2021 Grant Program Recipients

Arik Hartmann, Department of Biology, University of Florida

Project: Assessing community-level pathogen spillover in longleaf pine associated herpetofaunal communities

Longleaf pine habitats support diverse assemblages of amphibians and reptiles, of which a third are habitat specialists. Many longleaf specialists are listed as species of conservation concern by state or federal agencies because of habitat loss and population declines. Some species, such as striped newts and gopher frogs, have continued to decline in suitable habitat and our ongoing research suggests that the emerging wildlife pathogen Ranavirus could be driving these declines. Ranaviruses can infect amphibians, reptiles, and fish, and outbreaks of Ranaviral disease in longleaf amphibians poses a threat to sympatric chelonian and squamate reptiles. Our goals are to assess longleaf reptiles for evidence of Ranavirus spillover, describe the range of taxa affected, and correlate host community composition to disease dynamics.

Read Arik’s project report here.

Corrie Navis, Integrative Conservation and Forestry & Natural Resources, University of Georgia

Project: A roadmap for reintroduction: Developing strategies to optimize post-release Striped Newt (Notophthalmus perstriatus) population impacts

Striped Newts are a rare species of salamander, found in limited locations in south Georgia and Florida.  A number of organizations are interested in Striped Newt conservation, and captive rearing is a popular strategy to bolster wild populations or repatriate the species to suitable habitat.  However, much remains unknown about the species’ life history, particularly the survival and development of larvae.  My research supplements study of a wild population with experimental release and monitoring of captive-reared Striped Newt larvae.  The data I gather on post-release outcomes will inform Striped Newt rearing programs to help ensure the best chances of success for such conservation efforts.

Read Corrie’s project report here.

Timothy Calhoun, Department of Forestry, Wildlife and Fisheries, University of Tennessee

Project: Examining the effects of cattle grazing on bog turtles

The bog turtle is a federally threatened species not only due to human activities such as habitat destruction and poaching for the pet trade, but also habitat loss from overgrown wetlands.  Historically, disturbances from fire or bison prevented this overgrowth, and now wildlife managers sometimes graze cattle on these wetlands in place of natural disturbance.  However, we do not know how the turtles themselves react to different levels of grazing pressure on these wetlands.  My project involves putting radio transmitters on bog turtles to track their movement across a wetland divided into sections with different relative number of cows, to see where the turtles spend the most time.  This information will inform management decisions and private land recommendations on how many cattle to use to improve bog turtle habitat.

Read Timothy’s project report here.

Tori Engler, Department of Fish and Wildlife Conservation, Virginia Tech
Salamanders are important members of forest ecosystems and provide essential services such as nutrient cycling and regulating invertebrates.  However, their populations are declining, in part due to habitat loss and alteration.  One significant type of habitat alteration is timber harvesting, which can negatively impact salamanders.  Previous research suggests that salamanders could be positively impacted by tip-up mounds (pushed over tree stumps) and the creation of tip-up mounds in harvested areas could mitigate some of the negative impacts of timber harvest.  The goal of this project is to determine if salamanders are impacted by artificial tip-up mounds in a central Appalachian hardwood forest.  
Read Tori’s project report here.