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Capstone Projects

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.
Access: Yes
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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

Management on a Protected Landscape: Black-Throated Blue Warblers (Setophaga caerulescens) in the Adirondack Park, NY 2019 - 2069

Tue, 04/30/2019 - 11:28
Abstract: Black-throated blue warblers (Setophaga caerulescens) are a neotropical migrant passerine that specializes in breeding within interior forest habitats, with dense lower strata. Since the Breeding Bird Survey began in 1966, there has been over a 1.5% decline in sightings of this species along survey routes. In recent years, it has been found that access to secondary growth during the post-fledging period is essential to physiological health for migration. In the Adirondack Park of New York, a protected forest, there is a severe deficit of early successional habitats, especially adjacent to large tracts of mature forest. Compounding on this, there is resounding public conflict in relation to forest operations. This management plan aims to increase black-throated blue warbler encounters on BBS survey routes by at least 1% yearly on average, or by 50% over 50 years. To increase populations directly, new early successional habitat, and understory nesting cover will be developed using a variety of forestry techniques. We will increase early successional habitat by 10% by 2034, 20% by 2049, and 30% by 2069. Understory cover is planned to be increased by 5% by 2034, 15% by 2049, and 20% by 2069. Public education will be increased by presenting residents and visitors to the Adirondacks with free opportunities to learn about how natural resources are managed. Public opinion will be monitored alongside this education to study how public approval of forestry relates to environmental education. By the end of this 50-year management cycle, it is expected that black-throated blue warblers, along with several other species, will benefit greatly from these management actions. In addition, the general public will have a greater understanding, and therefore support of scientific wildlife management, including all tools that are used.
Access: Yes
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Major: Fisheries and Wildlife Science
Year: 2019
Authors: Bradley R. Geroux

Management Plan for Stray Dog (Canis lupus familiaris) Populations in Kathmandu, Nepal

Wed, 05/01/2019 - 00:10
Abstract: Dogs (Canis lupus familiaris) are the most abundant predators, inhabiting all continents excluding Antarctica. Widely distributed, they are able to adapt to an expansive range of surroundings, maximizing survivability rates throughout the populations. Dogs are able to habituate regardless of rural mountainous terrain or crowded bustling cities. Stray dog populations have been established as a result of the frequent abandonment of pet dogs due to sickness, aggression, estrus behavior, or negligence. The diet of stray dog populations in Poland have been documented consisting of 30% oats, seeds and fruits, 15% small mammals, 12% game species, 7% insects, and 36% organic or inorganic items. The presence of dogs can deter endemic wildlife from utilizing suitable habitats, causing an increase in nest desertions. Dogs have also been known to hybridize with species within the Canis genera such as with the endangered Ethiopian wolf (Canis simensis), disrupting the genetic integrity of the species. Breeding multiple times within a year, producing anywhere from 1 to 15 pups per litter, there has been an estimate of over 20,000 stray dogs in Kathmandu, Nepal. Exposure to harsh living conditions have resulted in many of these dogs becoming malnourished, increasing susceptibility to parasites and diseases. Decreasing the population of stray dogs in Kathmandu by 50% from 2019 to 2049 will decrease ecological impacts on native wildlife, as well as decrease the transmission of zoonotic diseases. Decreasing food availability for stray dogs will result in a decrease within the stray dog population; if executed gradually, the stray dog population will not disperse to neighboring communities. When food sources suddenly diminish, dogs have been observed dispersing to maximize food availability. Decreasing the fecundity of females ages 1 to 2 will halt the dog population from its current exponential increase. Further educating the public regarding impacts of stray dog populations will decrease opportunities for disease transmission, pet abandonment, as well as discourage the public from sustaining the population. Decreasing the population of stray dogs in Nepal will protect native wildlife by decreasing negative effects on breeding success as well as increasing habitat use by endemic species. Human exposure to zoonotic diseases can also be minimized as a result of decreased interactions with stray dogs.
Access: Yes
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Major: Fisheries and Wildlife Science
Year: 2019
Authors: Iris Li

Reviving Sea Otters (Enhydra lutris) Populations Post Fur-Trade in the Aleutian Archipelago of Alaska

Wed, 05/01/2019 - 09:40
Abstract: Northern sea otters (Enhydra lutris) are a very important predator to the Aleutian Archipelago of Alaska. They are a keystone species that helps maintain a balanced relationship between sea urchins and kelp. Sea otters were nearly extinct in the early 20th century, but most populations have since recovered. However, otters of the Aleutian Islands are facing large declines due to increased killer whale (Orcinus orca) predation. Due to small, extant populations that are isolated from one another, it is difficult for otters to disperse from their birthplace, thus creating genetic bottle necking. This management plan’s goal is to stabilize sea otter populations, at islands that were not operating at equilibrium in 1965, to approximately 300 total individuals by 2026. Population models show adult survivability is the most influential on the population. The objective measures that will be taken to achieve this goal would be to (1) Stop the hunting of sea otters from 2019-2026, (2) decrease killer whale predation by 50% by 2026, and (3) increase the number of adults by at least 30% in areas that provide protection from killer whales by 2026. This plan expects a positive outcome with the goal being achieved within the given time frame, ± 1 year.
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Major: Fisheries and Wildlife Science
Year: 2019
Authors: Donovan Hughes

Conservation of the Critically Endangered Silky Sifaka (Propithecus candidus) in Marojejy National Park, Madagascar.

Wed, 05/01/2019 - 11:05
Abstract: Executive Summary The silky sifaka (Propithecus candidus) is a critically endangered, large bodied lemur endemic to the eastern montane rainforests of Madagascar. Silky sifakas eat primarily leaves but will also eat seeds, flowers, and fruits, which means they are not true folivores. Silky sifakas reproduce, on average, once every other year and will mate on a single day each year. Like other eastern rainforest sifakas, silky sifakas will not cross non-forested habitat (i.e. clear cuts or farm land) to travel between forest fragments. Thus, deforestation is a primary concern for the species’ survival of the species. Additionally, the local villagers hunt lemurs for bush meat. Locals do not specifically target silky sifakas but make no effort to avoid the species while hunting. The goal of this management plan is to increase and maintain the silky sifaka population within Marojejy National Park, in north eastern Madagascar. There are four main objectives to reach and fulfill this goal. First, conduct additional research on silky sifaka population size and natural history, and produce 5 peer reviewed papers to increase what is known about the species. Second, to increase survival rates of each age class to 90% in 20 years. Third, increase education on the importance and uniqueness of the forests and species that live within them, inside Marojejy National Park by 50% in 3 years. And finally, to reduce the illegal harvest of fuel and rosewood within Marojejy National Park, as well as the surrounding forests, by 90% in 3 years. These objectives will be achieved through different actions including education, increased management and monitoring of the park, and implementation of new data collection methods. The completion of each objective and the effective implementation of each action should result in the silky sifaka population stabilizing and increasing in numbers each year.
Access: Yes
Literary Rights: Off
Major: Fisheries and Wildlife Science
Year: 2019
File Attachments: Tolman_FWS470_Final.pdf
Authors: Matthew W. Tolman

Feral Horse (Equus caballus) Management Plan for South Central Wyoming

Fri, 05/03/2019 - 13:35
Abstract: Feral horses are found through our western rangelands in the thousands tho they are not truly “Wild Horses” they are technically feral and were introduced into the western landscape by Spanish conquistadors in the 1500s. In Southcentral Wyoming, there are currently 3,403 adult feral horses within 3,008,875 acres of federal Bureau of Land Management (BLM) which exceeds the appropriate management level (AML) is 1,521-2,104 adults. Feral horse overpopulation is a large strain on the BLM's budget and a political and social hot topic as there is both support for more horses to be on the range and support for them to be removed. To date, feral horses are federally protected by The Wild and Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971 and are managed by the BLM. Feral horses have the potential to double their herd sizes every four years resulting in unchecked populations being able to overpopulate and degrade delicate rangeland ecosystem and utilizing resources crucial for native wildlife. Currently, feral horses are managed by rounding up the excess population via helicopter and removing them from the range to which they are then adopted out or held in captivity in the BLM's care. This management technique works but is time-consuming, expensive and redundant. To more adequately manage feral horses in south central Wyoming an animal roundup will be performed to have a population that is within the AML from which the immunocontraceptive Porcine Zona Pellucida (PZP) will be utilized to lower fecundity to a level that will prevent overpopulation. With this management option, PZP darting will have to be done on an annual basis but will be a much cheaper and socially acceptable option than today's. Once feral horse populations in South Central Wyoming are properly managed the result will be healthier multiple use rangelands for both wildlife, ranchers and recreationist to enjoy.
Access: Yes
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Major: Fisheries and Wildlife Science
Year: 2019
Authors: Zachary R. Gauthier

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.
Access: Yes
Literary Rights: Off
Major: Fisheries and Wildlife Science
Year: 2019
File Attachments: Final Management Plan.docx
Authors: Tanner Francis

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

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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Literary Rights: Off
Major: Fisheries and Wildlife Science
Year: 2019
Authors: Nicholas Shalayda