Investigating a Zone of Hybridization Between Greater and Lesser Prairie-chickens in Northern Kansas
A Lesser Prairie Chicken. Photo by Dan Wundrock.
Range expansion of Lesser Prairie-chicken in the northern portion of its range has brought populations of the Lesser Prairie-chicken into contact with the Greater Prairie-chicken, which offers the potential for hybridization, genetic introgression, and complication of the conservation status. The goal is this study is to determine the degree to which hybridization is occurring. We are documenting contemporary gene flow between Greater and Lesser Prairie-chickens in this area, confirming hybridization between these species. This research is in collaboration with Texas A&M-Kingsville, Oregon State University, University of North Texas, University of Oklahoma, and the Sutton Avian Research Center.
Population Genetic Structuring of the Lesser Prairie-chicken
A Lesser Prairie-chicken. Photo by Dan Wundrock with permission.
The goals of this study are to characterize patterns of connectivity across the Lesser Prairie-chicken range, document levels of genetic variability among populations, identify the source population(s) for the region of recent range expansion, and determine the level of introgression with the Greater Prairie-chicken in areas where the two species overlap in distribution. This project is revealing relatively strong population structure that falls largely along ecoregion boundaries. This study also shows that the species is expanding its range into previously unoccupied or sparsely occupied habitat from the mixed grass prairie ecoregion and to a lesser extent from the sand sagebrush ecoregion (due to enrollment of agricultural land into the Conservation Reserve Program) and is actively hybridizing with Greater Prairie-chickens in the area of expansion, information that is highly relevant for management. This research is in collaboration with Texas A&M-Kingsville, Oregon State University, University of North Texas, University of Oklahoma, and the Sutton Avian Research Center.
ASPN is a Web-based decision tool that assists natural resource managers and planners in identifying and prioritizing social and economic planning issues, and provides guidance on appropriate social and economic methods to address their identified issues.
ASPN covers the breadth of issues facing natural resource management agencies so it is widely applicable for various resources, plans, and projects.
ASPN also realistically accounts for budget and planning time constraints by providing estimated costs and time lengths needed for each of the possible social and economic methods.
ASPN is a valuable starting point for natural resource managers and planners to start working with their agencies’ social and economic specialists. Natural resource management actions have social and economic effects that often require appropriate analyses. Additionally, in the United States, Federal agencies are legally mandated to follow guidance under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), which requires addressing social and economic effects for actions that may cause biophysical impacts. Most natural resource managers and planners lack training in understanding the full range of potential social and economic effects of a management decision as well as an understanding of the variety of methods and analyses available to address these effects. Thus, ASPN provides a common framework which provides consistency within and across natural resource management agencies to assist in identification of pertinent social and economic issues while also allowing the social and economic analyses to be tailored to best meet the needs of the specific plan or project.
ASPN can be used throughout a planning process or be used as a tool to identify potential issues that may be applicable to future management actions. ASPN is useful during the pre-scoping phase as a tool to start thinking about potential social and economic issues as well as to identify potential stakeholders who may be affected. Thinking about this early in the planning process can help with outreach efforts and with understanding the cost and time needed to address the potential social and economic effects. One can use ASPN during the scoping and post-scoping phases as a way to obtain guidance on how to address issues that stakeholders identified. ASPN can also be used as a monitoring tool to identify whether new social and economic issues arise after a management action occurs.
ASPN is developed through a collaborative research effort between the USGS Fort Collins Science Center’s (FORT) Social and Economic Analysis (SEA) Branch and the U.S. Forest Service, the National Park Service, the Bureau of Land Management, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. ASPN’s technical development is led by the USGS FORT’s Information Science Branch. An updated release, which will extend ASPN’s functionality and incorporate feature improvements identified in ongoing usability testing, is currently in the planning stages.
Playa wetlands on the west-central Great Plains of North America are vulnerable to sediment infilling from upland agriculture, putting at risk several important ecosystem services as well as essential habitats and food resources of diverse wetland-dependent biota. Climate predictions for this semi-arid area indicate reduced precipitation which may alter rates of erosion, runoff, and sedimentation of playas. We forecasted erosion rates, sediment depths, and resultant playa wetland depths across the west-central Great Plains and examined the relative roles of land use context and projected changes in precipitation in the sedimentation process. We estimated erosion with the Revised Universal Soil Loss Equation (RUSLE) using historic values and downscaled precipitation predictions from three general circulation models and three emissions scenarios. We calibrated RUSLE results using field sediment measurements. RUSLE is appealing for regional scale modeling because it uses climate forecasts with monthly resolution and other widely available values including soil texture, slope and land use. Sediment accumulation rates will continue near historic levels through 2070 and will be sufficient to cause most playas (if not already filled) to fill with sediment within the next 100 years in the absence of mitigation. Land use surrounding the playa, whether grassland or tilled cropland, is more influential in sediment accumulation than climate-driven precipitation change.
White-nose syndrome (WNS) is an emerging and devastating disease of hibernating bats in North America. WNS is caused by a cold-growing fungus (Geomyces destructans) that infects the skin of hibernating bats during winter and causes life-threatening alterations in physiology and behavior. WNS has spread rapidly across the eastern United States and Canada since it was first documented in New York in the winter of 2006. This new disease is causing mass mortality and detrimentally affecting most of the 6 species of bats that hibernate in the northeastern United States. Particularly hard-hit are the little brown bat (Myotis lucifugus), northern long-eared bat (Myotis septentrionalis), eastern small-footed bat (Myotis leibii), and federally endangered Indiana bat (Myotis sodalis). Several more species are also now known to be exposed to the fungus in the Midwest and Southeast. The sudden and widespread mortality associated with white-nose syndrome is unprecedented in any of the world’s bats and is a cause for international concern as the fungus and the disease spread farther north, south, and west. Loss of these long-lived insect-eating bats could have substantial adverse effects on agriculture and forestry through loss of natural pest-control services.
Tracking a Deadly Disease
Because WNS is spreading so rapidly, field surveillance data and diagnostic samples must be managed efficiently so that critical information can be communicated quickly among State and Federal land managers, as well as the public. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which plays a primary role in coordinating the Federal response to WNS, worked with the USGS Fort Collins Science Center’s Web Applications Team to develop the White-nose Syndrome Disease Tracking System. Version 1.0 of this system, released for Beta testing in May 2011, addresses two critical objectives:
enable state-level resource managers to effectively manage WNS field and laboratory data, and
provide customizable map and data reports of surveillance findings. The WNS Disease Tracking System subsequently was demonstrated to resource managers involved in the WNS response, and system users are assisting with in-depth testing. Once resource-management users are all trained (autumn 2011), they will begin populating the system with surveillance data, much of which will be immediately available to the public.
WNS version 1.0 was released into production in November, 2011 and state points-of-contact are currently being trainined. New users are providing ciritical feedback for WNS version 2.0, which is currently being planned with Fish and Wildlife Region 5 and the National White-nose Syndrome Data Management Team.
Key System Components
Disease Tracking: Customizable disease tracking maps and data exports for all U.S. states and counties
Disease Reporting: Tissue sample database management for authorized resource managers as well as a publicly accessible database of disease reporting contacts for all U.S. States and Federal resource management agencies
Diagnostic Labs: Directory of laboratories involved in white-nose syndrome diagnostic analyses
Recommended methods for range-wide monitoring of prairie dogs in the United States
McDonald, L.L., T.R. Stanley, D.L. Otis, D.E. Biggins, P.D. Stevens, J.L. Koprowski, and W. Ballard
One of the greatest challenges for conserving grassland, prairie scrub, and shrub-steppe ecosystems is maintaining prairie dog populations across the landscape. Of the four species of prairie dogs found in the United States, the Utah prairie dog (Cynomys parvidens) is listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) as threatened, the Gunnison's prairie dog (C. gunnisoni) is a candidate for listing in a portion of its range, and the black-tailed prairie dog (C. ludovicianus) and white-tailed prairie dog (C. leucurus) have each been petitioned for listing at least once in recent history. Although the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) determined listing is not warranted for either the black-tailed prairie dog or white-tailed prairie dog, the petitions and associated reviews demonstrated the need for the States to monitor and manage for self-sustaining populations...
Aerial Photography Sources for Delineating the Oregon, California, Mormon Pioneer, and Pony Express National Historic Trails in Kansas, Nebraska, Oregon, and Wyoming
This report documents results of a study that assessed the Kansas public’s values and attitudes toward wildlife. Findings are part of the larger research program Wildlife Values in the West. Data were collected using a mail-back survey administered to residents in Kansas. Five hundred and thirty five completed surveys were returned, and the response rate for the mail-back survey was 19%. A telephone nonresponse survey was completed, and tests for differences between mail survey respondents and nonrespondents were conducted. Based on these tests, data were weighted to correct for age and wildlife-related recreation participation...
Saltcedar and Russian Olive control demonstration act science assessment
Shafroth, P.B., C.A. Brown, and D.M. Merritt (eds.)
The primary intent of this document is to provide the science assessment called for under The Saltcedar and Russian Olive Control Demonstration Act of 2006 (Public Law 109–320; the Act). A secondary purpose is to provide a common background for applicants for prospective demonstration projects, should funds be appropriated for this second phase of the Act. This document synthesizes the state-of-the-science on the following topics: the distribution and abundance (extent) of saltcedar (Tamarix spp.) and Russian olive (Elaeagnus angustifolia) in the Western United States, potential for water savings associated with controlling saltcedar and Russian olive and the associated restoration of occupied sites, considerations related to wildlife use of saltcedar and Russian olive habitat or restored habitats, methods to control saltcedar and Russian olive, possible utilization of dead biomass following removal of saltcedar and Russian olive, and approaches and challenges associated with revegetation or restoration following control efforts. A concluding chapter discusses possible long-term management strategies, needs for additional study, potentially useful field demonstration projects, and a planning process for on-the-ground projects involving removal of saltcedar and Russian olive...
Summary and analysis of the U.S. government Bat Banding Program
This report summarizes the U.S. Government Bat Banding Program (BBP) from 1932 to 1972. More than 2 million bands were issued during the program, of which approximately 1.5 million bands were applied to 36 bat species by scientists in many locations in North America including the U.S., Canada, Mexico, and Central America. Throughout the BBP, banders noticed numerous and deleterious effects on bats, leading to a moratorium on bat banding by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and a resolution to cease banding by the American Society of Mammalogists in 1973. One of the main points of the memorandum written to justify the moratorium was to conduct a "detailed evaluation of the files of the bat-banding program." However, a critical and detailed evaluation of the BBP was never completed. In an effort to satisfy this need, I compiled a detailed history of the BBP by examining the files and conducting a literature review on bat banding activities during the program. I also provided a case study in managing data and applying current mark-recapture theory to estimate survival using the information from a series of bat bands issued to Clyde M. Senger during the BBP. The majority of bands applied by Senger were to Townsend's big-eared bat (Corynorhinus townsendii), a species of special concern for many states within its geographic range. I developed a database management system for the bat banding records and then analyzed and modeled survival of hibernating Townsend's big-eared bats at three main locations in Washington State using Cormack-Jolly-Seber (CJS) open models and the modeling capabilities of Program MARK. This analysis of a select dataset in the BBP files provided relatively precise estimates of survival for wintering Townsend's big-eared bats. However, this dataset is unique due to its well-maintained and complete state and because there were high recapture rates over the course of banding; it is doubtful that other unpublished datasets of the same quality exist buried in the BBP files for further analyses. Lastly, I make several recommendations based on the findings of this summary and analysis, the most important of which is that marking bats with standard metal or split-ring forearm bands should not be considered for mark-recapture studies unless the information sought and the potential for obtaining unbiased estimates from that information vastly outweighs the potential negative effects to the bats.