Applied Conservation Lab

Past Research Projects (click on project titles for poster)

Soil Testing To Identify Illegal Bait Sites for Wildlife (Undergraduate Researchers Angela Fetterolf, Meta Griffin and Tristan Conrad) 

Supplemental feeding and baiting of wildlife has the potential to increase the spread of diseases such as Chronic Wasting Disease. Also, the baiting of wildlife for harvest is illegal in many areas. The objective of this study was to determine if commercial wildlife baits leave a chemical signature in the soil which is detectable through chemical analysis. This information could be used by wildlife officers to determine if an area was illegally baited. Commercial wildlife baits were applied to experimental soil patches and compared to non-baited soil patches. The commercial baits that were used in this experiment included ‘3 Day Harvest’ by C’Mere Deer®, ‘Acorn Rage JUICED’ by Wildgame Innovations, and ‘Deer Cane’ mix by Evolved Habitats Wildlife Nutritional Products®. It was hypothesized that baited areas would exhibit higher concentrations of calcium, sodium, and chloride compared to non-baited soil. Atomic absorption spectroscopy was used to measure the amount of sodium and calcium ions and a chloride probe was used to measure chloride ions. Results of this experiment show that for both ‘Deer Cane’ and ‘Acorn Rage JUICED’ the presence of both Sodium and Chloride ions were adequate indicators of baiting activity.  However, further studies are needed to find less expensive ways of testing for these chemical ions so that wildlife officers can easily determine if a site has been baited illegally.

Meta and Tristan

Surveying for Winter Birds Using Remote Devices and Automated Software (Undergraduate Researcher Andrew Wolfgang)

Avian researchers have been experimenting with technology which allows surveying to occur without wasting long hours in the field.   Automated recording devices can survey long time periods at predetermined time intervals. This means that personnel are not deployed for a costly length of time. In addition, claims have been made that new survey software can automatically detect bird species based on their call or song.  In this project Andrew Wolfgang chose to analyze computerized identification technology available from Wildlife Acoustics including their Song Scope Program and their SM-2 automated recording device. Andrew will attempt to test Song Scope's ability to identify four target bird species wintering within a deciduous forest in a suburban setting near Millersville, Pennsylvania.  The four winter bird vocalizations chosen to test will be the "jay" call of the Blue Jay (Cyanocitta cristata), the basic song of the Carolina Wren (Thryothorus ludovicianus), the "chick-a-dee-dee-dee" call of the Carolina Chickadee (Poecile carolinensis), and the high clear whistled song of the White-throated Sparrow (Zonotrichia albicollis). The goal of this project will be to produce recognizer models for each surveyed winter bird species based on their vocal cues using the Song Scope Program, and then evaluate the effectiveness of the Song Scope Software in detecting these bird species.

Andrew & Device

Incorporating Uncertainty into Recovery Goals for Endangered Species (Undergraduate Researcher Matt Zak)

The objective of this study was to evaluate the mention of uncertainty (i.e., variance) associated with population size estimates within U.S. recovery plans for endangered animals. To do this all finalized recovery plans were reviewed for listed terrestrial vertebrate species. It was found that more recent recovery plans reported more estimates of population size and uncertainty. Also, bird and mammal recovery plans reported more estimates of population size and uncertainty. It was recommended that updated recovery plans combine uncertainty of population size estimates with a minimum detectable difference to aid in successful recovery.  

Fecal Testing, Baiting & White-tailed Deer (Undergraduate Researcher Teah Nauman Snyder)  

The baiting and supplemental feeding of white-tailed deer has been used to help with nutrient deficiencies that may occur during the winter season in temperate areas and to help increase hunting success.   However, many states in the U.S. have banned the practice of baiting for deer based on the philosophy of fair chase and potential spread of diseases.  This experiment investigates the possibility that there are certain chemical signatures left in deer feces that could indicate the presence of an illegally baited site.  Two populations of white-tailed deer were separated into control and experimental groups, with the experimental group exposed to Deer Cane® brand deer bait.  Using a Chloride Ion Probe and Atomic Absorption Spectroscopy, we found no difference in chloride ion or sodium and calcium cation concentrations in white-tailed deer feces between the control and experimental deer populations.  In addition, the use of Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectroscopy and Thin Layer Chromatography were not able to pick up the presence of Deer Cane® deer bait in deer feces.

Teah Soil Testing

Urine Deer-based Lure Testing (Undergraduate Researcher Ken Strauser)  

The Pennsylvania Game Commission contacted Millersville University to perform tests to help combat the transmission and spread of Chronic Wasting Disease (CWD) via better detection of urine-based deer lures. The objective of this study was to use multiple methods and kits for detection of urine and blood to determine the best method of detection for urine-based deer lures.  Kits and methods included Uritrace®, Nite-SiteTM luminol, Hemascein® and Ultra-violet (UV) light.  We found that no one technique showed a positive for all urine-based deer lures.  The UV light and Uritrace methods were the most effective and the UV light was the best technique for the field.  These findings are helpful in determining the best method to detect urine-based deer lures to help mitigate the spread of CWD.

Ken UV Light

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