- Road enhancement along Holly Creek - The Georgia ESFO’s Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program recently completed a road enhancement project on a 1-mile segment of an eroding dirt road in close proximity to Holly Creek and its tributaries within the Conasauga River watershed. This project was completed in collaboration with the Limestone Valley Resource Conservation and Development Council, Coosa River Basin Initiative, and Georgia Environmental Protection Division to reduce anthropogenic sedimentation and improve aquatic habitats. As part of this effort, several road enhancement actions were implemented including regrading, installing over 10 new waterbars, repairing critical dips, unclogging and repairing ditch relief culverts, and adding over 110 tons of coarse gravel to the road surface. In general, these best management practices will reduce water runoff over the road surface and hydraulically disconnect the road network from the surrounding streams. Overall, these actions should benefit the listed blue shiner, trispot darter and several listed and at-risk mussel species that occur in the Holly Creek watershed.
- Planting native species along Holly Creek - Meg (GAES) and Joe (GAES-PFW) worked in collaboration with the Limestone Valley Resource Conservation and Development Council, Coosa River Basin Initiative, Georgia Department of Natural Resources, and Dalton Public Schools to planted a bunch of livestakes on four private properties along the edges of Holly Creek within the Conasauga River watershed. Over 3,000 livestakes were installed along a total of 1.8 miles of Holly Creek by a total of seven hardy volunteers during four cold and wet days during February. This effort was done to help reestablish several native tree and shrub species that will stabilize streambanks and reduce sedimentation in and downstream of the planting locations. The reduced sedimentation will in turn further aid in the recovery of seven listed aquatic species (i.e., blue shiner, trispot darter, finelined pocketbook, Alabama moccasinshell, Coosa moccasinshell, southern pigtoe, and triangular kidneyshell), two at-risk aquatic species (Alabama rainbow and Coosa creekshell), and improve more than 0.4 miles of designated critical habitat occurring in Holly Creek.
September 2022 to February 2023
The News Train to Georgia ES will be on hiatus. In the meantime, keep up with new updates on our Facebook page!
- Collecting Georgia Indigo Bush fruit - GAES botanist Mincy Moffett visited two Georgia Indigo Bush (Amorpha georgiana) sites in Telfair County to 1) to collect mature fruits that experts at the Georgia Plant Conservation Alliance (GPCA) will use to propagate the Georgia Indigo Bush. The visit also allowed Mincy to meet with the landowner and The Orianne Society regarding a future prescribed (Rx) fire for restoration of the plant's habitat. The Georgia Indigo Bush is a woody, deciduous, single-seeded, leguminous, sub-shrub inhabiting longleaf pine woodlands, flatwoods, and savannas; sunny openings around Altamaha Grit and flint kaolin outcrops; and stream terraces in GA, NC, and SC. The species is petitioned for listing and is considered Vulnerable throughout its range and Critically Imperiled in Georgia (NatureServe). GPCA propagators Ron Determann, Amy Heidt, and Heather Brassell are developing an ex-situ living collection of the species both to warehouse genetic material and to support a future introduction, re-introduction, or augmentation of populations. In general, the current Georgia material fruits very little and it is unclear why. Habitat restoration using mechanical or chemical methods and Rx Fire to reduce competition with other woody plants and promote high temps for seed germination may make a difference. The role of fire for both flowering and seed germination is well understood for legumes but is only just being researched for this species. The Orianne Society will assist the private landowner with Rx fire sometime in winter 2023.
- Latino Conservation Week - This month, we celebrated Latino Conservation Week (July 16-24)! One of our biologists working here in the southeast region, Elizabeth Lago, joined a panel (facilitated by Florida Audubon) of three scientists working in different areas of conservation. They discussed their "flight paths" into the field, as well as unique challenges they have faced and hopes for the future. Their discussion was recorded and is available to view online here. For more information on Latino Conservation Week, check out the home page to see other fantastic events and content!
- Bee Research - Remediation works! A former industrial manufacturing site has been transformed into a farm that hosts at least 17 species of native bees. In July 2022, GAES Biologist Meg Hedeen joined Kennesaw State University graduate student Francis Mullan at Aluma Farms in southwest Atlanta. Francis is recording native bee diversity in developed areas as part of a larger research project that includes researchers in 10 cities across the country. Of the sites assessed in Atlanta for this project, this remediated site has the highest recorded bee species! It is so great to see a site that was once contaminated be rebuilt into a productive farm that can support native bee diversity.
Dwarf Sumac Recovery - Mincy Moffett (GAES) joined Allyson Read (NPS) and Stephanie Koontz (GA DNR) to evaluate ongoing recovery efforts for the Dwarf Sumac (Rhus michauxii) on the Gold Branch Unit of the Chattahoochee National Recreation Area near Roswell, GA. The site is a Georgia Power Company maintained utility right-of-way. The population was established in 2016 in cooperation with the Georgia Plant Conservation Alliance. Dwarf sumac is a small statured, deciduous, dioecious shrub. It inhabits dry, open, rocky, or sandy woodlands over mafic bedrock with high levels of calcium, magnesium, or iron; often on ridges and river bluffs. It is known extant from Georgia, North Carolina, and Virginia. It is believed extirpated from Florida and South Carolina. This introduced site contains both male and female plants in three separate outplantings exploring different light, soil, and hydrologic conditions. Two of the outplantings did not survive. However, one outplanting, sited in a more mesic area with slightly higher soil pH, has doubled in terms of stem numbers and areal extent.
Rare Plant Survey at Fall Line Sandhills WMA - Mincy Moffett (GAES) joined Will Rogers (State Botanical Garden of GA) and Bryn Pipes (TNC) on a survey of carnivorous plants on multiple tracts (Hilliard and Parker’s Mill) of the Chattahoochee Fall Line Wildlife Management Area (WMA). The Chattahoochee Fall Line WMA was created through a partnership between the GA DNR, The Nature Conservancy and the U.S. Army at Fort Benning. Through the Army Compatible Use Buffer (ACUB) program, ecologically significant land near the military installation’s border is protected from development that is incompatible with the installation’s national security mission. Collectively, these areas form a landscape of priority habitats that have enormous potential for ecological restoration, including expansion of a fire-managed longleaf pine ecosystem beneficial to the red-cockaded woodpecker, gopher tortoise and other imperiled species. Individually, they provide for more public recreation lands for such activities as hunting, hiking, fishing, camping, and wildlife viewing. Of particular interest to the survey were the unusually large examples of the Parrot Pitcherplant (Sarracenia psittacina) that uncharacteristically float in open water and the recently described Georgia Sweet Pitcherplant (Sarracenia rubra ssp. viatorum). During the drive to and from the WMA, Mincy and Will removed several gopher tortoise from the road, including a very small juvenile.
Pollinator Training - Meg Hedeen (GAES) joined other USFWS and USGS biologists in the inaugural Pollinator Field Methods and Lab Techniques course at the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center in Laurel, MD. Throughout the week-long class, the crew studied and practiced various field survey methods and USFWS/USGS lab techniques to help ensure quality data collection for this under-researched taxa. Meg looks forward to continued inter- and intra-region collaboration opportunities!
Georgia Indigo Bush Surveys - Mincy Moffett (GAES) led a small team of Georgia Plant Conservation Alliance (GPCA) conservationists to monitor populations of the federally-petitioned Georgia Indigo Bush (Amorpha georgiana). This small-statured, deciduous, woody sub-shrub is found in longleaf pine woodlands, flatwoods, and savannas; sunny openings around Altamaha Grit and flint kaolin outcrops; and stream terraces. Its range covers three states (GA, NC, and SC) and it is considered critically-imperiled in Georgia where it is known from just three privately-owned sites in Telfair and Turner counties. Habitat restoration (removing woody competition) by Mincy’s GPCA crew at two of the sites in the fall of 2021, and prescribed fire by the landowner at another site this winter (2022) substantially boosted clump, stem, and inflorescence counts at all sites. In particular, stem counts doubled at one site and inflorescence counts increased 12X at another. The crew will return this summer to collect fruits for propagation. Plans are in the works to create new populations (in-situ safeguarding sites) within the Coastal Plain of Georgia. There was also a bonus discovery during the surveys. A population of Cutleaf Beardtongue (Penstemon-dissectus) was discovered near a GA Indigo Bush population. The Cutleaf Beardtongue is a rare Georgia endemic and state-protected under the Georgia Wildflower Protection Act.
Suwannee Alligator Snapping Turtle Surveys - Chris Coppola (GAES) joined Dirk Stevenson (Altamaha Environmental Consulting, LLC) and volunteers Greg Brashear and Rob Ritchie on a resurvey of habitats in search of Suwannee Alligator Snapping Turtles (Macrochelys suwanniensis). The week-long survey involved baiting and setting hoop nets overnight; checking the traps the next morning, and moving the traps to new locations that afternoon. 30 traps were set and checked over the course of this sampling period. Thirteen Suwannee Alligator Snapping Turtles were captured, measured, marked, and release. Only one turtle was a recapture from 2019.
Field Training with GDOT - Chris Coppola (GAES) conducted a field-training exercise for Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT, for short) biologists. Starting in the upland habitats adjacent to a proposed bridge replacement project, the workshop introduced the GDOT biologists to gopher tortoise (Gopherus polyphemus) and indigo snake (Drymarchon couperi) habitats. Walking transects through the turkey oak – scrub sandhill habitat, Coppola pointed out features of high quality and degraded habitats. The GDOT biologists were given the opportunity to use burrow scopes to inspect gopher tortoise burrows for occupancy. One large tortoise burrow had fresh tracks from a hatchling tortoise on the sandy apron. Four meters into the burrow a subadult tortoise was observed, and a six-lined racerunner exited the same burrow. The training exercise then moved down into the Canoochee River. Using the river as a surrogate for a Suwannee alligator snapping turtle (Macrochelys suwanniensis) stream (located in a different drainage), Coppola described methods for evaluating the overall habitat condition, identifying microhabitats where the alligator snapping turtles may reside, and how to evaluate and minimize effects of a bridge replacement project. Learn more about Transportation Planning in Georgia.
Celebrating Wetlands - May is American Wetlands Month! Wetlands provide clean, reliable water, safety from flooding, and recreation opportunities. The USFWS National Wetlands Inventory maps the nation’s wetlands to promote their conservation. Learn more at the USFWS Wetlands Month page. Get ideas on how you can enjoy wetlands outdoors on our blog or from anywhere with EPA's Wetlands Education for Students and Teachers and our adorable coloring book.
Blue Calamanitha Bee Survey - GAES recently helped partners in the search for a petitioned, limited range bee – the Blue Calamanitha Bee (Osmia calaminthae). Since its petition, the Florida Natural History Museum has been researching the Blue Calamintha Bee and continues to discover new life history characteristics of this rare species. Thought to be a floral specialist, the Blue Calamintha Bee relies on Ashe’s Calamint (Clinopodium ashei), known only from the scrub-shrub habitat of the giant aeolian dunes along the Ohoopee River in Georgia and from similar sand pine-scrub habitat of central Florida. Meg Hedeen (GAES) and Anna Yellin (Georgia DNR), joined Chase Kimmel (Insect Conservation Biologist) and Jaret Daniels (Curator) of the McGuire Center for Lepidoptera and Biodiversity of the Florida Museum of Natural History in a survey on private lands in this unique habitat along the Ohoopee River. Although the bee was not observed during the survey, the beautiful Ashe’s Calamint was in full flower. Continued monitoring and research is planned for this petitioned species. To learn more: https://www.oneearth.org/species-of-the-week-blue-calamintha-bee/
Robust Redhorse Spawning Season Surveys - Eric Bauer (GAES) assisted Georgia DNR with surveys for Robust Redhorse (Moxostoma robustum) in the Broad River. The crew observed one or two Robust Redhorse suckers on the North Fork Broad River, at a site where they hadn't been observed in a number of years during the spawning season. They later found about six Robust Redhorse on their primary spawning site, a large gravel bar in the Fork Broad River. Initial observations by Georgia DNA suggest a relatively low abundance for the spawning season. The group of fish were large and likely very old (20+ years),which indicates a lack of recruitment that has been observed throughout the range of the species. Visual surveys for Robust Redhorse spawning activity will continue next week on the Ocmulgee River, weather permitting.
Behold, the Bats in Bridges Training! - We are proud to share the long-awaited "Bats in Bridges" training, now available online and with audio description! Laci Pattavina (GAES) developed this course in collaboration with others at USFWS, U.S. Federal Highway Administration, and Georgia Department of Natural Resources. The course is intended to help you understand methods to assess transportation structures for the potential of bat use and occupancy, while providing some basic facts about bats life history and their habitat needs. Learn more about Transportation Planning and Bat Conservation in Georgia!
Gopher Tortoise Burrow Surveys with Georgia Southern Univeristy - Chris Coppola (GAES) and Dirk Stevenson (Altamaha Environmental Consulting, LLC) guided herpetology students from Dr. Lance McBrayer’s class at Georgia Southern University to two coastal plain sites this April. The first site was an upland longleaf-wiregrass system in Bulloch County, Georgia where the students were given the opportunity to use burrow scopes to inspect several gopher tortoise (Gopherus polyphemus) burrows. Students were able to observe juvenile and adult tortoises deep in their respective burrows. Two weeks later, the same class was able to visit a longleaf pine flatwoods system where Coppola and Stevenson had installed drift fences as part of a FWS-funded study of the status and distribution of the Mimic Glass Lizard (Ophisaurus mimicus), a species which has not been seen in Georgia in 30 years. Six species of lizards, six species of snakes (including the Harlequin Coral Snake) were captured in the funnel traps. Alas, no Mimic Glass Lizards, yet.
- Relict Trillium Relocation - GAES biologists Meg Hedeen and Laci Pattavina participated in a monitoring effort for Relict Trillium (Trillium reliquum) that were relocated in Oconee National Forest to protect them from a road widening project in December 2021. April’s monitoring effort showed that we crossed the first hurdle of relocation successfully as most of the planted trillium were up and a number of T. reliquum were in full flower! We will continue to monitor this population into the future. Check out the full story here!
- Bats in Bridges Field Training - GAES assisted the Georgia Department of Natural Resources Wildlife Conservation Section with our state’s annual Bats in Bridges Training. The target audience for this training is Georgia Department of Transportation ecologists and their consultants, as well as other practitioners interested in transportation projects and/or bats. The field-based training opportunity is designed to demonstrate methodology for inspecting bridges and culverts for bats and signs of bat use. This training and other collaboration between the resource agencies and the Georgia DOT Bridge Maintenance Department has created a standard that all bridges and culverts in Georgia be inspected for signs of bat use prior to any construction activities. The training has also served as a model for training in other states and was the precursor to an online training video collaboration between USFWS, Georgia DNR, and Federal Highway Administration! Although the online training video is applicable nationwide, Georgia was strongly represented in the video by GAES biologist Laci Pattavina and Georgia DNR state mammologist, Trina Morris. Find the training video and more information at Transportation Planning in Georgia.
- Granite Outcrop Pool Restoration - GAES botanist Mincy Moffett met with partners from the University of Georgia and the Stone Mountain Memorial Association at Stone Mountain to assess conservation efforts for two granite outcrop species, the black-spored quillwort and pool sprite. The focus of the visit was previous “pool enhancement” projects. Check out the full story here!
Updated Georgia Stream Crossing Handbook - To improve construction of bridges and roads for the benefit of our state’s wildlife, the Nature Conservancy in Georgia, GAES and other partners have created a handbook outlining guidance for stream crossings in Georgia - a win/win for wildlife and people. Check out the handbook here!
- New publication - Congratulations to Partners biologist Joseph Kirsch on yet another publication of the peer-reviewed article he co-authored, this time in BioScience, entitled "Distinctive Connectivities of Near-Stream and Watershed-Wide Land Uses Differentially Degrade Rural Aquatic Ecosystems.” You can access this publication here: https://doi.org/10.1093/biosci/biab098. Great job, Joe!
Manatee Mortality Event Repsonse - GAES staff deployed to Florida to assist with the Unusual Mortality Event (UME) involving West Indian manatees along the Atlantic coast. The high level of manatee mortalities is primarily a result of starvation due to the lack or seagrasses in the Indian River Lagoon. In recent years, poor water quality in the Lagoon has led to harmful algal blooms and widespread seagrass loss. Assistance was provided to the state’s Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission and Manatee Rehabilitation Partnership that included helping with supplementary feeding at area where the animals congregate, responding to public reports of distressed manatees and rescue manatees that need assistance, and transported rescued animals to SeaWorld’s five acre Rescue Center in Orlando, FL.