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Wildlife Partnerships

May 2013

Wildlife, big and small, puts a face on the impacts disturbances, both natural and human caused can have on our native forest species.  Scientists at the Northern Research Station with the help of many partners are tackling some of the major challenges wildlife species in our region are facing.  Learn more.

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Featured Scientist

Todd Katzner

Research Biologist, Todd Katzner, holding a red-tail hawk.

Although the North American golden eagle (Aquila chrysaetos) is typically associated with the Western U.S.A., there is a small and distinct population of these birds that breed in Northeastern Canada and winter in the mid-Atlantic Region. West Virginia happens to be at the center of the eastern golden eagle’s winter range, and it is likely that West Virginia has a greater number of wintering birds than any other state in the east. 

Dr. Todd Katzner, a Research Assistant Professor at West Virginia University whose position is jointly funded by the Northern Research Station, is working with partners to develop high resolution spatial data of migration corridors and habitat use by these birds by deploying high tech telemetry systems for tracking movement.  Just recently, Dr. Katzner and the Eastern Golden Eagle Working Group he helped found, were honored by the U. S. Forest Service “Wings Across the Americas” program and received the 2013 Research and Management Partnership Award for their work. 

Katzner’s research is particularly important as the U.S. explores wind and other alternative energy sources to decrease reliance on foreign oil and fossil fuels.  The mid-Atlantic region is a primary focus for development of wind power.    Since the fate of golden eagles in the eastern U.S. may depend on responsible management of their habitat, it is critical to identify ways to mitigate possible impacts of wind power development on this and other similar species.

Find out more on Todd's scientist profile

Featured Product

bats showing tell-tale white fuzz of WNS. DNA Test for White Nose Syndrome - White-nose syndrome (WNS), a fungal disease of bats, emerged virtually “out of nowhere” in 2007 and is making headlines today for the unprecedented mortality it is causing among hibernating bats in North America.  Infested caves may see as much as 99% mortality of hibernating bats, and millions of bats in the Northeast have already been killed.  The devastation of bat populations has huge potential economic impacts especially on agriculture.  The bats that have succumbed to white nose syndrome to date could eat 8,000 tons of insects per year including many insects harmful to agricultural crops. 

The deadly outbreak of WNS revealed a knowledge gap regarding fungal communities associated with bats and the caves in which they overwinter (hibernacula). Many unnamed and uncharacterized fungal species were interfering with DNA tests to detect the disease-causing fungus, known as Geomyces destructans. This led to research examining the diversity of fungal species in soil samples from caves and characterization of the fungi in caves by DNA-sequencing.   

Through this sequencing technique, scientists developed a new detection method to distinguish the presence of G. destructans from its non-pathogenic relatives.  This new tool will enable scientists to be proactive in identifying caves containing this harmful species and perhaps slow the spread of the disease. 

 

Featured Research

Altantic salmon smolt, ready to migrate to the ocean.Modeling Altered River Flows that affect fish in the North Atlantic- Rivers flowing into the North Atlantic Ocean from both eastern North America and northwestern Europe have a long history of being manipulated by humans.  This manipulation of rivers continues today for various purposes including diverting water for human use and generating hydroelectric power.  In addition to the benefits derived by humans however, the changes in river flow associated with these river modifications can have serious impacts on riverine fish populations. 

Keith Nislow at the Northern Research Station Laboratory in Amherst, MA and partners recently reviewed the state of science relating river flow regimes to fish populations.  The knowledge gleaned from this analysis is serving as a basis for developing robust models to predict how river modifications will affect riverine fish populations across their complex life histories.  In turn, managers and stakeholders will be able to use this information to make watershed management decisions based on sound science that incorporates human needs while sustaining fish populations.  

Featured Partnership

 Cerulean Warbler (Dendroica cerulea). Rondeau Provincial Park, Ontario, Canada.

The Cerulean Warbler is a small neotropical migratory bird that winters in South America and migrates north each year to breed primarily in large tracts of mature deciduous upland and bottomland forests in the Appalachians in the Eastern U.S.  While it reaches it greatest abundance in southeastern Ohio, West Virginia and eastern Kentucky, a sizeable population occurs in Missouri but little is known about its distribution and abundance there.  The US Fish and Wildlife Service considers the cerulean warbler a species of management concern due to population decreases primarily associated with habitat fragmentation.   

Understanding the bird’s distribution and abundance in the Central Hardwoods Bird Conservation Region (CHBCR) is the first step in developing management plans that will incorporate actions to conserve this bird’s habitat.  To facilitate this effort, scientists at the Northern Research Station lab in Columbia, MO worked with the Central Hardwoods Joint Venture (CHJV). The CHJV is a partnership of state and federal government agencies and non-governmental organizations that work together to ensure the long term viability of native bird populations. 

Better understanding where the cerulean warbler occurs in manageable numbers is needed in order to launch effective conservation efforts.  Northern Research Station scientists and their partners conducted an assessment of the distribution and abundance of the cerulean warbler along rivers in Missouri and Arkansas and found that local habitat and landscape factors had a strong effect on abundance, especially the amount of forest in the surrounding landscape.  Conservation of cerulean warblers will be most effective if we ensure the appropriate forest type and structure are present in heavily forested landscapes.  The Northern Research Station and CHJV are continuing to collaborate on research to spatially map abundance of bird species of concern across the region.