Author Archives: jenniferlapis

MAKE WAY FOR BEETLES!

The tiny Puritan Tiger Beetle is a ferocious predator, but is a having hard time surviving in an increasingly competitive world. Today we hear from evolutionary biologist Rodger Gwiazdowski of Advanced BioConsulting, LLC, who is leading a research team from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Student Conservation Association in hopes of creating a successful breeding population in their historic native New England habitat.

Adult Puritan tiger beetles are less than half an inch long, but are fast and ferocious predators. Photo Credit: USFWS/Susan Wojtowicz

Adult Puritan tiger beetles are less than half an inch long, but are fast and ferocious predators. Photo Credit: USFWS/Susan Wojtowicz

They slice into prey with sharp jaws – and eat everything they catch. Tiger beetles, (named for their ferocious hunting behavior) are tough, tiny insect-predators, who thrive in harsh places like deserts and beaches. Despite their tenacity, many species of tiger beetles are on endangered species lists. Unfortunately their individual “toughness” is not enough to ensure survival. What they need is to be part of something bigger – a group of many interacting populations; something ecologists call a metapopulation.

Metapopulations reduce extinction, because if any one population in the group fails (a normal event) then individuals from nearby populations can move back, or grow new populations in new habitat. But a single population that’s too small, or too far away from new habitat – risks extinction.

Larval tiger beetles are also predatory, but live in deep self-dug holes. Larvae can be translocated to establish new populations, and here they are being carefully dug out by Service employee Susan Wojtowicz. Photo credit: USFWS

Larval tiger beetles are also predatory, but live in deep self-dug holes. Larvae can be translocated to establish new populations, and here they are being carefully dug out by Service employee Susan Wojtowicz. Photo credit: USFWS

On a narrow riverside beach along the Connecticut River, the sleek Puritan tiger beetle, Cicindela puritana (or ‘PTB’ as tiger beetle experts call it) lives on, as the only viable population in New England.  A century of human use has changed the Connecticut River’s flow, reducing critical habitat for the PTB, and eliminating a healthy metapopulation of beetles.

But now, thanks to some serious advocates, restoring a PTB metapopulation is possible. For the first time in the United States, a team from the Silvio O. Conte National Fish & Wildlife Refuge in western Massachusetts, is combining over a decade of PTB adult surveys, habitat management & acquisition, larval translocations, and captive rearing, to establish new populations of beetles at sites where they once historically flourished.

In the Puritan tiger beetle rearing lab, at the Richard Cronin Aquatic Resource Center, staff prepare for daily care of the adults, and larvae. Photo credit: USFWS.

In the Puritan tiger beetle rearing lab at the Richard Cronin Aquatic Resource Center, staff prepare for daily care of the adults and larvae. Photo credit: USFWS.

Throughout 2015-2016, a team of biologists, interns and volunteers have successfully translocated a small number of larvae to historic habitats, and worked with the Richard Cronin Aquatic Resource Center in Sunderland, Massachusetts to create a dedicated PTB lab that can rear beetles by the thousands.

Much of the project is made possible through the Cooperative Recovery Initiative program, which aims to recover federally listed species on National Wildlife Refuges and surrounding lands.

Larvae will dig their new burrows under the protection of transport containers. Student Conservation Association intern Cathleen Johnson releases the larvae into their new habitat. Photo credit: USFWS

Larvae will dig new burrows under the protection of transport containers. Student Conservation Association intern Cathleen Johnson releases the larvae into their new habitat. Photo credit: USFWS

Later this fall, the team plans to reintroduce hundreds of PTB larvae, now growing in the lab, to a historical site in Massachusetts. In addition,  students at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, Elkinton Lab will help cold-incubate PTB larvae over the winter, which will also be reintroduced. Looking ahead a few years, the team has set their sights on several historic PTB locations, with the aim of establishing several new populations, to help re-make a PTB metapopulation in the Connecticut River.

Hook, line and sinker: Cops and kids connect through fishing

Fishing off the docks at Riverside Park in Hartford, Connecticut. The park, which is open to the public, provided a great location for the city's first Cops and Bobbers, Hooks and Ladders youth fishing event.

Fishing off the docks at Riverside Park in Hartford, Connecticut. The park, which is open to the public, provided a great location for the city’s first Cops and Bobbers, Hooks and Ladders youth fishing event. Photo Credit: USFWS

“I want to catch a fish!” These words filled the air on a hot August morning as more than 40 youth from Hartford, Connecticut took park in the city’s first Cops and Bobbers, Hooks and Ladders fishing event at Riverside Park.

The Cops and Bobbers, Hooks and Ladders program aims to get urban youth outdoors, teaches them to fish, and connects them to nature, while at the same time, fosters positive relationships with law enforcement and safety professionals in their community.

The event was an outstanding success thanks to all the partners who coordinated and supported the program.

Staff from Connecticut's Dept. of Energy and Environmental Protection CARE program instruct youth on how to properly coast with the fishing poles.

Keith Syrett, an interprestive guide with Connecticut Dept. of Energy and Environmental Protection instructs youth on how to properly cast with the fishing poles. Photo credit: USFWS

The City of Hartford Police and Fire Departments contributed time to help the young anglers cast, bait hooks and reel in any fish they caught. Staff from Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection’s angler education program taught kids how to cast, tie knots and identify fish. The Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge educated kids about the Connecticut River Watershed through its Watershed on Wheels traveling exhibit. And the Wilson-Gray YMCA and Family Center helped transport kids from their neighborhoods to the park in order to participate in the event.

These happy young anglers are all smiles as they receive their new fishing poles and other "goodies" provided to participants at the event. Photo credit: USFWS

These happy young anglers are all smiles as they receive their new fishing poles and other “goodies” provided to participants at the event. Photo credit: USFWS

Riverfront Recapture, a non-profit organization that maintains Riverside Park and other city parks, provided a great location to hold the event, and worked with Bass Pro Shops to donate a rod and reel to every participant.

Members of each organization also spent time, energy and money planning, organizing and gathering resources so that all kids who attended the event would have a meaningful experience connecting with diverse groups within their community.

A Hartford city officer helps and enthusiastic young angler as she casts her pole into the river. Photo credit: USFWS

Hartford City Officer Christopher Chanaca helps an enthusiastic young angler as she casts her pole into the river. Photo credit: USFWS

“We are teaching our youth that the Connecticut River is a tremendous fishery, right in their back yard. Through this exciting collaboration we are giving them tools to enjoy their free time and learn about their natural environment”, said Craig Mergins, Directory of Community Event and Engagement at Riverfront Recapture.

Kids got a close-up and personal look at the city's fire and safety equipment while also talking with firefighters and EMTs. Photo credit: USFWS

Kids get a close-up and personal look at the city’s fire and safety equipment while also talking with firefighters and EMTs. Photo credit: USFWS

The program also supports the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Urban Wildlife Refuge Partnerships. By partnering with police and fire departments, the Conte Refuge hopes to create connections within urban communities in the Connecticut River watershed. Through these connections, the Refuge aims to encourage urban youth to feel comfortable in nature and foster a love of the outdoors.

Ideally, with a new fishing rod in hand and the skills they learned at the event, these young kids will continue to fish, carrying with them the desire to protect and conserve our natural world, not only for themselves, but for generations to come.

Photo credit: USFWS

Photo credit: USFWS

 

 

Abandoned landfills and private landowners provide hope for pollinators!

Katie with seeds

Katie Kain is a biologist at the Lake Champlain Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office in Vermont. Photo credit: USFWS

It’s pollinator season, and this week we are honoring these hard working animals that pollinate the flowers and plants we often take for granted. Today, Partners for Fish and Wildlife biologist Katie Kain shares her story on two projects that restored critical habitat for these small, but mighty animals.

Buckwheat plant

A buckwheat plant is visited by a well know pollinator. Photo credit: USFWS

Did you know that more than 75 percent of all flowering plants are pollinated by animals? That includes plants that produce foods we love to eat, such as apples, almonds, honey, tomatoes and even chocolate!

But unfortunately many of the animals we rely on to pollinate are declining in numbers, and losing critical habitat for survival.

The landfill in Burlington prior to preparing and seeding the site for restoration. Photo credit: USFWS

The landfill in Burlington, Vermont prior to preparing and seeding the site for restoration. Photo credit: USFWS

This is where the Service’s Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program is stepping in to help turn this trend around, and work with private landowners to create habitat that many pollinators need to thrive and survive.

Preparing the landfill for pollinator seed planting. Photo Credit: USFWS

Preparing the landfill for pollinator seed planting. Photo Credit: USFWS

Service staff at the Lake Champlain Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office in Vermont worked with the city of Burlington to convert an abandoned and grass capped landfill into a blooming sea of flowers and plants that would attract a variety of pollinator species, including the declining monarch butterfly. In addition, we worked with a private landowner and a local watershed organization, the Friends of Winooski River, in the state’s capital of Montpelier to create a riparian buffer planting on the landowner’s property.

These enthusiastic students helped prepare and seed the area, while also learning something about the importance of pollinators. Photo credit: USFWS

These enthusiastic students helped prepare and seed the area, while also learning something about the importance of pollinators. Photo credit: USFWS

Our team of wildlife biologists, along with student volunteers from nearby schools, began the projects with site preparations such as tilling and plowing the area to remove the existing sod layer. Next we seeded the area with a mix of native pollinator plant species, as well as a cover crop of buckwheat. When used as a cover crop, the buckwheat helps suppress weeds, increases soil organic matter and improves soil nutrients. And even though it is not a native species it is known to attract pollinators. By next season, the perennial native plants will have become solidly established and will provide a diverse array of plants to attract pollinators.

The buckwheat cover crop at the landfill after planting. Photo credit: USFWS

The buckwheat cover crop at the landfill after planting. Photo credit: USFWS

The field at the abandoned landfill sits adjacent to a well-used city bike path and will be enjoyed by many local residents and pollinators for year to come. Plans are already in the works to restore another section of the landfill in coming months.

Volunteers helping to plant seeds in the riparian area. Photo credit: USFWS

Volunteers helping to plant seeds in the riparian area. Photo credit: USFWS

As for the riparian location, we were fortunate enough to work with a landowner whose interest in pollinators allowed us to modify the restoration plans to incorporate trees, shrubs and other plants that provide high quality pollinator habitat. The landowners are so pleased with the results that they promote the Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program with other interested landowners. In Vermont alone, the program has restored 225 acres of wetland habitat and 43 acres of upland habitat in 2015.

A monarch butterfly finds a buckwheat plant in the newly restored pollinator habitat. Photo credit: USFWS

A monarch butterfly finds a buckwheat plant in the newly restored pollinator habitat. Photo credit: USFWS

As we do with all our restoration projects, we will continue to monitor both these sites to determine the level of success in attracting pollinator species and refine methods for future, similar projects.

Learn more about pollinators.

Learn more about the Lake Champlain Fish and Wildlife Conservation Office.

Learn more about the Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program.