Applied Conservation Lab
The Millersville University Biology Department and Meteorology Program began a joint project of a hawk watch count on the Millersville University campus in collaboration with Dr. Laurie Goodrich, Raptor Biologist with the Hawk Mountain Observatory (http://www.hawkmountain.org/). Hawk count sites have been collecting data on migrating hawks for years. They use long-term migration databases to monitor changes in raptor (i.e., hawks, eagles, osprey, vultures and falcons) populations. Monitoring raptor populations is important because raptors are sensitive bioindicators at the top of food chains, and changes in the numbers of raptors reflect changes in the health of the environment. All student count data is uploaded to a national database at, www.hawkcount.org. In addition, results are recorded on the Trektellan international bird migration count database, http://www.trektellen.nl/?language=english&.
The real exciting news is that Millersville University students can keep track of these raptors as they fly over campus in real time. The Millersville University Hawk Count project can be found on the Dunkadoo webpage, https://dunkadoo.org/project/millersville-hawk-count . By following the link to this project, all students can see what birds of prey have flown over campus, up to the minute, and be able to see hawk count statistics gathered on campus.
Identification of the New Threats Impacting Federally Threatened and Endangered Species in the United States (Undergraduate Researchers Picture Below: Back Row = Delaney Costante, Amanda Dziedzic, Alex Sandercock, Dr. Haines; Front Row = Hannah Brown, Kelsi Nagy and Kayli Thomas)
These projects involve the review of federal register documents for threatened and endangered species in order to identify the factors that led to the listing of each species. Working in collaboration with student researchers from the College of William and Mary, our goal is to quantify the threats that impact endangered species and to eventually compare the last 20 years of documented threats to those presented in research by Wilcove et al. 1996. Upon completion of this research, we will be able to identify the top human impacts causing threatened and endangered species to become listed and also identify invasive and other problem species affecting threatened and endangered species. By determining the top threats to threatened and endangered species, we hope to map these threats with the use of geographical information systems (GIS), to determine how these threats have changed over time. This research could provide valuable information regarding the status of threatened and endangered species, as well its relationship to encroaching human impacts and how to plan to mitigate these impacts.
Evaluating the Effectiveness of Pre-baiting Traps for Small Mammal Capture Success (Undergraduate ResearchersTyler Bridgehouse, Grace Nussbaum, Brooke Frye and Kelsey Lopez)
Baiting is conducted by many researchers in order to manipulate wildlife for research purposes such as observation and mark/recapture. In order to increase capture success amongst small mammals, pre-baiting of live-traps may allow small mammals to become accustomed to the trapping area and the traps themselves. The objective of this study was to capture small mammals using live Sherman traps in order to determine if pre-baiting improves small mammal capture success as well as recapture success. Using this information, we would be able to tell how many days in advance a trap may be pre-baited in order to improve capture success. We hypothesized that pre-baiting would increase trapping and recapture success rates, and that the longer baits were placed in the field, the greater the capture and recapture rate for small mammals. We set-up six transects of Sherman live-traps, each with its own pre-bait schedule for one week. Once pre-baiting was done, traps were set to determine capture and recapture rates. The trapping season concluded once all transects were exposed to each pre-bait schedule. Tentative results suggest that the length of the pre-baiting period does not impact small mammal capture success, however future research is needed to determine the impacts that seasons and the attraction of non-target species play on pre-baiting trap sites for small mammals.
Radio-Tracking Ring-necked Pheasants (Undergraduate Researchers Anthony Kessler and Amanda Isabella)
Research can allow students to apply traditional course content into applied problem solving. The implementation of research projects as a teaching model for STEM courses may increase student retention in STEM academic programs. With the help of undergraduate research students, a new test course entitled ‘Ecology Field Methods’ was structured around a field research project involving radio tracking of ring-necked pheasants (Phasianus colchicus). Ring-necked pheasants have been an important economic game bird species since their introduction to the United States from Asia. They have also been used to help determine conservation reserve success in agricultural areas, such as Lancaster County Pennsylvania. During this course, 5 ring-necked pheasants were released at Lancaster Central Park in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. These birds were tracked for 2 months using VHF radio-telemetry. Tentative home range size, habitat use and mortality rates of the pheasants were analyzed. The tracking of ring-necked pheasants has been found to be a good model to bring the research experience into the classroom to expand a student’s skill set in field biology and increase their interest in ecology.