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Capstone Projects

Fifty-Year Mary River Turtle (Elusor macrurus) Management Plan for Eastern Australia

Thu, 04/30/2020 - 12:15
Abstract: Mary River turtles (Elusor macrurus) are environmental specialists and are endemic to the Mary River system in Queensland, Australia. They are highly dependent on cloacal respiration, and are capable of spending up to 72 hours underwater in a single dive. Mary River turtles are a long-lived species, typically not reaching sexual maturity until 30 years of age. Conservation issues for this species include the following: exploitation of nests for the pet trade, loss of habitat connectivity due to the creation of dams, predation of nests by mesopredators, and nest mortality due to inundation of nests by floodwaters. Climate change poses additional risks towards this species due to rising temperatures and increased duration of droughts. There are two goals for this management plan, they include: (1) to restore the Mary River turtle population in Queensland, Australia to sustainable levels, and (2) to restore connectivity of the Mary River system in Queensland, Australia to promote the interaction of the local people with Mary River turtles. In order to reach these goals, multiple objectives have been established, they include: (1a) increase Mary River turtle nest survival by 50% in the Tiaro region of Queensland, Australia over the next 10 years, (2a) increase the number of nesting female Mary River turtles to 50% of the female population over the next 25 years, (1b) increase connectivity of Mary River turtle habitat by 50% over the next 50 years, (2b) increase public support for Mary River turtle conservation by 50% over the next 10 years. Objective 1a will be reached by protecting existing Mary River turtle nesting sites from mesopredator predation. Objective 2a will promote the creation of suitable nesting habitat to attract additional female turtles to nest in a protected area. To satisfy goal 2, objective 1b will be reached by establishing a suitable flow regime for 50% of the dams along the Mary River, which will reduce hypoxic environments to support Mary River turtles. Objective 2b will be reached by educating the public about Mary River turtles, as well as involving the public with the implementation of the management plan through volunteer positions. By fulfilling the goals set forth in this management plan, it will allow for the formation of a long-term/successful Mary River turtle management plan.
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Major: Fisheries and Wildlife Science
Year: 2020
File Attachments: Sojka 2020.04.30.docx
Authors: John Sojka

Twenty-year Long-tailed duck (Clangula hyemalis) Management Plan for Eastern North America

Thu, 04/30/2020 - 11:44
Abstract: Long-tailed ducks (Clangula hyemalis) are a migratory sea duck with a circumpolar distribution. Since they are an arctic species and breed outside of current breeding bird surveys there is little data for their demographics and no data specific to eastern North America (Atlantic Flyway and Mississippi Flyway). Over the last 30 years their population has declined by 50%; this causes concern that the species could be at risk of becoming endangered if the trend in population numbers continues. This management plans goal is to increase and stabilize long-tailed ducks population numbers over the next 20 years. This will be accomplished by decreasing the bycatch of long-tailed ducks in commercial gillnet fisheries by 10% and reducing the total number harvested through hunting per year by 10%. To better monitor this progress a breeding bird survey will be established in their eastern North American breeding area. Surveys and alternative fishing methods will be introduced to commercial gillnet fisheries to raise awareness about bycatch of long-tailed ducks and seabirds in general. By the end of this 20 year management plan, it is expected that long-tailed ducks, along with seabirds and other arctic bird species breeding outside of current breeding bird surveys, will benefit from these actions.
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Major: Fisheries and Wildlife Science
Year: 2020
Authors: Megan Lazarus

Sun Bear (Helarctos malayanus) 20-year Management Plan for Lao People’s Democratic Republic

Tue, 04/28/2020 - 15:54
Abstract: Sun bears (Helarctos malayanus) are the smallest member of the Ursidae family and are native to large, undisturbed dipterocarp tropical forests in southeast Asia. They are omnivorous with a diet consisting primarily of fruit and insects. Sun bears are solitary and historically avoid areas with a strong human presence. These preferred areas are decreasing in abundance in Lao People’s Democratic Republic (PDR) as the nation’s economy grows with its timber industry, causing widespread deforestation. The lack of available forests for sun bears inhibits the ability of juveniles to disperse from their mother’s dens, decreasing their survivorship. Deforestation has also forced sun bears to live in closer proximity to humans, especially in agricultural areas. This causes interactions in the form of crop raiding and property damage, bringing economic harm to farmers in Lao PDR. These negative interactions have also caused farmers in Lao PDR to have a negative opinion of sun bears on their farms, increasing adult sun bear mortality from these interactions. Sun bear populations in Lao PDR are projected to decline by 17% over the next 20 years if no management action is taken. This management plan seeks to stabilize the sun bear population in Lao PDR. As habitat availability is declining, increasing the population is not feasible. The objectives to attain a stable population are to increase the survivorship of sun bears during their mother-dependency period and of the adult stage class. This includes increasing cub survivorship by 5%, yearlings by 4%, and juveniles by 1.5% in 20 years and adults by 1% in 10 years. To increase survivorship of mother-dependent sun bears, planning in forestry operations will be implemented to decrease disturbance levels of these operations and increase their efficiency. Reforestation through plantations will also be initiated in previously deforested areas. Finally, all bear bile extraction farms will be located and shut down to prevent poaching. This plan also looks to improve the opinions of farmers towards sun bears. Objectives to achieve this goal includes reducing the number of farmers who view sun bears as a hindrance to agricultural production by 10% over 15 years and decreasing the number of farmers experiencing property damage by 50% over 20 years. Actions to decrease the proportion of farmers who view sun bears as a hindrance include the establishment of a crop insurance program with the Lao PDR Ministry of Forestry to offset losses of farmers due to damage from wildlife and other natural events. Surveys will also be distributed to gather up to date information regarding the current state of the relationship between farmers and sun bears, and what farmers feel should be done to help them. To decrease property and livestock damage, trained livestock guard dogs (LGD) will be distributed to farmers as a deterrent to keep sun bear off their property. Another preventative measure is to establish electric fences around crops to exclude sun bears from these areas as well as provide a deterring effect from the electric shock. These management actions will likely cause an initial increase in the population above a stable level; however, after 5 years the population will reach a level that can be maintained beyond the 20-year management timeline for up to 100 years.  
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Literary Rights: On
Major: Fisheries and Wildlife Science
Year: 2020
File Attachments: Monroe 2020.04.28.pdf
Authors: Richard Monroe

What Are the Differences in Trichome Density and Morphology Between Arabidopsis Lyrata Subsp. Lyrata Populations When Grown in A Northern Common Garden, Outside of Their Geographic Distribution?

Tue, 04/30/2019 - 15:23
Abstract: Trichomes are diverse among plants. There is evidence suggesting that environmental factors may influence these structures and their densities. Other evidence shows that weather may influence genetics and gene expression. Arabidopsis lyrata subsp. lyrata is a wild flower that is native to North America and Europe and has been extensively studied. Literature regarding Arabidopsis states that within the family and genus, there is evidence suggesting that trichomes can be either non-branched, twice branched or thrice branched. This study’s purpose was to analyze how trichome density, and morphology in Arabidopsis lyrata subsp. lyrata differs between populations when grown outside of the natural distribution limit. Four populations of Arabidopsis lyrata subsp. lyrata were studied based on latitude. After analyzing the outcomes, unexpectedly there are no major differences between the north and south populations; however, there are differences between the four populations. Based on the data gathered, it was determined that the population, North2 (07G) must be genetically different from the other three populations. The four populations were grown together in a common garden; thus, all variables were the same. The environment did not influence trichome density or morphology within the North2 population, therefore the structures were genetically pre-determined.
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Major: Biology
Year: 2019
File Attachments: Scarabaggio_A.docx
Authors: Amber My Scarabaggio

Distribution and Abundance of Larval Yellow Perch (Perca flavescens) in Lake St. Clair and the Lower St. Clair River, 2018

Mon, 12/02/2019 - 21:23
Abstract: Spatial and temporal dynamics of fish larvae play an important role in determining year-class strength due to variation in habitat quality and food resources that influence larval growth, development, and survival rates. Surveys conducted during the past decade in the St. Clair-Detroit River System have revealed a decline of yellow perch. Genetic and microchemistry analyses showed that these fish make a substantial contribution to the yellow perch stock in western Lake Erie. Our study examines the spatial and temporal distributions of larval yellow perch in Lake St. Clair and the lower St. Clair River to identify important spawning and nursery areas and other ecological factors influencing their early life history. We employed a lake-wide daytime sampling program in 2018 using paired bongo nets to sample pelagic larvae throughout 33 sample locations beginning in mid-March before yellow perch had hatched and continued through mid-July when larvae were absent from samples. Based on our spatial analysis results, Mitchell Bay and Anchor Bay appear as the primary regions for yellow perch spawning habitat and/or nursery grounds for larvae. It is difficult to conclude which factors are influencing the distribution of yellow perch the greatest, but submerged aquatic vegetation, water temperature and clarity likely influence yellow perch vital rates, based on our study. The results from this study give us a growing understanding of the ecological interactions underlying larval yellow perch and their habitat usage during their early life history.
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Major: Fisheries and Wildlife Science
Year: 2019
Authors: Clara Lloyd, Robin DeBruyne, Taaja Tucker, Andrew Briggs, Jan-Michael Hessenauer, Todd Wills, Edward Roseman

Fish Community Structure with the Reestablishment of Beavers in Beaver Ponds in Smitty Creek Watershed

Tue, 05/07/2019 - 18:15
Abstract: This study is part of a long-term monitoring project, which looks into fish assemblages and the impact beaver reestablishment has on them. Beavers were abundant in 2006, but as of 2011 beavers had left the ponds to go somewhere else, and in this study there was clear signs of beaver presence. The study takes place in a series of continuous beaver ponds located within the Smitty Creek Watershed. Minnow traps were baited and set for 24 hours in order to catch a sample of fish from each pond. Results were compared to data from (2006 and 2011). This year’s data showed two new species of fish that haven’t been found in the beaver ponds before, Northern Pearl Dace (Margariscus nachtriebi) and Finescale Dace (Phoxinus neogaeus). Brook Trout individuals in the study were one lower in 2011, but many more Brook Trout were caught in 2006. Creek Chub have always composed the highest number of fishes. Finescale Dace and Redbelly Dace were found in low abundances.  
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Major: Fisheries and Wildlife Science
Year: 2019
Authors: Nicholas Shalayda

The Pinocchio Lizard (Anolis proboscis): Conserving Mindo's Hidden Anole

Tue, 05/07/2019 - 11:45
Abstract: EXECUTIVE SUMMARY The Pinocchio lizard (Anolis proboscis) is a cryptic, arboreal anole with in the laevies species group characterized by the unique rostral appendage. Rediscovered in 2005 in Mindo, Ecuador, our understanding of species is limited. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) currently lists the species as endangered for its limited extant range within the Andean cloud forests near Mindo (Pichincha). Their reliance on canopy cover with branching twigs makes habitat loss the greatest ecological concern. Anthropomorphic influences such as agriculture, urban development, and oil industry continue to increase the rate of deforestation. The goal of this plan is to provide protection and recover the populations of Pinocchio lizards within 15 years. The following objectives are designed to achieve this goal. (1) Determine population size estimates and detailed suitable habitat requirements of the Pinocchio lizard within 2-3 years. (2) Implement an education and awareness campaign in Mindo within 1 year. (3) Establish the Mindo as a National Park within the next 5 years. (4) Increase survivorship of all life stages within 3 years. Research is needed to develop a detailed understanding is needed to make informed decisions to achieve objectives. Establishing the extant range of the species as a National Park will discourage provide habitat and legal protection. Implementing a captive breeding and reintroduction program will increase immature life stages needed to increase wild populations. If objectives are met successfully, the species will be federally protected throughout its extant range, the population will be stabilized, and will be delisted from the IUCN red list, conserving the biodiversity of Ecuador’s cloud forests.
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Major: Fisheries and Wildlife Science
Year: 2019
Authors: Gavin Shwahla

Management Plan for the Endangered Australian Sea Lion (Neophoca cinerea) on the Western and Southern Coast of Australia

Sun, 05/05/2019 - 17:20
Abstract: The Australian sea lion (Neophoca cinerea) is an endangered species that is endemic to the West Australia and South Australia coastlines. It is one of the rarest otariids in the world. The species is unique among other otariids because of its nonannual, nonseasonal breeding cycle, along with the females’ high natal site fidelity. The high natal site fidelity causes genetic drift among the population and can reduce fecundity. The Australian sea lion has multiple conservation issues including bycatch through gillnets and pots, hookworm infections, pup deaths, ecotourism, and pollution. The goal of this management plan is to increase the population to carrying capacity then stabilize it, on the coast of West Australia and South Australia. Objective one is to increase young adult and adult survivorship by at least 3% within fifteen years, this can be accomplished through reducing/limiting bycatch from gillnets and decreasing pollution. Objective two is to increase the understanding of the populations and their distributions by establishing a research program in the next five years and publish five scientific papers in twenty years. Accomplishment of objective two will be met through conducting pup counts and camera trapping at main breeding colonies and if those actions do not fulfill the objective then radio-collaring and relocation will be implemented. Objective three is to decrease pup mortality by 2% per year or 4% per breeding cycle in the next fifteen years. This will be accomplished through decreasing hookworm infections through ivermectin and decreasing bycatch from rock lobster and crayfish pots. Objective four is to increase education by 25% within the next three years, this can be accomplished through surveys of the public and educational pamphlets. This management plan would prevent the Australian sea lion from extinction if the objectives and actions are met in the established timeline.
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Literary Rights: On
Major: Fisheries and Wildlife Science
Year: 2019
File Attachments: Management Plan .pdf
Authors: Anna Mehner

Management plan for Streaked Horned Lark (Eremophila alpestris strigata) populations in Oregon from 2019 to 2034

Sun, 05/05/2019 - 14:25
Abstract: The streaked horned lark (Eremophila alpestris strigata) is an endemic subspecies only found in western Washington and Oregon. It is a distinctive subspecies of the horned lark (Eremophila alpestris), a common grassland passerine. The subspecies is unique, remote, and has diminutive genetic diversity as shown by genetic data. The streaked horned lark was listed as threatened under the federal Endangered Species Act by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 2013. Historically, the streaked horned lark was more abundant and prevalent, but has become increasingly rare with habitat deteriorations and is now inhibited to a few large open grasslands and sparsely vegetated locations- including airports, sandy islands, and coastal spits. Oregon breeding areas can be found alongside the lower Columbia, airports and agricultural fields in the Willamette Valley. Several issues disturb streaked horned larks including: predation of nests and fledglings, human disturbance, and probable low genetic diversity triggered by inbreeding in small populations with high site fidelity. The goal of this management plan is to increase streaked horned lark populations and habitat to sustain viable populations in Oregon from 2019 to 2034. This goal will be achieved through increasing available lark habitat on both public and private lands, along with increasing survivorship rates of juvenile and adult streaked horned larks to increase populations and in return providing more genetic diversity. Habitat in public lands will be managed by various control methods, and private lands will be accessed and managed by providing farmers with enticements. The eventual outcome of this management plan will help further protect and restore many prairie-like habitats that many grassland species rely on, while also providing an additional reason to ensure that streaked horned lark persist into the future.
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Literary Rights: On
Major: Fisheries and Wildlife Science
Year: 2019
Authors: Tyler J. Keim

Management Plan for the Rainbow Smelt (Osmerus mordax) in Lake Champlain

Fri, 05/03/2019 - 21:36
Abstract: The rainbow smelt (Osmerus mordax) is a species of fish that live along most of the east coast, including Lake Champlain. At one point in time, this was the main forage for many species in the lake, but more recently these populations have declined. This is due to niche competition with the alewife (Alosa pseudoharengus). As they compete for the same niche, the two species select for the same prey source, which is comprised of a variety of aquatic invertebrates. The two species share the same habitat. This is located in cool water, which can be found throughout the entire water column during isothermal conditions, or in the hypolimnion during stratified conditions. Juvenile rainbow smelt will however make use of the metalimnion to avoid predation by mature smelt. The conditions found in the metalimnion are not conducive for the mature smelt, as the water temperatures are slightly too high. The decline of the rainbow smelt population is of concern for several reasons. First, this is a popular species for people to target throughout the ice fishing season, so the loss of the species may lead to a loss of income source. Second, the highest trophic level predators rely on rainbow smelt to fill this niche to survive. With the health at risk for the entire population of salmonids, and other high-end predators, the entire system may be at risk. It is known that salmonid populations cannot survive on the alewife, as predating on this species results in a lack of vitamins required for successful reproduction. Therefore, it is necessary to enact a plan to save the rainbow smelt population. The objectives of this management plan are to evaluate and clean up any potential rainbow smelt spawning locations, evaluate the entire population of rainbow smelt throughout Lake Champlain, and increase the age 0 survival of rainbow smelt in Lake Champlain by 1.8%. This species is essential to the health of Lake Champlain, and if these objectives are met it is possible to save the population that still exists.
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Literary Rights: Off
Major: Fisheries and Wildlife Science
Year: 2019
File Attachments: Final Management Plan.docx
Authors: Tanner Francis