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Capstone Projects

The Influence of Microtopography on the Spatial Distribution of Peatland Plants

Mon, 04/27/2020 - 13:01
Abstract: Microtopography in peatlands creates structural patterns within the environment that, if understood, could allow for more comprehensive wetland management and restoration plans to be constructed. The objectives of this study are to determine: 1) the spatial scale at which microtopography occurs on in Adirondack peatlands; 2) if hummock size changes in relation to the distance from the forested wetland edge; and 3) if individual plant species respond to, or vary, in relation to microtopography and abiotic factors. To determine the influence of microtopography on peatland plants, data were collected on the surface area and height distributions of hummocks, the distance between hummocks and the abiotic soil characteristics. Plant species richness, and percent cover data were collected on hummocks only. The spatial scale of microtopography was determined to be regularly distributed across the sampling area. There was no significant correlation between the distance from the coniferous-edge and the relative size of hummocks. Plant species richness was found to be higher on hummocks as opposed to hollows. Using a combination of correlation and multiple regression analysis we determined that leather leaf (Chamaedaphne calyculata), lowbush blueberry (Vaccinium angustifolium), and common cranberry (Vaccinium macrocarpa) were correlated to individual abiotic variables. The variability of the percent cover of leather leaf was explained by increasing surface area, lower soil temperatures, and lower pH; the variability of the percent cover of lowbush blueberry was explained by increasing oxidation-reduction potential (ORP) and lower pH; and the variability of the percent cover of common cranberry was explained by lower hummock height alone. Only three of the common plants identified were correlated with the abiotic variables measured. Further research should be done to continue to determine the primary influence of the elevational gradients on the plant species composition and to determine the resilience of these systems to changing climate.
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Major: Ecological Restoration
Year: 2020
Authors: Joshua T. Young

south island kaka managment plan

Mon, 05/04/2020 - 22:29
Abstract: The south island kaka (Nestor meridionalis meridionalis) is a large olive brown parrot endemic to the low to mid elevation forests of New Zealand. Their historic range spanned all 3 large islands and many of the smaller offshore islands as well. Unfortunate in the past century human involvement has caused these birds to be listed by the IUCN. In 1988 they were listed as near threatened with a continual decreasing population leaving them as endanger with less than 1000 individuals left in the wild in 2019 with a thin fragmented forest prone to die back and full of invasive species. To combat this, we have come up with a management plan to restore a 1000 acre plot of land on Stewart Island west of Half Moon Bay where their historic population was estimated to be the most concentrated on the island. To do this we plan on removing invasive white-tailed deer by using the local hunters to decrease their population supplemented with contraceptive bait piles to decrease their fecundity. On this plot we will manage and monitor the growth of this forest to help it develop into an even aged stand that is less prone to die off and with high productivity that is suitable breeding ground for south island kaka. After 50 years of managing for native plant species and trapping and poisoning of invasive mammals such as stoats, rats and bush tailed possum most if not all invasive will be removed. We will then release 100 kaka into the management area. We will monitor their movement and use of the habitat to better protect them from invasive species in hope to increase their survival closer to their historical percentages (90%). Once this is accomplished we will continue to monitor the area until their population becomes stable and no sign of invasive mammals are impacting their survivability.
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Major: Fisheries and Wildlife Science
Year: 2020
File Attachments: The Author has selected not to publish this complete work.
Authors: Keith Ahrens

Servals (Leptailurus serval) in South Africa’s Cape: A 20-Year Reintroduction and Management Plan

Fri, 05/01/2020 - 07:48
Abstract: Servals (Leptailurus serval) are medium-sized African felids with a range extending from the Mediterranean coast of Morocco to the Cape of South Africa: though, they have been extirpated from the latter. They are prey generalists, preferring a variety of small mammals. Their preferred prey items typically inhabit wetland areas, meaning that servals spend quite a bit of time there as well. Conservation issues for servals include aggressive agriculture and wetland habitat destruction, illegal harvest and poaching for use in traditional medicine and clothing, and the lack of species-specific legislation. This management plan aims to provide a comprehensive action plan to reintroduce a healthy population of 30 individual servals to their previously extirpated range on the Cape of South Africa, and to see a shift in public opinion regarding the importance of small mammals and wetland conservation. Objectives to reach the goal of reintroduction include: selecting and transporting individuals with tactics encouraged and approved by translocation literature; selecting 15 young adults and 15 adults with a 2:1 female to male ratio; increase young adult and adult survivorship by 10% through actively managing for the population’s success for a minimum of 3 generations, with a generation being defined as 18 months; see a 10% increase of species-specific legislation being passed and introduced within the next 5 years; observe a 5% increase in total wetland area by 2030; and to keep stress-induced and autoimmune diseases out of translocated individuals. Objectives to reach the goal of seeing a shift in public opinion include: observe a 10% increase in private lands utilized as wetland conservation or management areas; observe a statistically significant positive change in public opinion about the conservation of wetlands and small mammals; and observe eradication of serval pelts and parts in marketplaces by 2025. Mark recapture studies for the duration of 3 generations will keep tabs on the health and size of the population. Lobbying and advising South Africa’s government and lawmakers should see an introduction and prolonged enforcement of 2 new or altered laws or regulations within the next 5 years. Utilizing education, outreach, and lobbying in combination, a total wetland area in South Africa will increase by 5% by 2030, resulting in more appropriate habitat for both the serval and its prey items. Evidence of a large proportion of environmentally focused citizens should be profound. Ensuring the health of individuals prior to transporting them is vital. This will mitigate disease in the reintroduced population. A key component of the successful management of this species is the public’s opinion about it. Positive public opinion regarding servals, their habitat, and associated prey items should be prevalent. Private game reserves and land reserved for wildlife management are a common sight in South Africa. We must see an increase in private land being utilized for the conservation of servals. The differences in the data collected with each repetition of a survey sent out before and at regular intervals after the start of outreach will be analyzed for statistical significance. Evidence of a significant change in public opinion should be prevalent. Two studies or articles published regarding the presence of serval pelts will be seen in marketplaces within the next 5 years. These studies will show evidence of continued decline in serval pelt trade and usage, both in percent decline and numbers of pelts present. These management actions could allow for a successful, healthy reintroduced population of servals in the Cape of South Africa, as well as a growing public fondness of servals, their habitat preferences, and the species that they prey upon, such as the southern African Vlei Rat (Otomys irroratus).
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Major: Fisheries and Wildlife Science
Year: 2020
Authors: Autumn Tallant

Thirty-year Roloway Monkey (Cercopithecus roloway) Management Plan for Ghana and Côte d'Ivoire

Thu, 04/30/2020 - 18:43
Abstract: Roloway monkeys (Cercopithecus roloway) is a critically endangered, long-limbed, long-tailed monkey that is endemic to Ghana and the Côte d'Ivoire countries in West Africa. Roloway monkeys are listed on the 25 most threatened primate taxa in the world. Roloway monkeys primarily eat ripe fruits and invertebrates but will also eat seeds, flowers, and young leaves. Roloway monkeys prefer mangrove trees to use as a shelter, a source of food, a source of water, and protection but can be found in other tropical forested areas. Roloway monkeys reproduce approximately twice a year. Roloway does not have a specific breeding season and is based on their environment. Roloway monkeys spend their entire life in the trees. Thus, deforestation is a primary concern for the survival of the species. In addition, the villagers hunt monkeys for bushmeat; villagers do not specifically target roloway monkeys but make no effort to avoid the species while hunting. The goals of this management plant are to increase the intrinsic value of roloway monkeys to the residents of Ghana and the Côte d'Ivoire and restore the population of roloway monkeys to sustainable population size. There are six main objectives to reach and fulfill the goals. First, increase the villagers’ knowledge of what roloway monkeys are and look like by 40% of individuals. Second, to decrease the amount of roloway monkey bushmeat in markets for sale by 30% within ten years. Third, reduce illegal tree harvesting in Ghana and the Côte d'Ivoire by 50% in the next 25 years. Fourth, increase roloway monkeys travel between the towns located on the border of Ghana and the Côte d'Ivoire by 40% within 30 years. Fifth, increase the information known about population size and natural history of roloway monkeys by producing five peer-reviewed papers over 20 years to improve the management of the species. And finally, increase the survival rate of subadults into adulthood by 20% within the next 30 years. These objectives will be achieved through different actions, including education, increased management and monitoring of known habitats, and implementation of new data collection methods. The completion of each objective and the effective implementation of each action should increase the intrinsic value of roloway monkeys in the villagers’ eyes and the restoration of roloway monkey’s population size.
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Major: Fisheries and Wildlife Science
Year: 2020
Authors: Jazzmin Wipf

Ten-year management plan for the Mexican axolotl (Ambystoma mexicanum) in Xochimilco, Mexico City

Thu, 04/30/2020 - 17:02
Abstract: The Mexican axolotl (Ambystoma mexicanum) is an aquatic salamander found in homes and labs across the world and yet, is only endemic to a polluted, urbanized canal system in Xochimilco, Mexico City. In Xochimilco, the habitat for axolotl was historically a lake that was converted into a series of canals by the Aztecs. The Xochimilco ecosystem began deteriorating after the fall of the Aztec empire. In the 1950’s, rapid urbanization of Mexico City led to pollution, reduction of habitat, and the introduction of exotic fish for food. These factors further contribute to the decline of the axolotl which once was at the highest trophic level in the Xochimilco ecosystem. In 1998 the density of axolotl in Xochimilco was approx. 6000 individuals/km2 and todays estimate is 35 individuals/km2. The goal of this management plan is to restore the axolotl population in the Xochimilco ecosystem to the 1998 estimate of 6000 individuals/km2. Objectives to reach this goal include an 80% increase in viable habitat for the survival and reproductive success of the axolotl, an 80% reduction in exotic fish in the Xochimilco ecosystem, an increase in the amount of sexually mature axolotl by 45%, and a 50% increase in public awareness of the declining axolotl population. To increase axolotl habitat in Xochimilco there must be refuges or cover that allows them to survive predation and have cover for their eggs. A decrease in exotic fish will decrease predation on axolotl at their most vulnerable stages of life. Releasing adult axolotl into Xochimilco will increase the population size of the next generation. Educating the public hopefully will inspire them to care and understand the factors leading to the decline of the axolotl population.
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Major: Fisheries and Wildlife Science
Year: 2020
Authors: Eddie Boyer

Forty-year Kinosternon angustipons (Central American mud turtle) Management Plan in Nicaragua

Thu, 04/30/2020 - 14:18
Abstract: Kinosternon angustipons (Central American/ narrow bridged mud turtle) is a mud turtle native to Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Panama. There is limited primary scientific information available except for the initial species description. K. angustipons and other native turtles are threatened by illegal forestry activity, pollution, and invasive predators. Through the use of a population model, the projected population will decline until extinction within the next forty years. The model identified key areas of interest that, if properly managed, can result in healthy stable population. Three areas of management focus should be; improving the current scientific knowledge base for K. angustipons to focus and facilitate accurate management effort. Improving the habitat quality will increase availability and quality of cover and food resources. Finally, protecting the nest and hatchlings will increase survival and recruitment within the population. These actions should have the desired results of increasing the percentage of reproductively active females, average number of eggs, and the survivability of the nest and hatchlings. If these areas, determined by the model to be influential to the population's rate of change, receive targeted support then K. angustipons will not remain unknown or go extinct.
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Major: Fisheries and Wildlife Science
Year: 2020
File Attachments: KOCH.2020.05.01 Final.docx
Authors: Nicholas Koch

North Cascades Ecosystem Wolverine (Gulo gulo) Revival Plan

Thu, 04/30/2020 - 13:32
Abstract: Wolverines (Gulo gulo) are recognized as one of the rarest, and least known carnivores of the northern hemisphere. They are the largest bodied mustelid and survive primarily on carrion food subsidies while living at low population densities. Conservation issues of primary concern to the North Cascades wolverine population include human sensitivity, high management costs, lack of policy protection, and the impacts of climate change (i.e. genetic bottlenecking and lack of connectivity due to decreasing persistent snow cover). This management plan, in the form of a revival plan, seeks to increase the wolverine population within the North Cascades Ecosystem (NCE) to a more sustainable size. Objectives to reach this goal include conducting research to obtain a population size estimate within 3 years following the onset of the revival plan, increasing allelic richness of the population by 25% over the next 10 years, and maintaining the high survivorships at all wolverine age classes for 20 years. To maximize efficiency, while also minimizing cost, the population estimation will be conducted based on data collection from scatdetection dog teams and live-trapping wolverines with log-cabin style box traps. Due to the contingency of subsequent objectives, log-cabin live-trapping is also beneficial as it presents the opportunity to directly handle wolverines and deploy radio collars. To increase allelic richness of the wolverine population, individuals from the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem in Montana will be translocated to supplement the gene pool. To ensure gene flow and promote connectivity within the population, habitat corridors will also be created utilizing living tree fences that promote snow accumulation and persistence that is favored for wolverine dispersal. To maintain survivorship rates (68% for juveniles, 92% for subadults, 91% for adults) actions taken will slightly increase survival, creating a buffer zone to prevent decreased survival at any age class. Specific actions include petitioning for state and/or federal protection under the Endangered Species Act to designate critical habitat and ultimately prevent disturbance and decreasing infanticidal mortality events utilizing a Radio Activated Guard (RAG) depredation deterrent system. Management actions will increase the population to a size that is accepted by stakeholders and financially feasible based on a habitat suitability model of the North Cascades Ecosystem.
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Major: Fisheries and Wildlife Science
Year: 2020
Authors: Jacob Harvey

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