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A team of scientists led by a former U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist has identified a new species of leopard frog in the New York metropolitan area, including at Great Swamp and Wallkill River National Wildlife Refuges in New Jersey. Jeremy Feinberga Rutgers University PhD candidate who was a term employee affiliated with Long Islands Wertheim Refuge from 20022005first identified the new frog by its mating call. Its pretty undramatic, Feinberg told a television reporter, but for a trained biologist, you notice it and it sounds very different. Genetic testing has confirmed that the frogwhich had been confused with both northern and southern leopard frogsis a new species. The new species has not yet been named. Feinberg and his colleagues announced their findings in the May issue of Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution. In that article, which focused on genetic documentation of the new species, the discovery team wrote that species endemic to the Northeast require swift management attention to preserve what biodiversity still remains in the region. Our study revealed a new leopard frog species in the midst of this highly developed region of the U.S., suggesting that the densely populated Northeast still harbors cryptic biodiversity that remains to be discovered. Feinberg said his team plans this spring to publish a more comprehensive article that will include an ecological/biological description of the frog and formally introduce it to the world as a new species with a name.
Visitation at Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge on the southern end of Puget Sound increased by onethird in the year following completion of the Nisqually Estuary Boardwalk Trail. The boardwalk trail was completed in February 2011. It was the capstone to a 12year, $12 million delta restoration project and the subject of a November/December 2010 Refuge Update article. In the fiscal year that ended on Sept. 30, 2011, refuge visitation exceeded 200,000, 33 percent more than the previous year. Ive had so many people tell me, even ones who were unhappy, that they like it the way it is now. Its so dynamic with the tidal changes, refuge manager Jean Takekawa said. We still think visitation will subside at some point, but right now its showing no sign of letting up. People are coming back because it is so different every time.
The secretive mangrove cuckoo is getting a lot of attention at J.N. Ding Darling Refuge. Researchers with the nonprofit Ecostudies Institute are fitting up to 20 birds with backpack transmitters to track their movements for a year. We want to find out what habitat elements are critical to them, says John Lloyd, a senior research ecologist with the institute. Theyre here breeding and vocal March through July. Then they quit being vocal. Do they get quieter or are they moving? Lloyd says information about the bird is remarkably incomplete because it is so difficult to get into places where it lives. As far as we know, theres never been any banded. At Ding Darling Refuge, Lloyd says, its possible to drive through reasonably intact mangrove forest where we know there are birds. The mangrove cuckoo is the rarest of six mangrove landbird species. The studys progress can be followed at http://www.facebook.com/EcostudiesInstitute.
Parker River National Wildlife Refuge is awarding up to 10 grants of $500 to $1,000 each in its new Slow the Flow campaign that encourages local property owners to implement green landscaping projects that benefit the Plum Island Estuarys ecological health. The estuary drains a 230squaremile watershed. The refuge and a land trust protect most of the estuarys wetlands. Nonetheless, the watershed is subject to development threats. Many rivers feeding the estuary suffer from severe water loss. Paved surfaces increase storm water runoff, which may contain pollutants. Climate change may lead to intense, frequent storms that could increase pollution input and hotter, drier summers could cause low or noflow water situations. These factors degrade shellfish beds, fish populations and salt marsh habitats. By changing habits relating to water and fertilizer use, landowners can improve the estuarys health. I got the idea to connect organic landscaping to wildlife conservation after listening in on various presentations at our visitor center, says Parker River Refuge wildlife biologist Nancy Pau. While a lot people were talking about reducing their carbon footprint, there was a missed opportunity to educate the public about their nitrogen footprint. The nice thing about nitrogen footprint is that its local [by watershed], and people can see the benefits of their actions. More information is at http://www.pieslowtheflow.com/pages/GrantProgram.htm.
Havasu National Wildlife Refuge hosted its first Archery Day in March. Fifth and sixthgraders from nearby schools took part in the event, which refuge visitor services manager Al Murray hopes will become annual. Many young people dont have access to outdoor activities, Murray said. Its an activity that is relevant to a wildlife refuge. One of the six priority public uses is hunting. Hunters help us maintain wildlife populations for native and nonnative species. Archery is the hook to get the kids excited and interested, to find out learning is fun. Its just a way to get them motivated to become learners. After taking a safety course and receiving instruction, 140 students used real bows and arrows to shoot at foam animals and fish targets. Murray, who patterned the Archery Day idea after a similar event at Deep Fork Refuge in Oklahoma, received his certification as an archery instructor at the National Conservation Training Center last summer.
The state utilities commission approved a proposed 49turbine wind farm near Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge. The commission said it didnt have legal authority to reject the Pantego Wind Energy Facility, but it also said that the wind farm must obtain state and federal environmental permits and meet other conditions before proceedingalthough no other permits appear to be required at this point. In a Dec. 6, 2011, letter to the commission, and in an article in the March/April 2012 issue of Refuge Update, Pocosin Lakes Refuge manager Howard Phillips had recommended that the wind energy project be delayed until its likely impact on thousands of tundra swans that roost at the refuge could be studied.
Refuge staff members working with polar bears in Alaska, Nihoa millerbirds in the Pacific and piping plovers on the Atlantic Coast won Services 2011 Recovery Champion awards. Arctic National Wildlife Refuge visitor services supervisor Jennifer Reed and Alaska regional wildlife biologist Susi Miller were cited for helping to avert peoplepolar bear conflicts. At Papaha–naumokua–kea Marine National Monument, a recovery team released 24 endangered Nihoa millerbirds on Laysan Island, culminating decades of work to save the species from extinction. The team captured the birds on the island of Nihoa and transported them to their new home on Laysan. Project leaders, law enforcement officers, visitor services specialists, biologists, and maintenance and administrative staff at coastal refuges from Maine to Virginia were honored for work with the piping plover.
From midJanuary to late April, four conservationists made a 1,000mile expedition from Everglades National Park to Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge in southern Georgia to increase public support for the Florida Wildlife Corridor project. Traveling by kayak, standup paddleboard, bicycle, horseback or on foot, bear biologist Joe Guthrie, photojournalist Carlton Ward Jr., filmmaker Elam Stoltzfus and conservationist Mallory Lykes Dimmitt traversed the heart of the recently established Everglades Headwaters National Wildlife Refuge and Conservation Area. Here, Guthrie paddles in Lake Kissimmee. More information about the expedition can be found at www.FloridaWildlifeCorridor.org.
Credit: Carlton Ward Jr./CarltonWard.com