January 2012

R5 Science Seminar Series 2012

Date: Thursday, January 26th, 12:00 noon - 1:00 p.m., Northeast Region Office Large Auditorium. This seminar will be broadcast using WebEx technology. Login information will be posted by January 20th, 2012.

Title: Effects of sea-level rise and altered storminess on Piping Plover breeding habitat along the U.S. Atlantic Coast

Presenter: Sarah Karpanty, Assistant Professor, Department of Fish and Wildlife Conservation,Virginia Tech

Abstract: As cleanup continues in the wake of the recent Hurricane Irene, sea level rise and associated changes in storm magnitude and frequency associated with climate change have once again been thrust to the forefront of coastal management concerns. Low lying coastal areas are of paramount importance because they are most vulnerable to such climate change effects. Piping Plovers (Charadrius melodus) respond rapidly to change and depend on these areas throughout their life cycle, making them excellent indicators of climate change effects. We are developing predictions of how Piping Plover breeding habitat will change as a result of sea level rise and altered storminess using a coupled risk assessment model. The first portion of the model assesses changes to coastal geomorphology using dynamic sea-level rise predictions and is linked to the second portion of the model that assesses plover habitat selection. The model, developed in collaboration with the USGS as part of a coast-wide sea level rise hazards assessment, is being developed using a Bayesian Network (BN). We will present the first phase of model assessment where we are predicting historical Piping Plover nest selection at Assateague Island National Seashore in Maryland and Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge in Virginia. Model development is based on Piping Plover nest locations at these sites from 1992 to 2011 and associated habitat variables (e.g., beach elevation, dune height, vegetation density, distance to moist substrate, distance to high tide line) derived from field-data collection, aerial- and ground-LiDAR, and aerial true and color-IR photography.

Bio: Sarah Karpanty is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Fish and Wildlife Conservation at Virginia Tech. Her research includes studies of both wildlife behavioral ecology (in the U.S. and internationally) and the restoration of tropical native forests (in Madagascar). Karpanty teaches an undergraduate course in Principles of Fisheries and Wildlife Management and a graduate course in Vertebrate Population Ecology and Management. Unifying themes in her domestic and international research projects include: Studying how behaviorally-mediated interactions between multiple species influence population dynamics and community structure in ways that cannot be predicted from examining pairs of species alone; Understanding how the release of meso-predators, whether caused by human hunting or development activities that eliminate endemic top predators, impacts threatened and endangered prey species, through lethal and sub-lethal effects; and Bringing together ecological and natural resource management theories to best manage ecosystems at the landscape level for wildlife movement and sustainable resource extraction.

Since 2004, I have also been working on the Atlantic Coast of the United States on various projects related to the conservation of migratory and breeding shorebirds (red knots, piping plovers, Wilson's Plovers, Least Terns and others). The shorebird projects have focused on identifying the factors that might regulate these threatened and endangered species during migratory stopover and the impacts of human development, include wind energy development, on these same populations.

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