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A Talk on the Wild Side.

Piloting New Partnerships for Bat Conservation

Indiana bat 
An Indiana bat on tree. Photo by Adam Mann

Megan Seymour, a wildlife biologist with our Columbus, Ohio, Ecological Services Field Office, tells us how the Air Force is helping the endangered Indiana bat.

Aircraft aren’t the only things flying around Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton, Ohio.  Indiana bats patrol the night skies, foraging for insects over the Mad River corridor. A maternity colony of Indiana bats was first documented at Wright-Patterson in 1993 and has been monitored regularly since then. For more than 20 years, these bats, which usually return to the area of their birth, have called the base their summer home. Prime habitat for the Indiana bat occurs only within about 700 acres of the Mad River’s forested riparian corridor, a small part of the base’s more than 8,000 acres, and concerns about habitat loss and degradation due to invasive species have arisen. 

Honeysuckle
BEFORE: The forest at Wright-Patterson with invasive honeysuckle in the understory. Photo by USFWS

Bush honeysuckles were introduced in the United States in the late 1800s for use in shelterbelts, wildlife habitat and landscaping. Birds disperse the seeds widely, and the plants have become naturalized throughout Ohio and the eastern United States. Bush honeysuckles are aggressive invasives that leaf out earlier in the spring than most native plants and maintain green leaves into the fall after most plants are dormant, shading out native plants and creating a monoculture. They  are recognized as one of Ohio’s top 10 invasive plants.

Indiana bat tree
An Indiana bat maternity roost tree near Wright-Patterson AFB. Photo by Melanie Cota/USFWS

The Mad River riparian zone canopy supports a diversity of native trees including maple, oak, hickory, cottonwood, hackberry, cherry, walnut, sycamore and ash. But the understory is dominated by honeysuckle, sometimes as large as 8 inches in diameter and 15 feet tall! 

Darryn Warner, the Natural Resources Program Manager at Wright-Patterson, noticed native tree saplings in the understory being out-competed by honeysuckle, and without management feared there would not be enough young trees to replace older trees as they die off. Thus, over time, Indiana bat habitat could become significantly degraded, or lost altogether. He decided that the Sike’s Act would be the mechanism to address the issue quickly.

The Sike’s Act requires all military installations to “provide for the conservation and rehabilitation of natural resources.” To do this, each installation must develop and regularly update an Integrated Natural Resources Management Plan (INRMP). In 2012, Warner updated the INRMP to include honeysuckle control within Indiana bat habitat along the Mad River corridor. This allowed Wright-Patterson to obtain funds in 2012 and 2013 and contract private companies to implement control activities. These companies cut and treated about 20 acres of bush honeysuckle per year.   

In Fiscal Year 2013, we established a nationwide interagency agreement with the Air Force allowing the Air Force to fund our staff to implement actions identified in INRMPs.  We received $60,000 in both fiscal years 2013 and 2014 to conduct invasive species control at Wright-Patterson, and an additional $10,000 per year to head-start forest regeneration in previously treated areas. 

Cleaned out
AFTER: The forest with cleaned-out understory. Photo by USFWS

Big Oaks National Wildlife Refuge, about 130 miles from Wright-Patterson in Indiana, had the staff, equipment and expertise to conduct the work. Biologist Brian Winters led a crew from Big Oaks, Muscatatuck and  Ottawa National Wildlife Refuges staff for 10 days during 2014-2015. Using machinery, herbicides, Service know-how and plenty of elbow grease, our folks treated about 100 acres, more than double what the contractors were able to treat, at a similar cost.

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We love to partner in projects that benefit endangered species and increase resilient landscapes; this project did just that by removing invasive honeysuckles and by planting native shellbark hickory trees, which are used by roosting bats as maternity colonies. Honeysuckle treatment is planned to continue over the next five years, including treatment of new areas and regrowth in areas that were treated previously.

So how is the Indiana bat faring at Wright-Patterson? Indiana bats continue to be captured there as recently as the last survey in 2012, and additional surveys are scheduled for 2017.

Indiana bats nationwide face the daunting threat of white-nose syndrome, a fungal disease that infects bats during hibernation and results in significant winter mortality. Ensuring that high-quality summer habitat persists within the home range of maternity colonies is a critical step in helping the bats that do survive white-nose syndrome recover and reproduce during the summer. Wright-Patterson is doing their part to ensure these small pilots have a safe landing spot this summer. 

High-Yo Silver, Away! Lone Ranger Forge Comes to the Rescue of Endangered Florida Panthers

By Ken Warren, USFWS

Most associate the term "Lone Ranger" with a fictional crime-fighting, masked man in the Old West who wondered what Kemosabe really meant.

However, folks in the know about Florida panther conservation just might start associating the term with “Lone Ranger Forge,” a critical tract of land secured May 16, 2012, in efforts to build a natural migration corridor for Florida panthers and other wildlife.

About 60 Florida panther proponents gathered in LaBelle, Fla. May 16, 2013 at the Interagency Florida Panther Corridor and Wetlands Restoration Forum. They were there to celebrate American Wetlands Month and the first anniversary of when we joined with partners to acquire and protect the 1,278-acre tract, then known as “American Prime.”

lone_rangerWith the Caloosahatchee River in the background, (from left) Connie Cassler, Larry Williams and Craig Aubrey of the South Florida Ecological Services Office take a break from touring Lone Ranger Forge to share a moment with Florida rancher, Dwayne House (second from left).  Mr. House owns the protected property, which is  a critical part of the natural corridor needed for Florida panthers and other wildlife. (Photo: USFWS)

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Hoppin' Down the Conservation Trail, Bringing Back a Rare Rabbit

While this rare rabbit looks a lot like the ones you’ve seen outdoors, the New England cottontail is found only in the thick tangles and vines of just five spots across New England and New York.

bunniesBaby rabbits snuggle together at the captive breeding program at the Roger Williams Park Zoo in Rhode Island. (Photo: Lou Perrotti/Roger Williams Park Zoo)

Cottontails depend on a special type of habitat -- young forest and shrublands -- which also provides food, shelter and places to raise young for a variety of other animals.

They've lost 86 percent of their historic range since the 1960s, and they're even a candidate for protection under the Endangered Species Act.

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Careers in Conservation: Inspired By Cousteau

By Judy Gordon, USFWS

Why did I choose my current career path? One name: Jacques-Yves Cousteau, the oceanographer and marine conservationist.

Growing up I probably watched every one of his TV specials about his adventures aboard the research vessel Calypso. I knew by the time I was eleven years old that I wanted a career in a marine biological science so I could be near the water and study biology.

My parents were fully engaged and encouraged me to head to college.They always wanted me to have a choice when it came to my career, which was something they didn't have as children of the Great Depression.

gordonSampling fall chum on the Yukon River in Alaska (Photo: USFWS)

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Careers in Conservation: Living the Dream

By Kira Mazzi, USFWS

I have a confession.

I love playing in the dirt and mud. I love coming home exhausted and dirty from a hard day working in a river. I love going out and collecting information. I love getting paid to work outside.

I love being a wildlife biologist!

k-elkHere I am working with an elk. (Photo: Kira Mazzi/USFWS)

I currently work as a Biological Science Technician in Washington state for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, but I've also worked for the National Park Service at Crater Lake National Park and Biscayne National Park. Additionally, I have worked for the Arizona State Game and Fish Department and organizations in the private sector, too.

I am just at the start of my career, but I feel as though I have already seen and accomplished so much.

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Careers in Conservation: Passion for Fishing Produces Results

By Denise Hawkins, USFWS

My interest in nature, wildlife, fish, and all things outdoors began very early with much time spent outside with my mom. She took us on walks, hikes, camping, swimming, etc. and made it fun and informative, always naming different trees, pointing out various birds, singing hiking songs, and generally instilling in us respect for the natural environment and also a very strong interest in learning.

This early learning led me to pursue college immediately after high school. I started at the local community college and was fortunate enough to be able to live at home, take a few classes and work two jobs. One of the jobs was as a lab tech at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, which I learned about through one of my community college instructors.

hawkinsWorking in the lab. (Photo: USFWS)

This job made it clear to me that I really enjoyed lab work, and so after three years at the community college, I transferred to University of California at Davis to complete a Bachelor’s degree in Biochemistry. During this time, I began to spend time with my folks fishing and, although I have never been a true 'fish in any kind of weather' angler, I found that I really enjoyed freshwater fishing.

After getting my degree, I worked as a lab tech and was eventually promoted to lead the lab. I learned a lot about various lab techniques and ways to approach molecular biology.

But I felt as though something was still missing.

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Careers in Conservation: DNA and Inspiration from Above

By Jennifer Von Bargen, USFWS

Why I do what I do? The simple answer … God. He has given me the drive, passion and opportunity for learning about the intricate and complicated systems of science.

As a kid I loved animals and learning about the world we live in. I had dreams of becoming a veterinarian to help and be with animals. My family went fishing often in the summers and my father was an avid hunter. I loved helping him clean the fish and learn about their inner secrets. What they were eating, where it went, and how it all worked together.

vonbargenWorking in the lab. (Photo: USFWS)

Then in my ninth grade biology class my future was sealed. I learned about the one thing that links all living things together ... DNA!

From there on I was hooked!

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Balloon Dress Highlights Marine Debris Damage

By Susan Morse, USFWS

There’s no missing Jessica Flory.

This sixteen-year-old gets it.

The volunteer at Eastern Shore of Virginia National Wildlife Refuge tells people how balloons and other plastic discards end up on beaches where they choke turtles and seabirds. Then she asks listeners to pledge not to release balloons outdoors; hundreds have signed.

She’s decked out in a dress she made from 87 balloons that refuge staff collected from a coastal island before animals could swallow them. “Hey mom, look,” she hears a kid say. “She’s wearing that because she wants to save the turtles.”

balloon_dressJessica Flory in balloon dress and sister Hailey on Cape Charles Beach (Photo: Becky Flory)

We’ve all seen the images: Broken boats, trees, docks, what-have-you, swept away by Hurricane Sandy or the 2011 tsunami in Japan and washed ashore miles – sometimes thousands of miles − away.

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Conservation and Caring for Families

By Rachel Penrod and Alicia King, USFWS

Conservation includes families.

For women who live in rural areas near Colombian nature reserves, feeding their families is a daily struggle.  Though Colombia has the most bird and amphibian species of any country on the continent, wildlife conservation takes a backseat to providing basic needs such as food, clothes, and adequate health care.  To help conserve birds and other wildlife here, you have to address the well-being of the people living alongside them.

Since 2003, conservation non-profit ProAves has been working with these communities in the buffer zones of their reserve network in Colombia, with support from our Neotropical Migratory Bird Conservation Act, other FWS international and bird conservation programs, and our partners. After years building relationships with the people, ProAves realized that to fully engage them and help inspire a love of nature, they needed to focus on the key members of the family unit -- women.

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Spending Time with the Elusive Everglade Snail Kite

By Jane Tutton, USFWS

There are days when Service biologists are reminded why we do what we do. October 11, 2012 was one of those days for me.

I've worked in the South Florida Ecological Services Office for almost 21 years. In that time, I've
done some pretty cool stuff, such as trapping beach mice, and helping capture and band crested caracara.

I even got to participate in the release of some Florida panthers.

On October 11, I went to the northern edge of the Everglades and helped band not one, but two, Everglade snail kites.

And just what, you ask, is a snail kite?!

kite-closeA snail kite. (Photo: USFWS)

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