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Clyde Jones Graduate Award OBSERVATIONS ON THE GENETIC HEALTH OF BOBCAT (LYNX RUFUS) POPULATIONS IN OKLAHOMA Timothy McSweeny and Michelle L. Haynie, Department of Biology, University of Central Oklahoma (firstname.lastname@example.org) The bobcat (Lynx rufus) is a significant meso-carnivore and an important game species within the state of Oklahoma. The bobcat is regularly harvested, with thousands of bobcats being legally hunted every season. To date there have been limited studies on the genetic makeup and health of the species within the state. Collecting and analyzing genetic data from specimens collected across the state will provide information on the current health of the species, as well provide insight on the possible effect the removal of bobcats may have on the total population in the state. To assess the genetic health of bobcats in Oklahoma, 222 individuals will be genotyped for 10 microsatellite loci to establish a baseline of genetic diversity. To date, genotypes have been generated for 172 individuals. Future research will focus on comparing genetic diversity measures between hunting seasons.
2_Emily F. Fritsche
Clyde Jones Undergraduate Award POPULATION STRUCTURE OF BOWHEAD WHALES USING MTDNA SEQUENCES Emily F. Fritsche and Dr. Amy Baird, Department of Biology, University of Houston-Downtown (email@example.com) The Bowhead whale is one of 16 baleen whale species and lives mostly in the Arctic and subarctic waters. This species is of high cultural significance to Arctic tribes, which hunt these whales as part of their subsistence. In our ongoing study, we examine the population genetics of the Bowhead whales through mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) sequences. This work is part of a long-term study monitoring genetic diversity and population structure to inform the International Whaling Commission’s management and conservation decisions for this species. We have sequenced 3 mtDNA genes from bowhead samples that were donated by Alaska Native whalers over the course of the past several decades. We conducted standard population genetic analyses to look for evidence of potential population sub-structuring, to examine the distinction of the Bering-Chukchi-Beaufort (BCB) Seas Stock (which is hunted by Alaska Natives) from surrounding stocks, and characterize the haplotypes present in the population. Results so far indicate that the BCB stock is well differentiated from the Okhotsk Sea stock, but less so from the Eastern Canadian Western Greenland stock. No evidence of sub-structuring of the BCB stock was seen.
3_Madeline N. Arszulowicz
Vernon Bailey Graduate Award A SURVEY OF PARASITES OF SPOTTED SKUNKS (SPILOGALE SP.) FOUND THROUGHOUT THEIR RANGE Madeline N. Arszulowicz, Robert C. Dowler, and Nicholas J. Negovetich, Department of Biology, Angelo State University (firstname.lastname@example.org) To date, few studies exist on the extent of the parasitic fauna found on and within spotted skunks (Spilogale sp.). Most research has focused either on skunks from a portion of their range, or on a specific parasite group, creating a bias towards heterogeneous sampling efforts and incomplete sampling. As such, the goal of this project is to report on the parasite community of spotted skunks collected across their ranges. Skunks collected thus far represent eight states and were obtained from vehicle-killed animals, mortalities from previous research projects, donations from natural history collections, and legally harvested animals by fur trappers. We have performed forty-eight total necropsies on spotted skunks, seven of which were western spotted skunks (S. gracilis) and forty-one eastern spotted skunks (S. putorius). Endoparasites (acanthocephalans, cestodes, and nematodes) have been found in thirty-five hosts and ectoparasites (fleas, lice, mites, and ticks) were found on fifteen hosts. Additional ectoparasites were obtained from a radio collar project in Harris County. Identification of the collected parasites is ongoing.
Vernon Bailey Graduate Award CARNIVORE COMMUNITY INTERACTIONS IN A BRUSH MANAGED LANDSCAPE A.B. Branney, T.J. Yamashita, J. V. Lombardi, M. J. Cherry, and M.E. Tewes, Caesar Kleberg Wildlife Research Institute, Texas A&M UniversityKingsville, Kingsville, Texas (email@example.com) Carnivore community interactions are driven by predation, competition, and vegetation structure on the landscape. Habitat management strategies can alter resource availability and carnivore distribution on the landscape. South Texas rangelands are heavily managed for brush plant communities through clearing and brush sculpting. This has proven beneficial to native economically valued prey species (e,g., upland game birds and ungulates). However, brush management impacts on native carnivores such as bobcats (Lynx rufus), coyotes (Canis latrans), and raccoons (Procyon lotor) remain understudied. Since March 2021 we have conducted camera surveys (54 cameras) on the Hixon Ranch, La Salle County, Texas to examine spatial and temporal interactions of these three carnivore species in brush managed management areas. We conducted a preliminary diel overlap activity analysis, indicating that bobcats and coyotes do not exhibit significantly different circadian rhythms (w=0.70, p > 0.05), but raccoon differed from both carnivores (w=0.34, p < 0.05, w= 0.29, p < 0.05). Future analyses include multispecies occupancy modeling to examine behavioral interactions and find environmental drivers of carnivore co-occurrence in the landscape. These analyses will help further the understanding of carnivore community ecology in these managed areas.
5_Madison E. Baugh
Vernon Bailey Undergraduate Award OBSERVING THE EFFECT OF LUNAR LIGHT ON NOCTURNAL RODENTS IN A MIXED-GRASS PLAINS REGION Madison E. Baugh and Dr. Victoria L. Jackson, Department of Biology, University of Central Oklahoma (firstname.lastname@example.org) The overall predation risk, foraging techniques, and habitat preferences of nocturnal rodents can be altered by the brightness of a particular moon phase. We will measure the variation in lunar emissions and observe the consequential changes in nocturnal rodent behavior using camera traps. There is little recent literature to support the notion that moonlight directly affects the nocturnal activities of rodents. We will be the first to use camera trapping as a mode of data collection for nocturnal rodent activity in a mixed-grass plains region. Our study will contribute to two prominent databases: eMammal Snapshot USA and the UCO Natural History Museum. Capturing evidence of nocturnal strategies such as predator avoidance, foraging, and habitat preferences will be a key component of the project. We will also record any daytime activity. Each camera trap will record the percent lunar emission. Rodent activity will be recorded via motion-activated RECONYX camera traps that will take a series of 5 pictures when triggered. Each camera trap will be deployed and baited with peanut butter oats monthly to capture 6 months of lunar cycles and rodent behavior. We expect that if there is an increase in the percent emission of lunar light, then there will be a decrease in the nocturnal activities of rodents.
Vernon Bailey Undergraduate Award USING COMPUTED TOMOGRAPHY TO ASSESS COPULATORY FIT IN ORCAS (ORCINUS ORCA) Madeleine Deel and Dara N. Orbach, Department of Life Sciences, Texas A&M University- Corpus Christi (email@example.com) Computed tomography (CT) imaging has been frequently used for clinical diagnostics in the health care system. However, novel application of CT scans may improve the understanding of body positioning during intromission of animals that have not been observed copulating in the wild. The excised and inflated penis of a post-mortem sexually mature male orca (Orcinus orca) was placed into the vagina of a conspecific and dice CT scanned to assess copulatory fit. Tissue types were segmented to produce a 3D reconstruction of the genitalia in simulated copulation. Relative volumes of tissue types were measured and landmarks were identified where tissues were in contact between the sexes. A tight fit was found between the penis and vagina when positioned in ventral-ventral orientation. Identification of this copulatory positioning can provide insights for artificial insemination advancement that may improve fertility rates in endangered species.
Vernon Bailey Undergraduate Award STEROID HORMONES IN THREE BALEEN PLATES FROM THE SAME INDIVIDUAL Makayla Guinn, D. D. Crain, F. Mansouri, B. Otulana, J. Patterson, R. Sabin, S. Usenko, and S.J. Trumble, Department of Biology, Baylor University (firstname.lastname@example.org) Baleen whales are exceptional models of the interactions occurring within and among species in the marine environment, and serve as valuable tools for measuring stress and reproductive biomarkers in marine mammals. Numerous factors including large size, aquatic lifestyle and wide-ranging migration make these whales difficult to study and thus relatively underutilized in longitudinal studies. However, new methods have recently been developed that utilize accreted tissues to reconstruct longitudinal hormone data. Baleen, in particular, has been found to archive up to several years of hormone data and is being largely explored in cetacean research due to its ease of collection from deceased animals. One area under investigated is the consistency of hormone data between baleen plates collected from the right and left side of the mouth. In this study, we show corticosterone and progesterone data collected from three different blue whale baleen plates of the same individual were not significantly different. We know from previous studies that this concept holds true for hormone analysis in both right and left whale earplugs, but until now was unknown for baleen. Measured Z-scores across all three plates for corticosterone and progesterone yielded (ANOVA, F = 0.025, p > 0.05) and (ANOVA, F = 0.004, p > 0.05), respectively. Our results indicate hormone and possibly other analyses including stable isotope analysis will not depend on specific baleen plates sampled. The use of accreted tissues for hormone analysis from baleen whales have been increasing and this study provides evidence of consistent hormone archival within baleen plates, regardless of sampling location within the mouth of the whale, as well as providing indirect evidence of consistent excretion into such tissues over time. Additional studies are warranted to determine if this pattern of consistency is found among other baleen whale species.
8_Michael A. Lyons
Vernon Bailey Undergraduate Award FREE-ROAMING DOG (CANIS LUPUS FAMILIARIS) POPULATION AND GASTROINTESTINAL PARASITE DIVERSITY IN TULUM, MEXICO Michael A. Lyons, Rumaan Malhotra, and Cody Thompson, Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology and Museum of Zoology, University of Michigan (email@example.com) In many areas around the world, free-roaming dogs (Canis lupus familiaris) play large ecological roles that impact wildlife and people. Free-roaming dogs can impact wildlife in a variety of ways, including predation, competition, hybridization, and disease transmission. The latter also poses a major threat to humans. To better understand the threat of domestic dogs to wildlife and people and add to the growing literature on free-roaming dog ecology, a study was conducted to estimate the dog population in Tulum, Mexico. A modified mark-recapture technique was used to obtain dog population estimates along six different transects dividing the city. Population estimates ranged from 19.75 dogs in one transect to 101.841 dogs in another, with 150 total dogs identified throughout the study and an estimated minimum population density of 48.57 dogs/km2. Fecal samples were also opportunistically collected for parasite identification through fecal flotation analysis using the McMaster technique. Out of 25 samples collected, 19 tested positive for gastrointestinal parasites with the most common species found being Ancylostoma caninum, followed by Toxocara canis, Dipylidium caninum, and Cystoisospora spp. Parasite loads ranged from 50 to 10,700 ova per gram of feces. The large population of free-roaming dogs and the prevalence of three zoonotic parasites highlight the importance of understanding free-roaming dog ecology and educating the public on the health risks free-roaming dogs pose.
Vernon Bailey Undergraduate Award TEMPORAL CHANGES IN MAMMALIAN CARNIVORE DISTRIBUTION IN THE TEXAS BLACKLAND PRAIRIES Adam Myers, Kaitlyn Malone, Abbigal Maeng, and Jessica E. Healy, Department of Biology, Austin College (firstname.lastname@example.org) Zoogeography is the study of where animals live and why. As the climate changes, species ranges change, and therefore it is important to consider how and why those range shifts occur. Our project focuses on the comparison of the current range, diversity, and population of mammalian carnivores in the Blackland prairie with the historical diversity, ranges, and populations of those species. We developed a historic data set (prior to 1970) of carnivore species presence in Texas by County by reviewing previous primary literature as well as tag data from Austin College’s museum collection. A modern dataset, using County-level mammalian carnivore sightings from 1970 onward, was developed primarily using sightings from the citizen science database iNaturalist, supplemented by camera trapping at Austin College’s Sneed Prairie restoration site in Grayson County, TX. We detected a total of 19 mammalian carnivore species across our modern and historic Blackland prairie data sets, with 4 mammalian carnivore species detected by camera trapping at Austin College’s Sneed prairie, in addition to 6 other non-carnivore mammal species. Four species present in the historic dataset (Mustela frenata, Canis rufus, Leopardus parda, and Panthera onca) were not detected in our modern dataset. In addition, population estimates of larger carnivore species (such as Puma concolor and Ursus americanus) in the modern dataset were below what would be considered historical levels. These results suggest that 1) smaller or more cryptic mammalian carnivore species are likely to be overlooked by citizen science efforts like iNaturalist, which tend to overcount mesocarnivores in urban areas and undercount those in rural areas, and 2) that prairie restoration sites are in themselves inadequate to restore carnivore diversity to pre-modern levels.
10_R. J. Trent
Vernon Bailey Undergraduate Award RESULTS OF THE ACOUSTIC SURVEY OF BAT POPULATIONS WITHIN THE WICHITA MOUNTAINS WILDLIFE REFUGE R. J. Trent, Matthew Van Sant, and Dana N. Lee, Department of Biology, Cameron University (email@example.com) The Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge (WMWR) is comprised of 59,020 acres of federally protected land and was established in an effort to protect threatened wildlife species and their habitats. It is estimated that the WMWR is home to approximately 50 species of mammals but exactly which species of bats are present is not well known. Therefore, our objective was to establish a more complete record of the diversity of bats present within the refuge. In this study, we utilized ultrasonic recording devices to non-invasively survey six locations within WMWR from April – November 2021. We left each recording device at the same location for the entire sampling period in an effort to determine species richness at each site. Every two weeks we retrieved the SD chips from each recorder to check for recordings. Noise files were removed and the remaining recordings were analyzed utilizing Sonobat software. Batch summary reports included likelihood of presence values for each species. If the likelihood of presence was >0.9 we accepted the identified species as present within the site. We performed manual verification of individual classifications if the species had a likelihood of presence < 0.9. We report the detection of Myotis velifer, Nycticeius humeralis, Lasiurus borealis, Lasiurus cinereus, Eptesicus fuscus, Lasionycteris noctivagans, Tadarida brasiliensis, Antrozous pallidus, Corynorhinus townsendii, and Nyctinomops macrotis. We detected each of these species at all six of the locations; however, species richness patterns at two of the locations do appear to be impacted significantly by weather pattern changes throughout the sampling period. Next steps in this study should include mist net surveys to capture and more confidently document the presence of each species within WMWR. This will also enable us to record more detailed information including population sizes and to monitor for the presence of White-Nose Syndrome.