New Publication on Spacial Ecology of Softshell Turtles

Read the complete article at https://www.mdpi.com/1424-2818/11/8/124:

Ross, J.P.; Bluett, R.D.; Dreslik, M.J. Movement and Home Range of the Smooth Softshell Turtle (Apalone mutica): Spatial Ecology of a River Specialist. Diversity 2019, 11, 124.

A new paper by INHS PACE Lab herpetologists examined the movement of the state listed Smooth Softshell Turtle, Apalone mutica, a riverine species. Spatial ecological information is necessary to guide the conservation efforts of river turtles. Turtles were radio tracked and found to move on average 142 m per day, but moved more when water was high or streams were larger. In most situations, females moved greater distances than males. This work will guide future studies of riverine species.

UBAP Ornithologist Rahlin receives Kushlan Research Award

Black-crowned Night Heron
Black-crowned Night Heron

UBAP Ornithologist Anastasia Rahlin received the Kushlan Research Award  from the Waterbird Society to assist her research project entitled “Using environmental DNA sampling to determine heron and bittern occupancy in western and northern Michigan: a metagenomics approach.”

This work will improve knowledge of the ranges and population sizes of Black-crowned Night Herons, Yellow-crowned Night Herons, American Bitterns, and Least Bitterns and will inform conservation and management decisions for these rare and declining wetland birds.

 

9 days, 3 conferences, 8 talks, 2 posters

It’s been a busy week of sharing science for members of the PACE lab.

The Chicago Wilderness Wildlife Committee Meeting was held at Lincoln Park Zoo on February 19th:

 

Tara Hohoff presented “The status of Illinois bats five years after confirmation of white-nose syndrome,” using data from her work with the Illinois Bat Conservation Program and the Urban Biotic Assessment Program monitoring for the Illinois Tollway.

 

Joshua Sherwood presented “Assessing the distribution and habitat of Iowa Darters (Etheostoma exile) in Illinois,” with co-authors Andrew Stites, Jeremy Tiemann, and Michael Dreslik. This work changed the way people look for the Iowa Darter.

 

Jason Robinson presented “Patterns of abundance and co-occurrence of bumblebees associated with the Rusty Patched bumblebee.” RPBB is a federally protected species found in northeastern Illinois that has experienced a decline in its range.

 

Jason Ross presented “Demographic influence of head-starting on a Blanding’s Turtle (Emydoidea blandingii) population in DuPage County, Illinois,” with co-author Michael Dreslik, discussing what amount of head-starting is needed to keep this population viable

 

The  2019 Wild Things Conference was held in Rosemont on February 23rd:

Tara Hohoff, representing the Illinois Bat Conservation Program, presented a poster “Year Three of the Illinois Bat Conservation Program.”

Anastasia Rahlin co-presented “Secretive Marsh Birds in the Big City.” with Audubon collaborator Stephanie Beilke on their ongoing work using playback to detect 17 focal wetland bird species in northeast Illinois and southeast Indiana. Soras were the most commonly detected species which was surprising/unexpected since Marsh Wrens and Swamp Sparrows are expected to be more common, and Little Blue Herons and Yellow-headed Blackbirds were the least detected which was pretty expected due to their declines. Future directions include creating species-specific occupancy models to better understand how our focal species respond to urbanization and presence of different wetland types at three different spatial scales.

Josh Sherwood presented “Current status of Bigeye Chub (Hybopsis amblops) in Illinois”.

Sarah Douglass presented “A preliminary analysis of mussel population dynamics in the Kishwaukee River.”

Jeremy Tiemann presented “Pulling the plug – Results of the fish and mussel salvage following the removal of the Danville Dam on the Vermilion River.”

Andy Stites presented a poster “Fecundity estimates of the Gravel Chub Erimystax x-punctatus

Iowa Darter might not be as rare as believed

netting in ditchUBAP 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.

Read the Behind the Scenes: Finding darters where no one thought to look

Read the paper in The Journal of Fish Biology

Hourly Research Assistant needed

A technician is sought to collect demographic data on amphibians collected from drift fence arrays surrounding vernal wetlands in central Illinois and reptiles from cover board arrays in old field and prairie habitats in central and northern Illinois. The technician will work independently and with others to collect data on amphibian and reptile demographics (identify, count, weigh, mark, and measure species). Records data manually and electronically into a database using a tablet. Prepares, under supervision, data summaries and quarterly reports. The technician will be responsible for decontamination of sampling equipment and boots, maintenance of equipment and fences, data entry, data management, tissue collection, amphibian and reptile marking and operate a variety of hand tools, electronics, and mechanical equipment such as 4WD vehicles and Utility Terrain Vehicles.

Work is performed in prairie and wooded environments where there is exposure to extremes of weather and temperature. The work requires moderate to strenuous physical exertion such as long periods of standing, walking over rough, uneven, rocky, steep, and muddy surfaces; bending, crouching, stretching, lifting, and carrying up to 40 lbs. Long hours in the field should be expected and some work on weekends may be required. Duration of the season will be from mid-January through August 2019.

For more information and requirements see: https://blogs.illinois.edu/view/7426/717784

Graduate Research Assistanceship available in Amphibian Ecology and Conservation

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 (dreslik@illinois.edu) with the subject heading, “AmbystomaEcology”.

For more information, email Dr. Michael Dreslik (dreslik@illinois.edu) and/or Dr. John Crawford (joacrawford@lc.edu).

https://blogs.illinois.edu/view/7426/699126

Strong showing from INHS PACE Lab at TSA

The #INHSPACELAB was well represented at the 2018 Turtle Survival Alliance Meetings in Fort Worth Texas, with 6 oral presentations and 3 posters.

Oral Presentations

Baker, S. J., E. J. Kessler, and M. E. Merchant. Antibacterial activities of plasma from the Common (Chelydra serpentina) and Alligator Snapping Turtle (Macrochelys temminckii).

Dreslik, M. J., E. J. Kessler, J. L. Carr, D. B. Ligon, and S. Ballard. Mortality is too damn high: challenges of Alligator Snapping Turtle (Macrochelys temminckii) translocations.

Edmonds, D., R. Nyboer, and M. J. Dreslik. Population dynamics of the Ornate Box Turtle (Terrapene ornata) at two sites in Illinois.

Kessler, E. J., K. T. Ash, S. N. Barratt, E. R. Larson, and M. A. Davis. Assessing the efficacy of environmental DNA to detect Alligator Snapping Turtles (Macrochelys temminckii) at the edge of their range.

Merchant, M. E., E. J. Kessler, and S. J. Baker. Differences in innate immune mechanisms in Common and Alligator Snapping Turtles.

Ross, J. P., D. Thompson, and M. J. Dreslik. Demographic influence of head-starting on a Blanding’s Turtle (Emydoidea blandingii) population in DuPage County, Illinois.

Poster Presentation

Dreslik, M. J., E. J. Kessler, J. L. Carr, D. B. Ligon, and S. Ballard. Post-release growth rates of translocated Alligator Snapping Turtles (Macrochelys temminckii).

Edmonds, D., A. R. Kuhns, and M. J. Dreslik. Growth in a central Illinois Eastern Box Turtle (Terrapene carolina carolina) population.

Feng, C. Y., D. Mauger, J. P. Ross, and M. J. Dreslik. A demographic matrix-model analysis of Spotted Turtles (Clemmys guttata) in Illinois.

 

The Search for Flying Dragons on the Prairie

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.

Observing dragonflies

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.

Eastern Kingbird

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.

Taking environmental data

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.

Teneral Hine’s Emerald Dragonfly

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.

Jim Wiker

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:

  • Eastern Amberwing
  • White-faced Meadowhawk
  • Band-winged Meadowhawk
  • Blue Dasher
  • Green Darner
  • Halloween Pennant
  • Eastern Pondhawk
  • Common Whitetail
  • Twelve-spotted Skimmer
  • Widow Skimmer
  • Hine’s Emerald Dragonfly
  • Black Saddlebags
  • Wandering Glider
  • Prince Baskettail