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

    Wild Things Conference goes virtual

    Asya recording dataThis year, the Wild Things Conference will be virtual and held over two weekends, with live events as well as pre-recorded talks. UBAP ornithologist Asya Rahlin and her collaborators Stephanie Beilke (Audubon Great Lakes), and Libby Keyes (Governors State University) will have a streaming session going during both weekends of the conference.

    Their talk, “A New Bird Banding Station Lands in Chicago” will discuss their project establishing a bird banding station at Big Marsh in the Calumet Region.
    Learn about the Chicago Ornithological Society’s bird banding station, which debuted at Big Marsh in 2020, and what they hope to find from using this new banding station to spur research and outreach in the Calumet region.

    Wild Things 2021: Part 1 will take place February 19-21

    Wild Things 2021: Part 2 will take place February 26-28

    White Cedar project presented at Great Lakes Coastal Wetlands Symposium

    Sara Johnson, of the Molano-Flores lab at the Illinois Natural History Survey, presented a poster and lightning talk about Illinois Tollway funded research on the Effects of Soluble Salt on the Germination of Thuja occidentalis at the Great Lakes Coastal Wetlands Symposium in Maumee Bay, Ohio last week. This conference was the first symposium hosted by Audubon Great Lakes in partnership with the Great Lakes Coastal Assembly and Great Lakes Commission. Sara is a student representative for the North Central Chapter of the Society of Wetland Scientists and acts as Treasurer for the Student Chapter of the society at UIUC.

    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