Tag Archives: wildlife biology

Beach Day for Beetles!

The largest-ever reintroduction of an endangered tiger beetle happened quietly in the morning of October 19th, 2017, on a foggy beach in the Connecticut river. These beetles are the rare Puritan Tiger Beetle, Cicindela puritana , or “PTB” as tiger beetle experts call it. This species is listed as federally threatened and state endangered due to a century of human use that has changed the Connecticut River’s flow. This change has reduced desired habitat, and left only one viable population of PTBs in New England. This reintroduction of more than 700 laboratory-reared PTB larvae is only part of a multi-year, team-project to establish sustainable populations of PTB in the Connecticut River.

Endangered Puritan Tiger Beetle male.

This project, which is supported by the Cooperative Recovery Initiative program and based at the Richard Cronin Aquatic Resource Center in partnership with Silvio O. Conte National Fish & Wildlife Refuge, unites a seasoned team of over 30 Federal & State wildlife officials, professional Biologists, Academic partners, students, and generous volunteers. Together, this group is pioneering methods to acquire land, captive-rear larvae, manage habitat, and use field-techniques to ensure the survival of PTB throughout one of the largest rivers in the Northeast.

Volunteers from the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, the Student Conservation Association, and the University of Massachusetts prepare a plot before larva reintroduction.

To restore a healthy river ecosystem that includes these tiny apex predators, lab-reared PTB reintroductions are key to establishing new populations. To do this, the PTB team uses aerial “butterfly” nets to carefully collect adult beetles from the single source-population. The adult beetles mate and lay eggs in the lab, which hatch into larvae that grow progressively larger through 3 growth phases, called instars. In the wild, it takes about 2 years for PTB larvae to reach their third instar, but in the lab, this time can be reduced to just a few months.

Rodger Gwiazdowski moistens the top layer of soil with river water at 1 of 7 reintroduction plots.

The reintroduction sites were carefully selected by the PTB team. Finding good habitat requires expertise to determine sediment size, beach slope, and the abundance and diversity of prey that PTBs prefer. To be reintroduced, PTB larvae are transported to the site, each in their own small sand-filled vial, and released into plotted-areas on the beach where they immediately dig vertical tunnels in the sand to develop through their instar stages. 

Volunteers release PTB larva into the sand.

Over the next 2 years, the PTB team will revisit the reintroduction sites to count the number of PTB burrows and adult beetles, which will indicate the success and survival rate of the lab-reared PTBs.

Stay tuned for 2018 updates on the PTBs!

Sharing a passion for wildlife

Mitch Hartley is a wildlife biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Mitch Hartley is a migratory bird biologist with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Yesterday we heard from Tesia Lin, a college student who participated in a wildlife techniques course taught in part by employees of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Today we get a glimpse from the other perspective as Mitch Hartley, a migratory bird biologist with the Service, shares his experience teaching the class and why it means more than just imparting knowledge.

 

Each year I look forward to my drive to Castleton State College in Vermont, anticipating the adventure of working with wildlife biology students from around the United States. For the past seven years, my U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service colleagues and I have “volunteered” our time as instructors in a two-week wildlife techniques course offered by the Northeast Chapter of The Wildlife Society.

Migratory bird conservation is one aspect of the wildlife techniques course. This student observes a tufted titmouse as Mitch supervises. Photo credit: Bennett Gould

The annual course enrolls about 20 passionate and eager students, with aspirations for a career in natural resources. The expertise that I contribute to the course curriculum is focused on migratory bird conservation.  In my current job I don’t get out into the field as much as I used to, so working with students in the course gives me a chance to get outside, watch birds and other wildlife, and reconnect with the experiences, both personally and professionally, that initially drew me to a career in wildlife biology.

Mitch and his colleague Randy Dettmers teach students how to handle blue jays while gathering important biological information. Photo credit: Bennett Gould

Mitch and his colleague Randy Dettmers teach students how to handle blue jays while gathering important biological information. Photo credit: Bennett Gould

As part of the course, we take small groups of students on early morning walks, instructing them on common bird survey skills and techniques. We teach them bird identification by sight and song, and demonstrate how to set-up mist nests to safely capture and band songbirds.

Spending time with these students reminds me of the earnest desire and ambition I had as a young person, desperately wanting to be a wildlife biologist. The students are highly motivated, determined, and focused on their goals of a career in natural resources.

Students work together to learn about fish sampling. Photo credit: Bennett Gould

Students work together to learn about fish sampling. Photo credit: Bennett Gould

Within just 48 hours of working with the students I am always surprised at how well I get to know them and learn about their passion for wanting to make a positive difference in the world. In the process of sharing my own perspective and experiences with these students, I realize again what makes me enthusiastic about my own career, and how lucky I am to have a job that I love.

Tom Decker, wildlife biologist with the Service uses animal pelts and bones to help teach students about animal identification. Photo credit: John McDonald

Tom Decker, a Service wildlife biologist, uses animal pelts and bones to help teach students about animal identification. Photo credit: John McDonald

Several of my Service colleagues also make this extra effort each year to connect with the next generation of conservation professionals. I suspect that, like me, they enjoy the time away from their daily work routines, get re-energized by the students’ youthful passions, and feel a sense of satisfaction knowing that we are helping others. An added benefit of being involved with the course is that it helps build awareness and support for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and our conservation mission.

Enjoying a peaceful moment in the sun. Photo credit: Bennett Gould

One of the students enjoys a peaceful moment in the sun. Photo credit: Bennett Gould

It is really humbling when, by the end of my two days with the class, nearly every student approaches me with a sincere “thank you,” and expresses their appreciation for sharing my knowledge, experiences and lessons with them.

When I returned home this year from the class my wife asked me one night “Why do you help teach this class each year?”  Until she asked, I had not really thought much about it. But it made me realize how important the class is, not only to the students who take the class, but to myself and my other colleagues who have a vested interest in conserving and protecting a natural world for all future generations.

Connect with the Wildlife Techniques course on Facebook

 

Meet #ScienceWoman Anne Secord

Anne Secord BrandedCelebrate Women’s History Month with us! This year, we’re looking forward by honoring women across the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and female conservationists who are making history in our agency and in conservation. With each #ScienceWoman, we’ll share a photo and a couple questions and answers about her work. Stay tuned for posts throughout the month!

Meet Anne Secord, the chief of the environmental quality branch in our New York Field Office in Cortland. Anne led a team that secured $19.4 million of restoration funds from parties responsible for releasing hazardous substances into the St. Lawrence River since at least the 1950s.

Anne and fellow New York Field Office biologist Sandie Doran getting ready to conduct winter census of bat hibernaculum in New York. Photo courtesy of Anne.

Anne and fellow New York Field Office biologist Sandie Doran getting ready to conduct winter census of bat hibernaculum in New York. Photo courtesy of Anne.

She studied wildlife biology at Cornell University and Virginia Tech. Her female conservation hero is Anne LaBastille, an ecologist who authored scientific papers, popular articles and books like the Woodswoman series and Women of the Wilderness.

Anne checking on the large number of bald eagles that winter at Onondaga Lake, the location of a Superfund site and cooperative case to assess and restore injured natural resources. Photo courtesy of Anne.

Anne checking on the large number of bald eagles that winter at Onondaga Lake, the location of a Superfund site and cooperative case to assess and restore injured natural resources. Photo courtesy of Anne.

Q. What’s your favorite thing about working for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service? A. We work for the only federal agency that provides “in-the-dirt” protection for fish and wildlife resources. The agency is full of people who care deeply about our natural resources and take measurable steps to protect and improve them.

Anne investigating whether emerging contaminants like detergents or pharmaceuticals from sewage treatment plants are affecting fish health in the Raquette River, New York. Photo courtesy of Anne.

Anne investigating whether emerging contaminants like detergents or pharmaceuticals from sewage treatment plants are affecting fish health in the Raquette River, New York. Photo courtesy of Anne.

Q. If you could have one incredible animal adaptation, what would it be? A. I would love to be able to fly – to see the world from above it all – and it would shorten my commute.

See more #ScienceWoman profiles!