Five year, $6 million contract awarded to UBAP team

The Urban Biotic Assessment Program was awarded $6,226,400 to continue providing technical assistance to the Illinois Tollway Environmental team.

This is the third intergovernmental agreement between the INHS and the Illinois Tollway and will allow the continuation of this mutually beneficial partnership that began in 2005.

The partnership has grown from monitoring Blanding’s Turtles in the Des Plaines River Valley to a multi-disciplinary program. While the key function is to provide the ecological knowledge necessary to comply with state and federal regulations, both organizations share a goal of studying the natural resources of the region to protect them into the future.

Research projects in this new agreement include biotic surveys of each of the Tollway corridors, continuation of longterm monitoring of the Kishwaukee River mussel population, using eDNA to detect cryptic species, Rusty Patched Bumble Bee surveys, and identifying bat roost trees.

Download our report of activities from 2015-2020

PACE Lab researchers awarded two Competitive State Wildlife Grants

Two projects from the INHS PACE Lab were among the 21 projects funded nationally by the 2021 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Competitive State Wildlife Grant (C-SWG) program.

The first cooperative project is with the Iowa and Illinois Department of Natural Resources, allocated at $499,797 for the joint project titled “Blanding’s Turtle Conservation in Iowa and Illinois, 2022 through 2024”.  The project team from the Illinois Natural History Survey (INHS) and National Great Rivers Research and Education Center (NGREEC) comprises Ethan J. Kessler, Michael J.  Dreslik, Andrew R. Kuhns, and John A. Crawford. The team was awarded $249,449 for their portion of the project, “Population Assessment and Space Use in a Kankakee Sands Region Blanding’s Turtle Population.” While much work has been done on Blanding’s Turtle populations in the Chicagoland region, this project focuses on lesser-known populations in the Kankakee Sands Conservation Opportunity Area.

The grant will facilitate an intensive capture-mark-recapture study to determine population size and begin to collect demographic data. A subset of turtles will be tracked using radio telemetry and GPS trackers to monitor survival and determine space and habitat use. The data is necessary to determine the amount and extent of suitable habitat available on the landscape and address causes of mortality for this population. The work will build on previous research on Blanding’s Turtles in Illinois and further inform conservation planning.

musselsThe second cooperative project is with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources allocated at $247,892 for the joint project titled, “Regional Assessment of Widespread Mussel Declines: a Multistep Approach to Examine Potential Causes.” The project team from the INHS comprises Sarah A. Douglass and Alison P. Stodola while INHS alum Bernard Sietman will lead Minnesota’s portion. The INHS team was awarded $113,364 for their portion of the project. Freshwater mussels, an ecologically important component of river ecosystems, are experiencing widespread declines. With the award, Douglass and Stodola will investigate potential causes for these declines with the goal of informing conservation guidelines and recovery planning. Additionally, this study is an expansion of a largescale, cooperative project spearheaded by Dr. Wendell Haag, US Forest Service Research Fisheries Biologist, and American Rivers to examine causes of freshwater mussel declines across North America.

Researchers will assess pairs of rivers with similar historic mussel assemblages, comparing a river with relatively intact mussel assemblages and a river with a degraded assemblage. They will develop health metrics and assess habitat characteristics to identify potential causal factors of decline. Juvenile mussels will be propagated and used to assess health in response to potential causes of decline. Another part of the project will use eDNA and targeted sampling to update knowledge of Salamander Mussel populations in Illinois and Minnesota. The research will build on a pilot project previously undertaken by Douglass to use eDNA to detect the critically imperiled species and its host, the Mudpuppy salamander.

In granting these awards, USFWS recognizes the necessity of these two projects to further the goals of the Illinois Wildlife Action Plan to conserve imperiled species and their habitats.

 

INHS PACE Lab on Will County’s “The Buzz”

INHS PACE Lab hired their furry four-legged turtle sniffers again this year to help at sites across Illinois.  Their skill at locating endangered Ornate Box Turtles was featured on the latest episode of The Forest Preserve District of Will County’s “The Buzz”

2021 NRES Symposium

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

New paper on habitat restoration impacts on box turtles

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.

Graduate student Alma Schrage wins scholarship

PACE Lab graduate student Alma Schrage was selected to receive this year’s Mary Jane Neer Scholarship. Alma is a graduate student in the Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences department studying bumblebees including the federally endangered Rusty-patched Bumblebee.

Earlier this year, Alma won 2nd place for a student poster at the Midwest Fish and Wildlife Conference for her poster:

“Foraging and nesting habitat of Bombus community in documented B. affinis site in northern Illinois”

eDNA used to detect Alligator Snapping Turtles

PACE Lab member Ethan Kessler’s paper on using eDNA to detect Alligator Snapping Turtles was covered by the University of Illinois Department of ACES.

See complete story at ACES News

The paper “Radiotelemetry reveals effects of upstream biomass and UV exposure on environmental DNA occupancy and detection for a large freshwater turtle,” is available in Environmental DNA