UBAP Ichthyologist Andrew Stites wrote a field account for the Illinois News Bureau’s Behind the Scenes to accompany a recent paper by Josh Sherwood, Andrew Stites, Michael Dreslik, and Jeremy Tiemann.
The paper, “Predicting the range of a regionally threatened, benthic fish using species distribution models and field surveys” developed a species distribution model for the state endangered Iowa Darter, after finding it in several new locations. This work was sponsored by the Illinois Tollway.
M.S. Research Position in Amphibian Ecology and Conservation
Drs. Michael Dreslik (Illinois Natural History Survey) and John Crawford (National Great Rivers Research and Education Center) are seeking a graduate student to pursue a Master of Science with the Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences department at the University of Illinois (Urbana-Champaign). This is a funded project that will investigate the population ecology and demography of Jefferson-complex (Ambystoma jeffersonianum and A. platineum) and blue-spotted salamanders (A. laterale) in Illinois. Census techniques will include the use of drift fence arrays, minnow trapping, and dip-netting. There will be opportunities for the student to ask additional ecological questions within the study system. Additional research responsibilities will include: entering and analyzing data; presenting results at scientific meetings and writing scientific reports and manuscripts.
Competitive applicants will have: 1) a B.S. in Biology, Ecology, Wildlife or other related fields; 2) field research experience; 3) a strong work ethic; 4) ability to work well with others; and 5) a valid driver’s license. The successful applicant will be expected to enroll at the University of Illinois for the Spring 2019 semester (November 1 application deadline). Preference will be given to students with prior experience working with amphibians and/or drift fence arrays. To apply, combine cover letter, resume/CV, transcripts, GRE scores, and contact information (e-mail and phone) for three references into a single PDF document and submit by e-mail to Michael Dreslik (firstname.lastname@example.org) with the subject heading, “AmbystomaEcology”.
For more information, email Dr. Michael Dreslik (email@example.com) and/or Dr. John Crawford (firstname.lastname@example.org).
The Hine’s Emerald Dragonfly (Somatochlora hineana), a dark bodied dragonfly with bright green eyes, is a federally endangered species that lives in spring fed marshes and sedge meadows. The biggest threat to the species is habitat loss and currently the only known populations are in Illinois, Michigan, Missouri, and Wisconsin.
Hine’s Emerald Dragonflies spend most of their life as an aquatic nymph. After 2-4 years, and several molts, the nymph climbs up onto vegetation and molts one final time. The wings unfold and the soft body hardens. While some dragonfly species can be found flying throughout the summer and into the fall, the Hine’s flight season is much shorter. Adults emerge from late June through mid-July.
One bright and sunny day at the end of June, I was able to accompany 2 of the state’s top dragonfly experts, Richard Day and Jim Wiker to one of the few remaining populations in Illinois. Equipped with sharp eyes and binoculars, they are part of a study with Erika Bilger and Dr. Mike Dreslik to design a non-invasive, rapid survey protocol for documenting and tracking populations of this endangered insect.
As the day warmed, dragonflies took flight, often followed by a flock of swallows and kingbirds. Being a rusty amateur dragonfly enthusiast, I pointed out the dragonflies I saw flying and had the professionals identify them, excited at how often my silent identification matched theirs. As my confidence grew, I’d point to a dragonfly and offer a hesitant ID.
A few hours into the day, Wiker spotted a black bodied dragonfly with bright green eyes darting around the wetland and called out “Hine’s!” All eyes turned to where he was pointing. This was my first time seeing a Hine’s Emerald and Day’s first time seeing one in Illinois. Truth be told, I had to trust them because it was moving too fast for me to fully process.
We continued our surveys throughout the afternoon, with Wiker and Day spotting additional Hine’s Emeralds and my eyes and camera missing all of them. Even though we saw at least 14 species of dragonfly, I returned home slightly disappointed, but nothing compared to the next day.
Sitting in my office, the phone rang and Mike Dreslik excitedly told me they were looking at a teneral (freshly emerged, not yet hardened) Hine’s Emerald on a cattail! Dragonflies can’t fly until their wings harden, so they were able to stand back and admire this individual.
Determined to actually see a Hine’s, I returned to the site with them for three days the following week. While most people were enjoying barbecues and fireworks, I was in a wet prairie straining to see every insect zipping by me. On my last day, with temperatures in the 90’s, and the clouds promised by the weatherman non-existent, I thought I might have been hallucinating when Wiker began excitedly pointing out a Hine’s patrolling a small area in front of me.
The curious male flew back and forth over his territory, occasionally turning towards me with his bright green eyes. Dragonflies have greater maneuvering ability than a helicopter, quickly changing direction and zipping off to your right only to return from your left. I watched this dragonfly on patrol, he chased off other intruding dragonflies including another Hine’s emerald! We even had a Hine’s Emerald female fly through the site! I continued to watch the male patrol until it was time to move to our next site.
The team completed 126 surveys for Hine’s Emerald Dragonflies over a three week period. Sadly, they only found Hine’s during approximately 19 surveys and many of those surveys had only one individual. Despite the low abundance of Hine’s Emeralds, the site still had a variety of dragonflies, including:
Herpetological Field Assistant Taylor West came across a Western Hognose Snake last week while surveying sand prairies. Given the hot temperatures, she and fellow field assistant Tristan Schramer offered the snake some water. Video of the encounter has been shared over 10,000 times!
UBAP staff Michael J. Dreslik and Jason P. Ross recently presented at the 2017 Symposium on the Conservation and Biology of Tortoises and Freshwater Turtles. The meeting was held in Charleston, South Carolina from August 6th – 9th and has international attendance. At the meeting, they presented a poster on the effectiveness of passage gates along the Asian Carp Barrier and a co-authored oral presentation with a collaborator on the reproduction of Common Snapping Turtles which is in press in the Canadian Journal of Zoology.
Hedrick, A. R., H. M. Klondaris, L. C. Corichi, M. J. Dreslik. J. B. Iverson. The effects of climate on annual variation in reproductive output in Snapping Turtles (Chelydra serpentina). Oral Presentation.
Ross, J. P., C. Y. Feng, and M. J. Dreslik. Evaluating turtle passage gates using remote camera traps and visual encounter surveys. Poster Presentation. View Poster
ARC Lab members Ethan J. Kessler and Michael J. Dreslik received funding from The Nature Conservancy, Indiana to conduct surveying for the Alligator Snapping Turtle (Macrochelys teminckii). The surveys will be a combined effort of trapping and eDNA sampling in the Patoka and White River watersheds. The project also includes some proof-of-concept work for eDNA work at the southern Illinois release site. Survey work will commence this summer through fall.
UBAP staff Dr. Michael J. Dreslik and James R. Wiker received funding from the Forest Preserve District of Will County to survey for the State Threatened Eryngium Stem Borer (Papaipema eryngii). The survey focuses on the sand prairie forest preserves in western Will County. To date, surveys have documented the presence of the moth at two of the three sites surveyed.
On July 18th, an in the field training session on identification and survey methods for the larvae of the species. During the training session Will County staff were provided hands on training and instruction and readily found two individuals.
Following the discovery last year of a nesting Blanding’s Turtle in a suburban backyard, INHS herpetologists have been awarded a contract to survey for the endangered Blanding’s Turtles in Will County Forest Preserves.
In a three-year study, aquatic ecologist Jeremy Tiemann and colleagues at the Illinois Natural History Survey, a division of PRI, relocated 100 mussels upriver during a reconstruction project on the Interstate 90 bridge over the Kishwaukee River in northern Illinois. “Our data suggest that short-distance relocation is a viable tool for mussel conservation,” Tiemann said.