We’re Hiring an Aquatic Ecologist

The Illinois Natural History Survey Population and Community Ecology Lab is seeking an Aquatic Ecologist to conduct basic and applied research assisting with ongoing surveys for aquatic amphibians and reptiles, freshwater mollusks, and fishes. This position will be based in Champaign, Illinois. See more or apply

 

 

We’re Hiring!

The Illinois Natural History Survey Population and Community Ecology Lab is seeking a Terrestrial Ecologist to conduct basic and applied research assisting with ongoing surveys for terrestrial reptiles, bats, and noctuid moths. This position will be based in Champaign, Illinois. See more or apply

 

Restored meadows can support plenty of prey for Eastern Massasauga

Current PaCE Lab graduate student Zander Perelman had two papers published recently from his M.Sc. research on Eastern Massasaugas in Pennsylvania.

The first paper reported on the prey community at a restored meadow in western Pennsylvania.

Often, restoration projects are focused on removing unwanted vegetation and re-establishing the plant community with the notion that “if you build it, they will come.”

In 2012, habitat restoration began at a well studied Eastern Massasauga site that had deteriorated through forest encroachment and natural succession. Restoration and follow up active management removed the canopy cover and returned it to a grassy meadow.

In 2021, to assess whether restoration efforts had created suitable habitat to supports prey species suitable for EMRs, Perelman and his colleagues conducted surveys of terrestrial vertebrates at the site using drift fences, cover objects, funnel traps, Sherman live traps, and active searches. Over 4 months they caught 9 species of amphibian, 10 species of reptile, and 11 species of mammal, for a total of 656 vertebrates. Their samples included 12 species documented as Eastern Massasauga prey items, many in high numbers.

Based upon their sampling they determined that the vertebrate community in the restored meadow habitat may provide the resident EMR population with a prey base that can support reproduction and sustainable population growth.

The second paper analyzed and formally described combat rituals between two male Eastern Massasaugas in the presence of a radio-implanted female. While tracking a gravid female, a male was observed nearby. Two days later, a second male was observed near the pair and Perelman was able to record 17 minutes of male-male combat.

This video provided the first formal analysis of these behaviors of male Eastern Massasaugas in the wild. The snakes spent much of their time in a raised and engaged position (RE), but also were intertwined for over a minute, attempted to top each other, and tongue flicked. The snake who ultimately copulated with the female appeared to be more persistent and engaged in the combat and perhaps most importantly, was more successful in topping his opponent..

Read the full papers:

Perelman, Zander E. ,  William I. Lutterschmidt, and Howard K. Reinert. 2022. Community Structure of Terrestrial Vertebrates in a Restored Meadow Habitat in Pennsylvania: Assessing the Potential Prey Base for Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnakes. Northeastern Naturalist,Volume 29, Issue 3 (2022): 370–381

Perelman, Zander E. ,  William I. Lutterschmidt, and Howard K. Reinert. 2022. A behavioral analysis of male-male combat in the Eastern Massasauga (Sistrurus catenatus). Herpetological Review: 53(3): 381-384

Contact Zander Perelman for more information

Follow our lab to keep with additional Eastern Massasauga research

Even small urban wetlands can support wetland birds

The landscape surrounding wetlands does not determine use by most wetland birds according to a new study by UBAP Ornithologist Anastasia Rahlin and collaborators Sarah P. Saunders (National Audubon) and Stephanie Beilke (Audubon Great Lakes).

The three researchers have been studying marsh birds in the Chicagoland area for the past 3 years, and their results indicate that even small scale wetland conservation in developed areas can be beneficial to many wetland birds.

Rahlin says, “to me, it’s a hopeful message that yes, restoration does work and is important even in small urban wetlands.”

Read the paper in Ecosphere
U of I News Release
Learn more about this research

Where do those pet frogs come from?

  • red and black frog
    Ranitomeya reticulata: Red-backed Poison Frog

Photos by Devin Edmonds

PACE Lab doctoral student Devin Edmonds investigated the origins of poison frogs in the pet trade, tracking down ethical and illegal sources. The results of his study were published in Herpetological Review.

Read the full story here!

Massasauga hibernacula at Carlyle Lake are genetically distinct units

Genetic analysis shows that the Eastern Massasauga hibernacula at Carlyle Lake are genetically distinct units.

Once found across the northern two-thirds of Illinois, populations of the Eastern Massasauga have declined, with only one known population remaining in Illinois. Our long term studies have found the top four sources of mortality to include automobiles, predation, management related mortality (prescribed burns, mowing, etc), and disease. Our current study indicates that efforts to address these ecological threats may not be enough to save this imperiled species.

The area under what is now known as Carlyle Lake was a floodplain valley known as Boulder Bottoms. The creation of Carlyle Lake in the 1960s flooded this area, separating habitats on the the east and west sides of the Kaskaskia River, pushing wildlife, including the Eastern Massasauga, to the edges between the lake and agricultural fields.  These bands of habitat are separated by the lake, paved roads, agriculture, and urbanization, potentially limiting migration and gene flow between patches.

Our current study looked at 327 genetic samples collected between 1999 and 2015 from individuals at 9 hibernacula across 3 study areas at Carlyle Lake. Study sites separated by up to 5 km had limited gene flow, as did hibernacula separated by a few hundred meters. This restriction of gene flow increases the vulnerability of these already imperiled populations.

Our study indicates that conservation and recovery efforts need to consider genetic rescue efforts in addition to reduction of ecological threats. Such efforts may include translocations and captive rearing to reduce the impacts of inbreeding depression and genetic drift. Even short distance translocations between the different study areas at Carlyle Lake could help restore  gene flow impeded by contemporary human created fragmentation.

Read the paper at PLOS One

Anthonysamy, Whitney J.B., Michael J. Dreslik, Sarah J. Baker, Mark A. Davis, Marlis R. Douglas, Michael E. Douglas, and Christopher A. Phillips. 2022. Limited gene flow and pronounced population genetic structure of Eastern Massasauga (Sistrurus catenatus) in a Midwestern prairie remnant. PLOS ONE: https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0265666

    We’re hiring a Pollinator Ecologist!

    Pollinator Ecologist

    Photo by Jason Robinson

    We are seeking a Senior Scientific Specialist, Pollinator Ecologist to conduct basic and applied research assisting with ongoing surveys for pollinator Species of Greatest Conservation Need (SGCN), focusing on bumblebees and butterflies. This position will be located in Champaign, Illinois. BS required – MS preferred

    To Apply: Please complete your candidate profile at http://jobs.illinois.edu and upload a cover letter, CV/resume, and the contact information for three professional references by March 8, 2022.

     

     

     

    Seeking a PhD student to study Eastern Massasauga

    Massasauga

    We are seeking an individual with a keen interest and desire to develop applied research aimed at conserving the Federally Threatened Eastern Massasauga (Sistrurus catenatus). This position will begin as an hourly field tech to assist with Spring surveys and will transition into a Graduate Research Assistantship beginning in the Summer 2022 Semester.

    Duties and Responsibilities will focus on conserving and managing the Federally Threatened Eastern Massasauga. The successful applicant will have the opportunity to join a long-term study with over 23 years of collected data. Current research topics include, but are not limited to, demography and viability, behavioral ecology of ingress and egress, and predator-prey dynamics.

    This position includes a 50% research assistantship with a tuition waiver through the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences beginning in the Summer 2022 Semester (5/16/2022). The current monthly stipend for this assistantship is $2,221.05 plus tuition waiver. Student must be enrolled to receive the tuition waiver and stipend.

     

    https://blogs.illinois.edu/view/7426/1243015622

    Seasonal herpetology technicians needed

    We are hiring 6 people to help collect data to aid in conservation of Illinois amphibians and reptiles. Technicians will work on two projects, collecting demographic data on the federally threatened Eastern Massasauga and state endangered Blanding’s Turtle.

    Starting salary is $15 per hour; up to 40 hours per week. 3 positions will start on or before March 1, 2022, and 3 positions will start on April 1, 2022. 4 positions will end on October 30, 2022, and 2 will end on November 31, 2022.

    https://blogs.illinois.edu/view/7426/1217813059