover (i.e., change in species composition and diversity) across prairie sites varying in a landscape context. Examining how species composition and diversity are impacted by landscape uses and transformation is critical to setting realistic restoration targets in prairies. Ultimately, this research will benefit institutions invested in combating global biodiversity loss and climate change. Land managers will be able to set restored prairies on a trajectory towards a state that has more species diversity and richness; making the restored sites more resilient to climate change.
Implications of a New Bear-Hound Hunt on Black Bears in North Georgia – SRIP
Catherine H. Georgia, Adam Hammond, Michael J. Chamberlain, Michel Kohl
Hunting black bears with hounds is a long-standing tradition in the southeastern United States and influences harvest and population management. However, limited information exists about the impact of hound-hunting on black bear behavior, space-use, or demography. Although hound hunting opportunities exist in the mountains of neighboring states, Georgia had previously only permitted use of hounds in southern Georgia. Beginning in 2019, a 9-day bear-hound hunt was implemented in north Georgia to address increasing interest in hound-bear hunting opportunities in the mountains.  To address the impact of this novel hunt on black bears, we deployed 24 GPS collars on black bears across 3 wildlife management areas (WMAs) in north Georgia; two WMAs hosting the 9-day hunt, and one WMA where hound hunting is not permitted a control. We estimated differences in home range size before, during, and after the hunt. Further, to identify and understand the impacts of hound chases on bears, we deployed 18 collars on hounds during 2019 and 2020. We observed increased home range size by 42% of bears from the pre-hunt to hunt period, and 46% of bear home ranges decreased in size from the hunt to post-hunt period. Based on bear-hound GPS data, we identified 28 bear-hound interactions. Bears suffered a 60% mortality rate if involved in these direct bear-hound interactions. By further exploring these data, we can better understand how interactions between hounds and bears may influence landscape-scale space use by bears, and potentially human-bear conflicts. Moreover, our results will address questions regarding the efficiency and effects, if any, of bear-hound hunting as a harvest management tool.
Evaluating Pacific Marten Occupancy and Detection Probability in Relation to Infrastructure and Biotic Factors in the Southern Cascade Mountains – SRIP
Deborah Hill, Katie Moriarty, Brenda McComb, Joan Hagar
Humans participating in outdoor recreation can have positive benefits for conservation through increased appreciation of nature. However, the infrastructure in place for outdoor recreation can have negative effects on wildlife through increased access allowing exploitation, disturbance, habitat modification, and pollution. Roads, trails, campgrounds, and buildings may influence carnivore species occupancy by promoting negative (e.g., road mortality) or positive (supplemental feeding) impacts. Pacific marten (Martes caurina) are small carnivores that may be disproportionately impacted by human infrastructure due to their strong avoidance of openings, even as narrow as roads, but have affinity to ski areas and campgrounds with food resources (directly or through increased small mammals). National Parks and National Forests in the Cascade Mountains provide relatively large tracts of predicted habitat for Pacific marten, nonetheless, there has been no evaluation of infrastructure which could promote or reduce future populations. Our objectives were to evaluate marten distribution and response to human infrastructure (roads, buildings, campgrounds, trails) while accounting for biotic factors (e.g., predicted habitat, canopy cover). We will use detection/non-detection data from remote cameras to quantify predicted spatial occupancy and probability of detection. We clustered 2-4 baited and lured remote cameras within sample units separated by >3km (n = 161 sample units, 553 cameras) in Crater Lake and Lassen Volcanic National Parks as well as adjacent National Forests. Our naïve evaluation suggested 73% of sample units had at least 1 camera with a marten detection, and 21% of trail cameras had a marten detection. Our evaluation of marten occupancy in relation to human infrastructure may inform managers of opportunities to minimize negative impacts to this species.
The Implications of COVID-19 on Wildlife – SRIP
Benjamin Carr, Michel Kohl, Kaitlin Goode
Urbanization is occurring at an exponential rate across the globe. Animal behavior is known to differ between urban and rural environments due to variations in human population density. As such, human presence generally correlates with wildlife activity levels on the landscape. In the wake of COVID-19, there was a significant behavioral shift seen in both humans and wildlife. Government-mandated shutdowns and shifts in individual behaviors led to decreased human presence and activity in urbanized areas. Conversely, increased interest in outdoor recreational activities, including hunting, led to an increased human presence and activity in rural areas. We hypothesize that COVID-19 directly impacts the diurnal activity of wildlife due to human behavioral shifts. More specifically, we expect to see an increase in day-time urban wildlife activity and a decrease in day-time rural wildlife activity. We will quantify this response using video recordings from remote game cameras (n = 60) distributed across an urban (Atlanta, GA metroplex) to rural gradient in northern Georgia. Cameras were baited to attract a diversity of wildlife including meso-carnivores, so they provide a unique opportunity to evaluate behavioral responses by a suite of wildlife species. Wildlife activity will be measured in response to county level differences in human activity, measured by Google and Georgia Wildlife Resources Division turkey harvest data. This study provides a unique opportunity to understand the initial impacts of COVID-19 on wildlife.

Location: Virtual Date: November 4, 2021 Time: 11:00 am - 12:00 pm