The purpose of this study is to investigate population genetic structure of Northern Black Swift populations throughout portions of their range in the United States, important information used for conservation prioritization. In addition, this study will document the degree of connectivity among colonies and levels of diversity within them, as well as examining site fidelity of individual birds.
Examining Range-wide Connectivity in White-tailed Ptarmigan
A White-tailed Ptarmigan on Mt. Evans in Colorado. Photo by Cameron Aldridge, USGS.
The goal of this study is to document levels of connectivity among white-tailed ptarmigan populations. Our preliminary results, based on microsatellite loci, revealed that there is significant population genetic structure throughout the species’ range. The Colorado and Vancouver Island populations were the most isolated and there was limited connectivity among populations in Alaska, the Yukon, Washington, and Montana. There is little evidence for movement from Colorado northward or from Vancouver Island eastward, raising concerns for the long term viability of two subspecies. As these areas are most impacted by climate change, this lack of connectivity to the core part of the range may have implications for the species’ ability to track shifting habitats due to warming climates.
Effects of Climate Change on White-tailed Ptarmigan Using Genetics, Stable Isotopes, and Population Demographic Methodologies
A white-tailed ptarmigan. USGS photo.
A white-tailed ptarmigan getting banded. Photo by Greg Wann, USGS.
Investigation into the interaction between ecological and evolutionary responses to global change is an important aspect of climate change studies. An understanding of the genetic basis of phenotypes under selection allows for the prediction and mitigation of climate change effects on the viability of populations. To address this issue, USGS scientists are documenting changes in genetic diversity and allele frequencies in white-tailed ptarmigan from Mt. Evans, Colorado, over a 40-year time span. We also are comparing current levels of diversity and patterns of allele frequencies within a northern population of the species on Vancouver Island, Canada. Further, we are attempting to identify genetic markers under selection and to determine whether these markers can be correlated with environmental changes associated with climate change.
This study will employ genetics, stable isotope analysis, and traditional population demographics methodologies. This work is novel in that:
Investigators are probing climate change-related effects on an alpine species;
40+ years of demographic data interspersed with tissue samples that further extend to the late 1930s are available; and
Analyses are focused on identifying genes under selection, then merging demographic and genetic data with stable-isotope-inferred resource use to tell a comprehensive story about the white-tailed ptarmigan population ecology in a changing alpine habitat.
Partners in Flight (PIF) is an interagency, interorganizational coalition working together to promote bird conservation. As the research agency in the Department of the Interior, USGS has a responsibility to participate in and contribute to avian conservation planning and science. It is necessary to have designated representatives from USGS who participate regularly in PIF and transmit information about PIF to the appropriate contacts within USGS. This task provides USGS with a designated Partners in Flight Coordinator/contact to ensure that (1) USGS interests are represented within PIF, (2) PIF information is disseminated throughout the USGS, and (3) the USGS is capable of incorporating PIF’s bird conservation priorities into its science plans and budgets. The PIF Coordinator for USGS represents USGS at regular national and international PIF meetings and contributes regularly to the international PIF Science Committee on avian research and monitoring issues.
North American Bat Monitoring Program (NABat)
North American Bat Monitoring Program Working Group
Despite their importance and the many threats facing their populations [e.g., white-nose syndrome (WNS), climate change, wind energy development, and habitat loss and fragmentation], there are currently no national programs to monitor and track bat populations in North America. A statistically rigorous and nationally coordinated bat monitoring program is critical for determining the impacts of the many stressors on bat populations, as well as for determining the efficacy of management actions taken to conserve bat populations (i.e., adaptive management). The objectives of the North American Bat Monitoring Program (or NABat) are to: 1) provide the architecture for coordinated bat monitoring to support local, regional and range-wide inferences about trends in bat populations and abundances in response to WNS, climate, wind energy, and habitat loss, and 2) provide managers and policy makers with the information they need on bat population trends to effectively manage bat populations, detect early warning signs of population declines, and estimate extinction risk. Three workshops were held in 2013 and 2014 to develop the monitoring program. These workshops were attended by scientists and researchers from multiple agencies including U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Geological Survey, U.S. Forest Service, National Park Service, University of Calgary, Canadian Wildlife Service, and the University of Tennessee, National Institute of Mathematical and Biological Synthesis. The protocol for NABat entitled “A Plan for a North American Bat Monitoring Program (NABat)” is currently in review and will be published summer of 2014. For Additional Information: Bat Population Database, https://my.usgs.gov/bpd/ and Bat Population Data Project Page: https://www.fort.usgs.gov/science-tasks/2217