The infamous John Rucker Turtle Dogs have returned to Illinois this spring to and have garnered a lot of media attention. INHS PaCE Lab M.Sc. student Andrea Colton has been there, searching for, collecting data, and marking the turtles. Check out some of the media stories and Andrea’s slideshow:
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
PACE Lab PhD candidate Devin Edmonds participated in the Nachusa Grasslands Science Symposium on April 24th. He presented “An Update on Ornate Box Turtle (Terrapene ornata) Research at Nachusa Grasslands,” work he did for his M.S. studying the state threatened Ornate Box Turtle. Learn more about his research and findings.
PACE Lab graduate students presented at the Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences Symposium, April 17th, 2021.
- Alma C. Schrage presented “Bumble Bee Detection and Occupancy in Northern Illinois” Click for more info
- Devin Edmonds presented “Informing the Mantella cowanii Conservation Action Plan” Click for more info
- Anastasia Rahlin presented “Spatial and temporal drivers of marsh bird occupancy in an urbanized matrix” Click for more info
- Tyler Stewart presented “Distribution and Detection Probability for Kirtland’s Snake (Clonophis kirtlandii)” Click for more info
Eastern Box Turtle growth is influenced by environmental conditions which in turn can be influenced by vegetative structure. Removal of Autumn Olive and Russian Olive at a site in Illinois occurred during a 16 year mark-recapture study allowing us to analyze impacts of removal on the growth of turtles. The data showed that removing the invasive plants may not negatively impact the growth of the turtles and that growth is variable by individual. This is attributed to reptile growth being influenced by more than just environmental conditions, including genetics.
Read the paper: Edmonds, D., A.R. Kuhns, and M.J. Dreslik. 2020. Eastern Box Turtle (Terrapene carolina carolina) growth and the impacts of invasive vegetation removal. Herpetological Conservation and Biology 15(3):588–596.
PACE Lab graduate student Devin Edmonds has been working to save one of the most threatened amphibian species in Madagascar. Listen to an interview he did with Amphibiacast about Mantella frogs, his time working in Madagascar, and his graduate research to conserve the Harlequin Mantella. A new conservation action plan will be released in the coming months.
Listen to the episode
Learn more about Devin’s research
PACE Lab herpetologists Andrea Colton and Emily Sunnucks wrote about their experiences continuing our research into the endangered Blanding’s Turtle in northeastern Illinois.
Read about a day in their life in “Behind the Scenes”
FIELD HERPETOLOGY TECHNIQUES
This course is designed for students considering careers or graduate work studying wild amphibian and reptile populations. We will introduce students to techniques used in monitoring and research of amphibians and reptiles including methods for sampling, capturing, measuring, and marking herpetological populations and communities.
We will focus on the types of data often collected and basic statistical analyses used. The course will be designed around brief lectures followed by field trips to study sites where students will get hands-on experience with field techniques, which include methods to determine distribution and abundance; marking and measuring; movement patterns and home range size. The course will culminate in a three-day field trip to southern Illinois where students will get to employ many of the techniques they have learned in the class.
More information and registration on NRES Course Explorer