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Capstone Projects

Twenty-Year Northern Hawk Owl (Surnia ulula) Management Plan for the State of Montana

Mon, 04/25/2022 - 16:41
Abstract: Northern Hawk Owls (Surnia ulula) are a Holarctic species found primarily in the northern latitudes. This diurnal species is dependent upon boreal forests that experience either occasional clear cuts or natural forest fires. Northern Hawk Owls are also found in remote areas and difficult habitat which makes it difficult to study and observe. This is the main reason why Northern Hawk Owls are one of the least studied species of owls across the world. Recently, as of 1994, a breeding population has been detected in the state of Montana, particularly the western region closest to Glacier National Park. This breeding population, estimated to be about 36 breeding pairs, has resulted in Northern Hawk Owls being listed as a “species of concern” however there is no management plan for the owls. This management plan seeks to target the main factors that are affecting these owls including forestry operations, human influence, and even climatic changes in the near future. This management plan aims to increase adult Northern Hawk Owl populations in the next 20 years. Objectives to reach this goal include better research on the population in Montana currently, as well as decrease forestry operations in Northern Hawk Owl habitat. Because there is a limited amount of data on Northern Hawk Owls, especially in Montana, it is key to implement research on the species to gather more data. Observing issues such as breeding and nesting grounds, response to small mammal populations, and overall biology is important to understand for this plan to be successful. One objective to combat declining breeding habitat is working with logging and forestry companies to educate workers on the importance of keeping clear cuts under 100ha in areas where there are known breeding hawk owls. Prescribed burns could also be another way to increase Northern Hawk Owl presence. By burning selected areas, it can increase vegetation and have positive impacts on the small mammal population. Another important objective to this plan is working with Native American tribal landowners on this management plan. Since the Montana state government has little to no jurisdiction over private tribal land, it is important to work with the Native American tribal community and create a relationship with private landowners. This is a key step to determining where exactly Northern Hawk Owls are nesting in the state. In order to reach the general public about these issues, educational posters will be displayed around National Park areas in Montana state. Surveys will also be given out in a variety of ways including Q-R codes at rest areas and hiking trailheads. This survey will determine how involved and educated the general public is about Northern Hawk Owls and the conservation of the species. This species is uncommon, but with the implementation of these objectives and actions in this management plan, greater awareness can be brought about to help the conservation of Northern Hawk Owls in Montana.
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Major: Fisheries and Wildlife Science
Year: 2022
File Attachments: Brogan_26April2022_0.docx
Authors: Lindsay A. Brogan

Ten-Year Peaks of Otter Salamander (Plethodon hubrichti) Management Plan for Virginia

Mon, 04/25/2022 - 20:16
Abstract: The Peaks of Otter salamander (Plethodon hubrichti) is a native Virginian salamander with a small range of only 〖19km〗^2 in Virginia. There is little known about P.hubrichti but it is a species of concern in Virginia and is also an IUCN vulnerable species. Conservation concerns include timbering, and the threat of amphibian diseases. This management plan aims to maintain and increase the P.hubrichti population. The main goals are to maintain and increase the current population, and to understand the ecology of the species. For this to be accomplished, a long term study will be put into place to get accurate population estimates and survival rates. Also, the timbering may continue but will be closely monitored and only shelterwood cuts will be allowed within the P.hubrichti range. Additionally, education on amphibian diseases will be activated within the park. With the use of these actions, we can learn more about P.hubrichti and ensure this species' future.
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Major: Fisheries and Wildlife Science
Year: 2022
Authors: Yelena Jaquith

20 Year Management Plan of Snake River Finespotted Cutthroat Trout (Oncorhynchus clarkii behnkei) in Southeastern Idaho

Tue, 04/26/2022 - 21:05
Abstract: Snake River Finespotted Cutthroat Trout (Oncorhynchus clarkii behnkei) is a freshwater trout species native to the upper Snake River and its tributaries between the states of Wyoming, Idaho, and Montana. This species is recognizable by its fine hair-like spots delicately speckling its entire body, and often have distinctively rosy colored gill plates which characterize its name, “cutthroat”. Similar to many salmonid species, cutthroat face many challenges with reproducing due to predatory competition within spawning season. Larger, more dominant fish such as Brown Trout (Salmo trutta), and Rainbow Trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) are known to often prey on active Cutthroat redds for an easy opportunity for a meal. With 0.03% of Cutthroat Trout eggs having the chance to survive to become parr, the risk of predatory species eliminating a large portion of these eggs is becoming increasingly more and more important to manage. These predators continue to be introduced and stocked into more native Cutthroat Trout waters, which is not allowing this species of concern to thrive or reproduce in greater numbers on their own. Aside from predators in the water, all trout species are currently facing the detrimental effects of climate change, which are impacting waterways worldwide and most especially cold-water fisheries. With rising risks of drought, forest fires, low water levels and high water temperatures, Cutthroat Trout are in urgent need of proper management. To increase the opportunity for Snake River Finespotted Cutthroat Trout to abundantly reproduce, a 20-year management plan studying best fit practices for conserving Cutthroat Trout eggs within redds will be introduced. This study will assess how to protect the redds safely and effectively without harming the amount of oxygen the eggs will be receiving and keeping predators away from the redds without causing damage to other microhabitats within the streams. Education will also be a large component of this management plan, aiming to increase public knowledge and awareness of ethical catch and release practices of anglers, and maintaining ethical decisions while fishing highly trafficked fishing locations during summer months. For a species already suffering from lack of reproduction and struggling with the outcome on streams from climate change, pressure from fishing tourism is a large variable that is crucial to properly manage. With the implementation of extended research on protecting redds, increased public education events on trout conservation, and improved knowledge to fishermen on ethical fishing practices in order to keep this trophy species healthy, the future for Snake River Finespotted Cutthroat Trout has potential to improve significantly.
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Major: Fisheries and Wildlife Science
Year: 2022
File Attachments: DiMeolo_Capstone22.pdf
Authors: Dinah K. DiMeolo

Fifteen Year Mangrove Hummingbird (Amazilia boucardi) Management Plan for Western Costa Rica

Mon, 04/25/2022 - 22:45
Abstract: The mangrove hummingbird (Amazilia boucardi) is a species of hummingbird that is endemic to Costa Rica. With an estimated current population of 2,500 – 10,000 individuals total, and rapidly declining being considered there is a strong need for conservation of this species. Mangrove hummingbirds only utilize a section of Pacific Mangrove habitat on the western coast of Costa Rica which is in danger of being affected by illegal logging practices. Currently, this species will likely be extinct within the next 15 years as illegal forestry practices and habitat destruction cause a lack of viable habitat for this species to persist in. While Costa Rica has already created some rigorous laws to help prevent and discourage habitat destruction, there has still been a decrease in mangrove habitat which is causing the decrease in the hummingbird’s population leading to an Endangered classification according to the IUCN, and a general lack of information on this species. The mangrove hummingbird utilizes mangrove habitats exclusively on the west coast of Costa Rica, and rarely leaves them except for feeding occasionally, but have never been found more than 200m from the edge of the habitat. Mangrove hummingbirds feed primarily on Heliconia sp., Hamelia sp., Inga sp., Roble de Sabana (Tabebuia rosea), and Maripa nicaraquensis which are native to mangrove habitats. When looking at what comes next for the management of this species, this plans two major goals are to understand the population ecology and population dynamics of the mangrove hummingbird, as well as to protect and maintain the existing suitable habitat in Costa Rica to ensure the further growth to reach a sustainable population. To achieve this, I have four major objectives which will help reach these goals. First, this plan aims to estimate the population size, fecundity, and mortality rates of mature individuals, along with survival rates as well. Second, we will confirm the locations of existing populations on the Pacific Coast of Costa Rica to ensure correct locations for further management. Third, we will work to conserve the existing suitable habitat to maintain and hopefully increase the overall survival rates throughout the population. Lastly, we will increase the public awareness of this species, as well as the illegal logging practices throughout the mangrove hummingbird range by 50% and set up the groundwork to increase wages for logging workers to reduce bribery. Ultimately, the creation and implementation of this management plan will be beneficial for gaining information on the species which can be further used to protect this species directly in the future. Through implementation of the actions in this plan, I am looking to see an increase in education by 50% as well as an increase in survivorship percentages from about 5% in after hatch year individuals to at least 55% survival, which would ensure the increase in population size. This would be possible from maintaining the current estimated 41,000 hectares of mangroves in Costa Rica, with no more than a 5% decrease in number of hectares overall.
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Major: Fisheries and Wildlife Science
Year: 2022
Authors: Alexander S. Caporale

Forty-year Rüppell’s Griffon Vulture (Gyps rueppelli) Management Plan for the W-Arli-Pendjari Park Complex, Africa

Tue, 04/26/2022 - 03:47
Abstract: Ruppell’s Vulture (Gyps rueppelli) is a large African vulture species native to the Sahel and savannah regions of Africa. They are obligate carrion feeders, soaring above the savannah using their keen eyesight to locate carcasses. African vultures have long been overlooked for conversation and research which has led to a critical lack of knowledge on their ecology and conservation concerns. They, along with most other African vulture species have experienced extreme population declines with Ruppell’s Vulture having lost approximately 92.5% of their population between 1970 and 2004. The cause of population declines varies depending on the region in question. In Central and West Africa, their populations are heavily pressured by climate change, accidental poisonings from predator control and veterinary drugs in livestock and intentional poisoning to harvest the birds for the bushmeat/traditional medicine trade. The primary goals of this management plan are to address knowledge gaps surrounding Ruppell’s Vulture’s natural history, ecology, and causes for decline, as well as increasing the Ruppell’s vulture population by pressuring the governments of Benin, Burkina Faso, and Niger to regulate the availability and use of known vulture-toxic substances to mitigate the poisoning of Vultures in the region. To address information gaps, this management plan will conduct a 39-year long-term monitoring study of the population size, survivorship, mortality, causes of mortality, habitat use, fecundity, and rate of exposure to toxic substances for the Ruppell’s Vulture population within the W-Arli Pendjari Park Complex. Furthermore, surveys will be sent to farmers, veterinary services, and agricultural suppliers every ten years (i.e. 2032, 2042, 2052, 2062) in the region surrounding the WAP Complex to monitor the source, prevalence, and use of vulture-toxic substances over the course of the management plan. In addition to modeling their natural history, ecology, and causes of their decline, this information will be used to monitor the overall success of the policy changes as they are implemented. The results from the long-term monitoring program and the surveys will be published as peer-reviewed articles every ten years after implementation (i.e. 2032, 2042, 2052, 2062) for the dissemination of information pertinent to the conservation of the Ruppell’s Vulture and other African vultures.
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Major: Fisheries and Wildlife Science
Year: 2022
Authors: Kevin J. Dernier

5 Year Management Plan for Introduced Common Mudpuppies (Necturus maculosus) in Maine

Tue, 04/26/2022 - 10:13
Abstract: In 1939 and 1940, 85 live specimens of common mudpuppy (Necturus maculosus) salamanders escaped from cages suspended in the stream running between Salmon Lake (Ellis Pond), and Great Pond in Maine. These original escapees were laboratory specimens collected in Pennsylvania by Professor Aplington of Colby college. Descendants of those common mudpuppies have since established and proliferated in the Belgrade chain of lakes. Common mudpuppies are native to the American Midwest, the Great Lakes Drainage, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, and New England drainages leading to Lake Champlain. Common mudpuppy ranges extend south into Louisiana to Georgia. Common mudpuppies feed on shellfish, eggs, and small fish, and are forage most actively during the winter. Ecological interactions between common mudpuppies and prey species are not understood, and common predator species remain largely unknown, although there are sparse observational reports in literature. This plan will create a monitoring system to keep track of common mudpuppy populations and where the invasive range has spread to. Consistent monitoring through trapping and observation in the immediate future, while simultaneously developing eDNA surveys to detect common mudpuppies, will create a fuller picture of the status of invasive common mudpuppies. Monitoring can inform future management decisions and pinpoint areas where efforts should be focused. Public education efforts can focus on ponds hosting common mudpuppies by posting flyers there. Research on the ecological interactions of common mudpuppies with Maine SGCN species and important game fish species such as brown trout (Salmo trutta) and smallmouth bass (Micropterus dolomieu). Once these interactions become more clear future management plans can take these into account for their goals and objectives. If successful, these efforts will increase awareness of common mudpuppies and minimize anthropogenic causes of their spread. A scientific understanding of environmental effects stemming from common mudpuppy presence will inform the dangers posed to native wildlife by common mudpuppies, if any, and what level investment is justified by their impact can be judged off the results. Ideally, common mudpuppies will no longer be existing as an unquantified factor in the ecology of Maine’s lakes and streams.
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Major: Fisheries and Wildlife Science
Year: 2022
File Attachments: CommonMudpuppy_Fogarty.pdf
Authors: Jack Fogarty

Cactus Ferruginous Pygmy Owl (Glaucidium brasilianum cactorum), Ten Year Management Plan to Reestablish Populations in Arizona.

Tue, 04/26/2022 - 06:23
Abstract: The cactus ferruginous pygmy owl (Glaucidium brasilianum cactorum) is one of the fifteen subspecies of ferruginous pygmy owl, native to Mexico, Central and South America, as well as in southern Arizona and Texas. Populations in Arizona have been found in regions below 4000 feet in elevation with riparian or desert habitat with a high presence of cavity nest structure. Although once abundant in Arizona the pygmy owl has experienced major population declines. Resulting from habitat loss related to the invasive buffelgrass (Pennisetum ciliare) and human landscape alterations. The small size and low abundance of the pygmy owl within the state of Arizona has led to limited data and information on the conservation, survivorship, and overall population numbers. Conservation issues most related to this subspecies survival are habitat loss in the form of human land interactions and the invasive plant buffelgrass, as well as the effects of small populations on a species survival. This management plan aims to reestablish populations of the cactus ferruginous pygmy owl in a course of ten years. Objectives in reaching this goal include determining the average population size within the first five years of the management plan, by conducting point count and nest search through transects of past pygmy owl sighting or ideal pygmy owl habitat. Increase public cooperation and knowledge of pygmy owl conservation by 50% within the ten years, by conducting public forums, and releasing a survey to quantify public interest and efforts. Decrease amount of habitat loss by 5% yearly, occurring near areas of known pygmy owl populations, by reducing presence of buffelgrass and the regulation of human land use interactions on pygmy owl habitat. Although delisted for unrelated reason from conservation in 2006 under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). The relisting as threatened or endangered under the ESA will ensure regulatory protection for the pygmy owl. The cryptic nature of the pygmy owl and small population sizes would benefit from the creation and utilization of a successful management plan that would reestablish pygmy owl populations in Arizona. Additionally, gaining an increased understanding of the subspecies.
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Major: Fisheries and Wildlife Science
Year: 2022
File Attachments: Whalen_Capstone22.pdf
Authors: Conor Whalen

30-year Management Plan for Eastern Small-Footed Bats in Northeast North America

Tue, 04/26/2022 - 11:26
Abstract: Due to their rapidly decreasing population numbers in the wild, currently, the IUCN red list has labeled Myotis leibii, or the Eastern Small-footed bat, as an endangered species since the last population evaluation in 2018. A critical segment for the successful recovery of this species from the Endangered category of the IUNC red list, is to protect their roosting areas in both maternity spring roosts and winter hibernacula roosts to ensure their offspring have a stable environment to increase their overall population sizes. Protecting the juveniles and young of the year is key to the future survival of M leibii throughout their natural range. Another pertinent segment is to enforce cave and mine closures during the winter to increase bat habitation during hibernation, along with slow the spread of diseases or bacterial infections from outside sources during hibernacula. Successful implementation of this management plan will assist wildlife biologists to aid this species in a population increase and in theory a hospitable habitat range increase of Myotis leibii within the New England states of North America. If successful, population numbers will increase at an exponential rate over the next fifty years, therefore, furthering research into the habits of Myotis leibii. Once the increase of M. leibii has grown to a sustainable population number, research efforts can be made to study and understand this species as a whole group, rather than in relatively scattered inhabited areas. To give this species the opportunity for consistent survival this plan should be implemented immediately to avoid any more habitat loss or loss of bat life.
Access: Yes
Literary Rights: Off
Major: Fisheries and Wildlife Science
Year: 2022
File Attachments: Final capstone paper.pdf
Authors: Robin J. Jenkins

15-Year Wolverine (Gulo gulo) Management Plan for Finland

Tue, 04/26/2022 - 12:53
Abstract: The wolverine (Gulo gulo) is a bear-like mustelid with a circumpolar distribution, inhabiting mostly tundra and boreal areas. After being nearly driven to extirpation in Finland, the population is finally on the rise as it is now stable to slightly increasing. As wolverines begin to move back into areas that they previously inhabited, they are running into some obstacles. These include an increase in conflicts between livestock herders and wolverines, the effects of climate change, and poor public attitude. The goal of this management plan is to maintain a healthy wolverine population in Finland. This will be achieved by the objectives set forth in the plan that include increasing the Finnish wolverine population to 300 individuals, increasing public attitude and coexistence with wolverines by 75%, and creating a piece of legislation that would create a wildlife reserve in Finland. These goals will be achieved through the implementation of a translocation program with Russia, educational seminars for the public to increase wolverine appreciation, and legislation being put into place for the creation of the reserve.  
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Major: Fisheries and Wildlife Science
Year: 2022
File Attachments: Luzak 25Apr2022.docx
Authors: Alyssa Luzak

Twenty-year Management Plan of King Rails (Rallus elegans) in Southeastern Coastal Marshlands, Massachusetts

Wed, 04/27/2022 - 10:38
Abstract: King rails (Rallus elegans) are a Nearctic-Neotropical migrant, the largest of their family Rallidae covering everything from the 100th meridian east to the Atlantic Ocean and from Quebec Canada south to the Caribbean. They exhibit two distinct populations, one a migratory sect that breeds from North Carolina to the Great Lakes, the second a residential population covering much of the southern U.S. from Georgia to Texas. These secretive wading marsh birds are found in all types of wetlands both naturally occurring and man-made in freshwater, brackish, and tidal saltwater systems. Their preferred wetlands are large open areas of water up to 20cm deep interspersed with short emergent vegetation and little to no woody coverage with the most visited sites being those with seasonal water fluctuation regimes. Due to the King rails high cover marshland habitat little is known about their exact population health with much of their breeding ecology being left to papers published in the 50’s and 60’s about the easily monitored rice fields of Arkansas. The part of the population that breeds in the northern U.S. and southern Canada has seen yearly declines of up to 4.6% primarily due to the loss of key breeding wetlands. The purpose of this management plan is primarily to increase the juvenile age classes (Hatchling and Fledgling) from ±40-50% to a minimum of 55% in the coastal wetlands of Massachusetts as listed in Objective 3, with the best-case scenario being an increase in survivorship of +10% by 2042. This would increase the recruitment of the adult age class the only part of the population that breeds annually and is the most statistically significant part of the age class that impacts the total population. Objectives created to attain this goal follow the surveying of habitats in three Massachusetts counties as King rail breeding colonies are entirely unknown and must first be found to conserve these important sites in Objective 1. The second Objective is geared towards the conservation, restoration, and alterations of available habitat to change its physical properties to more closely match the factors chosen by King rails when breeding. With the third and final Objective being an increase in juvenile survivorship by 0.8% per year starting in 2024 after a two-year survey period from Objectives one and two. All objectives will collect data previously unknown about the breeding population of Massachusetts rails in order to build a better image of which objectives are successful and where the population condenses. This will be achieved by the trapping of adult breeding rails and their broods in order to tag them with identification leg bands for the juveniles and radio telemetry units for the adults. Using this method site fidelity can be quantified to protect the most important breeding colonies. Along with this collected information being used for the conservation of the rails and their habitat it will also be used to quantify the justification to include the King rail into the Endangered Species Act (ESA). As one of the most important factors in King rail management is out of the state of Massachusetts control in the fact that 1.1 million waterfowl hunters hunt the southern U.S. resident rail population. By adding the King rail into the ESA nationwide protections of the species would allow the migrating population a chance to rest between migrations. With little being know about the species ecology the implementation of a management plan to successfully increase available habitat and the total population of King rails in Massachusetts. Through the end results of Objective, one's habitat and population survey, Objective twos habitat conservation and Objective three's ability to successfully manage the juvenile age classes.
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Major: Fisheries and Wildlife Science
Year: 2022
Authors: Bret Ovila Tetreault