Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Back from Summer Field Research

The best thing about conservation ecology research for me, is the fact that there is usually a good amount of time spent outside gathering data. For most of us in the lab the bulk of that data collected in the field is done during summer semester (June, July, August). Now that it is fall semester, we are back to a weekly schedule that includes classes. This means we are in the office more, and have some time to catch up with each other.  So here are some updates from our lab:

I (Rachel) have been out re-surveying the ash trees that are still alive and trapping emerald ash borer beetle in our parks of NW Ohio. This information will be used to adjust my population models, and I am also starting to create models that predict what would happen under different management scenarios.

A picture of Rachel in the field, ready to measure small ash seedlings.

Our newest addition to the lab is Jake Schoen, he is the one in plaid and a beard. He's an incoming master's student from Ohio University with an interest in spatial ecology, distribution, and habitat suitability analysis of fauna in the Oak Openings Region.
Photo From Left to Right: Amanda Martin, Tyler Turner, Karen Root, Jake Schoen, Rachel Kappler, and Greg Gustafson.

Greg G said, "I sampled all taxa in the oak savanna's of the oak openings region. I found an abundance of birds and mammals in the study sites. Reptiles and amphibians were harder to come across and subsequently will not be analyzed. Point counts were used to survey birds and mammals. I also used camera traps to track large mammals on my study sites. I used cover boards as the main method to track amphibians and reptiles. Some remarkable sightings over the summer included Piliated Woodpeckers, Coyotes and Eastern Box Turtles. Overall the diversity between savanna plots seems varied and may give me some significant results to report in the spring."

Tyler T's research this summer took a 3 pronged approach to study the effects of human land use on the activity, diversity, and distribution of native bat species. Utilizing non-invasive acoustic monitors, her recorded feeding calls of native bats, and used those calls along with GPS location tags to identify what species were feeding and where they were. These studies included driving transects, overnight stationary monitoring, and walking transects done by citizen scientist volunteers. He identified all 8 species of native bats between May and September, though 3 were much more common (Eptesicus fuscus, Lasionycteris noctivagans, and Lasiurus borealis). He will use these calls to identify patterns, both spatially and temporally, for the individual species to help better inform land management of natural and agricultural landscapes.

Amanda found several eastern box turtles (Terrapene c. carolina) this summer. She used radio telemetry to keep track of how far they traveled to examine daily and monthly movements. She found several eastern garter snakes (Thamnophis sirtalis) and used fluorescent powder to track their movements within a day. This fine-scale data helps us to understand how reptiles interact with their environments.

 Box Turtle in the Oak Openings Region.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Research Updates

Now that the spring semester is officially over, we as grad students can all breath a sigh of relief for one moment.  As our lab is filled with field ecologists that moment is over quickly or never happens because we have to prep for outdoor research.  
Some of the things we would like to share with you from this semester are:
  • Most road-killed mammals are raccoons and opossums, although squirrels and chipmunks maybe removed by other animals before we realize they have been hit. Robins were the bird that got hit the most. Roads with higher speed limits had fewer road-kill.

  • We were able to detect 7 out of 8 native bat species. We did not find N. Long-eared bats (Myotis septentrionalis).
  • There maybe a connection between surviving ash and their location to other ash trees.

  • That we will be doing science no matter what the political climate or actual climate is.

We are looking forward to doing the following things this summer:
  • Greg G. is working on his research assessing the effects of land management practices on terrestrial vertebrate distribution/diversity.
  • Amanda M. is already outdoors looking for snakes and turtles to track for her data-set.

  • Tyler will be pursuing bat activity data along roads throughout NW Ohio.
  • Lauren has successfully defended her thesis work on using roadkill as a lens for animal movement.
  • Jen has also successfully defended her thesis on bat diversity and species use of land near roads along a gradient of human land use. 
Congratulations to both of them! They will be finalizing their thesis document and seeking out what the real world has to offer them.
  • I (Rachel) am organizing my last field season of ash tree and emerald ash borer beetle surveys.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Species Profile: Northern Spring Peeper

Written and Photographed by: Amanda K. Martin
Walking along in the woods, what might you see? As a herpetologist, I scour the ground floor, looking for amphibians and reptiles. There are plenty of different species that I may find and one in particular is quite easy to identify. The Northern spring peeper or Pseudacris crucifer, its scientific name, has an identifiable mark, an X pattern across its back. The X pattern can come in a variety of colors and sizes, but each individual has one.

Spring peepers are found in a variety of environments, including marshy woods, non-wooded lowlands, and near swamps and ponds. Males communicate to others through their unique single note, high-pitched call. This note is constantly repeated quickly and sounds like a “peep.” 

Spring peepers start our life as tadpoles, which are herbivores, grazing on algae or decaying plant material within ponds. Juvenile and adult spring peepers are carnivores, eating many arthropods such as ants, caterpillars, pill bugs, and spiders. Although they may eat a variety of species, spring peepers must also avoid predators. Some common spring peeper consumers are fish, larger frogs, snakes, and birds.

The Northern water snake is a predator of the spring peeper.
Spring peepers may be a least concern species; however they play an important role in their environment. As similar to many frog and toad species, spring peepers are an abundant prey source for predators, while maintaining the populations of small insects and other arthropods. This maintenance of some pest species is beneficial to humans and we should continue to preserve their habitats even though they are common and widespread. The rapid loss of wetlands will have a large effect on these species and could place them on the threatened species list!