Cooperative Fish And Wildlife Research 2019 - USGS

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Cooperative Fish and Wildlife ResearchUnits Program—Circular 1463U.S. Department of the InteriorU.S. Geological Survey2019Year in Review

Front cover. A female Florida panther photographed in the wild at the National Audubon Society’s CorkscrewSwamp Sanctuary, Florida. Photograph by Carlton Ward, Jr.; used with permission.Inside front cover. American paddlefish and pallid sturgeon. Photograph by Doug Canfield,U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.Back cover. A male Florida panther photographed on Babcock Ranch, Florida, by using a custom-made cameratrap. Photograph by Carlton Ward, Jr.; used with permission.

Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research UnitsProgram—2019 Year in ReviewBy John D. Thompson, Donald E. Dennerline, and Dawn E. ChildsCircular 1463U.S. Department of the InteriorU.S. Geological Survey

U.S. Department of the InteriorDAVID BERNHARDT, SecretaryU.S. Geological SurveyJames F. Reilly II, DirectorU.S. Geological Survey, Reston, Virginia: 2020For more information on the USGS—the Federal source for science about the Earth, its natural and livingresources, natural hazards, and the environment—visit or call 1–888–ASK–USGS.For an overview of USGS information products, including maps, imagery, and publications,visit use of trade, firm, or product names is for descriptive purposes only and does not imply endorsement by theU.S. Government.Although this information product, for the most part, is in the public domain, it also may contain copyrighted materialsas noted in the text. Permission to reproduce copyrighted items must be secured from the copyright owner.Suggested citation:Thompson, J.D., Dennerline, D.E., and Childs, D.E., 2020, Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unitsprogram—2019 year in review: U.S. Geological Survey Circular 1463, 22 p., 1067-084X (print)ISSN 2330-5703 (online)ISBN 978-1-4113-4363-4

iiiContentsActing Chief’s Message .vAbout the Cooperative Research Units Program .1Performance of the Cooperative Research Units Program .2Budget and Staffing .2Productivity and Leveraging Resources .3Mission of the Cooperative Research Units Program .4Graduate Education To Develop the Conservation Workforce .4Applied Research To Meet Cooperators’ Science Needs .5Threatened and Endangered Species .6Fish and Wildlife Health and Disease .8Invasive Species .10Species of Greatest Conservation Need .12Technical Assistance to Cooperators .14Cooperator Success Stories .16Louisiana Unit: Growth and Mortality of Eastern Oysters .16Montana Wildlife Unit: Wolf Harvest Management and Monitoring .17Idaho Unit: Effects of Catch-and-Release Fishing on Survival ofNative Trout and Steelhead .18Pennsylvania Unit: Identifying Optimal Harvest Regulations for FallWild Turkey Hunting Seasons .19Awards and Accolades .20Professional Services .20Cooperators of the Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Units Program .21

ivAbbreviationsappapplicationBCWD bacterial coldwater diseaseBKDbacterial kidney diseaseCRUCooperative Research UnitCWDchronic wasting diseaseDoDU.S. Department of DefenseESAEndangered Species ActM.S.master of science degreeNGOsnongovernmental of philosophy degreeSDMstructured decision makingSGCNspecies of greatest conservation needSSAspecies status assessmentSWAPState Wildlife Action PlanUSFWS U.S. Fish and Wildlife ServiceUSGSU.S. Geological Survey

vActing Chief’s MessageDear Cooperators:Members of the Cooperative Research Units are pleased to provide you with the“2019 Year in Review” report for the Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Units(CRUs). You will first note that this report looks a little different than those publishedin the past few years, as we opted for a shorter, more concise format this year. Insideyou will find brief descriptions of just a few highlighted activities of unit scientists,students, and cooperators in support of our joint mission. Because of the shorterformat, we are not able to include activities from every unit or State, but rest assuredthat we continue to value the great work that all of you do across the country andaround the world.In fiscal year 2019, the CRU program was very productive despite challengingconditions, including budget uncertainty, a month-long furlough, and hiring delays.John Organ, Chief of the CRU program, retired in January 2019. The process toreplace John was delayed several times, but as I write this, the position has beenannounced on the Federal Government recruitment site. I am hopeful that by the timeyou read this, we will have a new permanent chief. Congress provided an increase of 1 million in our allocation for the express purpose of filling some of the vacanciesin our scientific workforce. Since receiving that increase, the management team hasbeen working to fill vacancies.The program is fortunate to have excellent research scientists, dedicated leadership,and an outstanding administrative staff. However, our accomplishments depend onthe tremendous support from all of you. We look forward to a productive 2020.John D. Thompson

Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research UnitsProgram—2019 Year in ReviewBy John D. Thompson, Donald E. Dennerline, and Dawn E. ChildsAbout the Cooperative Research Units ProgramEstablished in 1935, the Cooperative Research Unitsprogram is a unique cooperative partnership among theU.S. Geological Survey (USGS), the U.S. Fish and WildlifeService (USFWS), universities, State fish and wildlife agencies, and the Wildlife Management Institute. Designed to meetthe scientific needs of natural resource management agenciesand the need for trained professionals in the growing fieldof wildlife management, the program has grown from theoriginal 9 wildlife-only units and today includes 40 Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Units located on universitycampuses in 38 States. Signatory cooperators forming theindividual units include 41 universities and 44 State fish andwildlife agencies. The partnerships that form each unit aresome of the USGS’s strongest links to Federal and State landand natural resource agencies as mandated by the CooperativeResearch and Training Units Act of 1960 (P.L. 86–686).Details about the program follow: The research agenda for each unit is approved bythe Coordinating Committee, which includes theU.S. Department of the Interior, the State fish andwildlife agency, the university, and the WildlifeManagement Institute Each unit is staffed by two to five Federal researchscientists employed by the USGS If fully staffed, units would be served by 119 Federalemployees. Unit scientists hold faculty rank at their hostuniversity, teach graduate-level courses, and conductresearch on a wide variety of fish and wildlife issues Research projects typically support graduate students orpostdoctoral researchers USGS employees in the units work with State fish andwildlife agencies and Federal natural resource agencies,providing them with the science used in managementdecisions to support sustainable fish and wildlifepopulations for wildlife watching, fishing, and NEWYORKRHODE ISLANDCONNECTICUTPENNSYLVANIANEW ANEVADAIGANNSINDIANA RTHDAKOTATAMONTANANEW HAMPSHIRESOWASHINGTONFLORHAWAIIIDALocations of 40 Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Units in fiscal year 2019.Unit location

2   Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Units Program—2019 Year in ReviewPerformance of the Cooperative Research Units ProgramBudget and StaffingCooperators include the following:Congress provided an increase of 1 million for theCooperative Research Units program in the 2019 allocation forthe express purpose of filling vacancies. While we have beenworking to fill positions, delays in the allocation and hiringprocess coupled with retirements and resignations resulted inno net increase in scientific staff by the end of the fiscal year.We hope the staffing situation will improve in 2020.State fish and wildlife agenciesUniversitiesWildlife Management InstituteU.S. Geological SurveyU.S. Fish and Wildlife 201020092008200720062005802004902003Number of scientists110Fiscal year (October 1–September 30)EXPLANATIONCRU budget, in millions of dollarsFull staffing level without vacanciesActual staffing, in number of scientists at end of fiscal yearGraph showing budget and staffing data for the Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Units program duringfiscal years 2003–2019. The full staffing level would mean that 119 U.S. Geological Survey research scientistswould be employed at the 40 units. In fiscal year 2019, there were 38 vacancies nationwide.10Funding, in millions of dollars22120

Performance of the Cooperative Research Units Program   3Productivity and Leveraging ResourcesThe unique model of the Cooperative Fish and WildlifeResearch Units program allows all cooperators to benefit fromeach other’s strengths. Host universities receive two to fivePh.D. Federal scientists who teach classes, advise students,provide technical expertise, and bring in Federal and Stateresearch funding. Every Federally allocated dollar is matchedon about a 1:3 basis by State and host university contributions and grant funds. State agency cooperators benefit fromour scientists’ expertise and the direct support of graduatestudent research projects that target their current concerns.The USGS directly benefits from unique funding opportunitiesprovided by State and Federal cooperators. Also, cooperators gain access to the expertise and research infrastructureof our host universities that is invaluable for supportingresearch and training future State and Federal managers andscientists. Overall, the program links the research and training mission of all cooperators, thereby providing enhancedscientific expertise while training students to enter theconservation workforce.Unit scientists garner 25 million to 40 millionin State and Federal research funding each yearFederal investment supports about1,100 students anduniversity staff membersannuallyUniversities provide more than 20 millionthrough in-kind support, tuition,and reduced overhead277Publications41Courses taught630Presentations2910SeminarsWorkshops andshort courses

4   Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Units Program—2019 Year in ReviewMission of the Cooperative Research Units ProgramThe mission of the Cooperative Research Units program has three parts: (1) develop the workforce of the futurethrough applied graduate education, (2) deliver actionable science to cooperating agencies and organizations, and (3) fulfillthe training and technical assistance needs of the cooperators.Accomplishments during fiscal year 2019 for each of theseparts of the mission are described in the following sections.Graduate Education To Develop theConservation WorkforceThe Cooperative Research Units program educatesmore than 500 graduate students annually in natural resourcemanagement and conservation. Students are advised by unitscientists and conduct applied research projects that directlyaddress current natural resource concerns of our State andFederal cooperators. Students receive cutting-edge academictraining from our university cooperators and develop expertiseon the issues and policies of State and Federal natural resourcemanagement and protection agencies. Students who graduate from the program experience are uniquely prepared to beeffective members of the natural resource workforce, and thealumni hold important leadership positions in nearly everyState and Federal conservation agency.Unit scientists teach a variety of graduate-level coursesincluding Wildlife Management, Ecology of Running Waters,Bayesian Modeling for Conservation Science, Fisheries Techniques and Management, Data Management and R Softwarefor Fisheries and Wildlife Applications, Wildlife Conservation,Ornithology, Marine Mammalogy, and Communication Skillsin Conservation.One of the greatest legacies of the program is the placement of our students in natural resource agencies and organizations. A pillar of the program’s mission is to develop theworkforce of the future through graduate education.NGO25%408Active graduate students(254 M.S. and154 Ph.D. ederal17%State30%Graduate degreesawarded (51 M.S. and23 Ph.D. degrees)40UndergraduatestudentsPie chart showing the types of professional positions obtained byrecent graduates who participated in the Cooperative Fish andWildlife Research Units program. Data are averaged for fiscalyears 2012–2019. NGO, nongovernmental organization.

Mission of the Cooperative Research Units Program   5Applied Research To Meet Cooperators’ Science NeedsWe lead research that can provide objective science for the management needs of cooperators and inform decision making. Researchconducted by unit scientists addresses the broad themes that are important to both our State and Federal cooperators. In this report, we havechosen to highlight just a few of these themes with selected examplesof the many management-oriented research projects conducted withour State and Federal cooperators. Many more examples are availableonline. Each of these examples demonstrates the importance of thiscooperative effort and what it can yield.“Many biologists working for theAlaska Department of Fish and Game,Division of Sport Fish pursued their graduatestudent education through the AlaskaUnit. The knowledge and skills they gainedthrough the Unit program have proved andare invaluable in planning and conductingresearch projects to improve sciencebased management decisions made by thedepartment. Many of them have becomeleaders who mentor others to maintain andimprove the fisheries professional credibilityof the division to achieve the department’sState constitutional mandate to managefish resources in the best interest of theeconomy and well-being of the people ofthe state, consistent with the sustainedyield principle.”James HasbrouckChief Fisheries ScientistAlaska Department of Fish and Game

6   Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Units Program—2019 Year in ReviewThreatened and Endangered SpeciesScientists in the Cooperative Research Units programwork with Federal and State cooperators to answer science questions about endangered species and those speciespetitioned for listing as threatened or endangered under theEndangered Species Act (ESA). Research results inform listing decisions under the ESA and also are used for prelistingconservation. Three studies are summarized below.Using remote videography to investigate behavior inDevils Hole pupfish in Devils Hole, Death Valley NationalPark, Nevada: The monitoring of threatened and endangeredfishes in remote environments continues to challenge fisheries biologists. The endangered Devils Hole pupfish, whichis confined to a single warm spring in the Nevada part ofDeath Valley National Park, has recently experienced recorddeclines, spurring renewed conservation and recovery efforts.The Arizona Unit investigated the timing and frequency ofspawning in the species’ native habitat by using three surveymethods: underwater videography, above-water videography,and in-person surveys. Videography methods incorporatedfixed-position, solar-powered cameras to record continuous footage of a shallow rock shelf that Devils Hole pupfishuse for spawning. In-person surveys were conducted froma platform placed above the water’s surface. Although theoverall number of spawning events per sample did not differsignificantly between underwater videography and in-personsurveys, underwater videography provided a larger datasetwith much less variability than data from in-person surveys.Fixed videography was more cost efficient than in-person surveys, and underwater videography provided more usable datathan above-water videography. Furthermore, video data collection was possible even under adverse conditions, such as theextreme temperatures of the region, and could be maintainedsuccessfully with few study site visits. The results suggest thatself-contained underwater cameras can be efficient tools formonitoring remote and sensitive aquatic ecosystems.Development of aspecies status assessmentprocess for decisions underthe Endangered SpeciesAct: Species managementdecisions under the ESArequire scientific input onthe risk that the species willbecome extinct in the nearterm and the foreseeablefuture. A series of critiqueson the role of science inESA decisions has called forimproved consistency andtransparency in species risk“The LesserPrairie-ChickenHabitat Use,Survival, andRecruitment projecthas generated newinformation and helpedestablish common methodologies that will helpresearchers better understand the factors affectinghabitat use and life history traits of lesser prairiechickens. The project is one of the most productiveresearch projects ever funded by our departmentand it exemplifies the success that can be attainedwhen state wildlife agencies, researchers, andlandowners work together.”Kent FrickeSmall Game CoordinatorKansas Department of WildlifeParks and Tourism

Mission of the Cooperative Research Units Program   7“The staff ofthe Oregon Unithave a long andrich history ofcollaboration withthe Oregon Departmentof Fish and Wildlife on thekey fish and wildlife management issues of the day.Whether it was pioneering work on Spotted Owls andold growth forest relationships, developing the sciencearound the effects of avian predation on juvenilesalmon and steelhead, resolving critical uncertaintiesaround what constrains the recovery of Sage Grouse,or ground-breaking research on lesser known speciessuch as Pacific Lamprey, the Coop Unit’s work informsscience decision-making for ODFW that is essential toaddressing critical economic, human, and ecologicalissues in Oregon and the Pacific Northwest.”Bruce McIntoshDeputy AdministratorOregon Department of Fish and WildlifeFish Divisionassessments and clear distinctions between science input andpolicy application. To address the critiques and document theemerging practices of the USFWS, members of the AlabamaUnit and the USGS Leetown Science Center in West Virginiadevised an assessment process based on principles of riskand decision analyses. The assessment is designed to lead toa scientific report on species status called the species statusassessment (SSA). The process has three successive stages:(1) describe the life history and ecological needs of the speciesto provide the foundation for the assessment; (2) describe andhypothesize causes for the current condition of the species;and (3) incorporate modeling and scenario planning for prediction of extinction risk and apply the conservation biologyprinciples of representation, resiliency, and redundancy toevaluate the current and future conditions. The future condition refers to the ability of a species and its populations tosurvive in the wild under plausible future scenarios and thepotential for conservation methods to be used to improve itsstatus. The SSA results in a scientific report separate from thepolicy decisions, which contributes to streamlined, transparent, and consistent decision making and allows for greaterparticipation by experts from various agencies and academia.Assessment of neonicotinoid exposure on U.S. Fish andWildlife Service high-diversity grasslands in the PrairiePothole Region: Obligate grassland species of butterfliesare rapidly decreasing in the United States because of habitat fragmentation, destruction, and degradation. The Dakotaskipper and Poweshiek skipperling—butterflies recently listedas threatened and endangered, respectively, under the ESA—inhabit high-quality grasslands. Additionally, because of significant population declines, the USFWS has initiated a statusreview of the monarch butterfly under the ESA. The SouthDakota Unit is assessing neonicotinoid pesticide exposureon native and restored grasslands and is determining the rateof accumulation of neonicotinoids in native flowering plantsthrough greenhouse trials. Study results should be importantto managers working torestore populations ofthese three species.

8   Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Units Program—2019 Year in ReviewFish and Wildlife Health and DiseaseFish and wildlife diseases pose potential threats to theviability of fish and wildlife populations and have potentialimplications for human health and our economy. Scientists inthe Cooperative Research Units program work with cooperators to better understand the causes of these diseases, theeffects on wildlife and people, and the means to control, contain, and eradicate them. Three studies are summarized below.Hatchery-reared rainbow trout stocked into an Ozarkstream: Pathogens remain one of the most problematicaspects of raising fish in a hatchery, and finding solutions tocontrolling or eliminating pathogens is a high priority worldwide. The Colorado Unit is pursuing research to developmanagement options to control two important bacterialpathogens of salmon and trout: Renibacterium salmoninarum,which causes bacterial kidney disease (BKD), and Flavobacterium psychrophilum, which causes bacterial coldwater disease(BCWD). Outbreaks of these diseases can be catastrophic forhatchery production. The research focuses on the ecology ofboth pathogens, the resistance of host species, and efficientdetection of each pathogen. The research on BCWD focuseson using BCWD-resistant rainbow trout as a means of reducing the effects of the pathogen in the hatchery and avoiding theuse of antibiotics. Although antibiotics are currently effective,the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria is a concern.The researchers are also assessing crossing BCWD-resistantrainbow trout with those that are resistant to whirling disease to allow stocking and reestablishment of rainbow troutin the wild. Assessing this hybrid rainbow trout is a priority for Colorado Parks and Wildlife, the Utah Division ofWildlife Resources, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.The research on BKD has two goals: (1) assessing nonlethalsampling techniques to reduce the need to sacrifice valuable hatchery stock and (2) examining how the pathogen istransmitted. Transmission can occur from fish to fish or fromparent to offspring; the typeand rate of transmission willinform best managementpractices to reduce transmission of the disease. The BKDresearch is a high priority forColorado Parks and Wildlifeas well as the U.S. Fish andWildlife Service.“The South Carolina Unit is an integral partnerwith the South Carolina Department of NaturalResources (SCDNR) in the development anddelivery of science-based technical assistanceand resource management information. Scientistswithin the Unit are responsive to requests fromagency staff and provide invaluable information onmanagement and research techniques, species’status, resource threats, and avenues for futureresearch. Through collaborative efforts betweenthe Unit and SCDNR, new research and surveytechniques have been developed and tested,species’ status determined or verified, andecological relationships validated. Collectively,these efforts have resulted in more efficient surveytechniques, improved resource managementeffectiveness and improved information deliveryused in adaptive management frameworks to thebenefit of the citizens and natural resources ofSouth Carolina.”Billy DukesChief of WildlifeSouth Carolina Department of Natural Resources

Mission of the Cooperative Research Units Program   9“The Wisconsin Wildlife Unit is an essentialpartner in linking research with real-world wildlifemanagement. Whether maintaining habitat forsongbirds or the vexing problem of chronic wastingdisease, the Unit leverages expertise from acrosscampus to bring the best science to bear. Theemphasis on graduate training ensures that futurescientists and leaders understand the connectionbetween science and management.”Mark RickebachChairDepartment of Forest and Wildlife EcologyUniversity of Wisconsin-MadisonEndangered Indiana bats on National Wildlife Refuges:Populations of Indiana bats have fallen more than 20 percentacross their range in the last decade, largely because of a serious disease called white-nose syndrome. Protecting criticalroosting habitat may help slow the spread of the disease andthe population decline. The Missouri Unit has partnered withthe USFWS to examine maternity habitat selection by Indiana bats on National Wildlife Refuges in northern Missouri.Results from this study may provide public land managerswith valuable insight into habitat selection and assist diseasereduction and recovery efforts for this endangered species.Gaining a better understanding of the drivers of habitat selection may allow managers to anticipate future obstacles, prioritize specific habitats, assist efforts to promote new habitat, andguide future land acquisitions.Landscape genetics of white-tailed deer to assesspopulation structure for surveillance of chronic wastingdisease: Research on surveillance strategies that considerdemographic and environmental factors is lacking in mostStates where chronic wasting disease (CWD) has not beenfound. Developing surveillance strategies to maximize theefficiency of sampling white-tailed deer was suggested butrequires knowledge of deer behavior and movements and thespatial connectivity of populations. The Pennsylvania Unit isevaluating the effectiveness of targeted removal of white-taileddeer groups on CWD occurrence and distribution. Scientistsare also implementing genetic research to understand patternsof disease susceptibility and population connectivity acrossMaryland, Pennsylvania, and Virginia for targeted CWD mitigation strategies.

10   Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Units Program—2019 Year in ReviewInvasive SpeciesInvasive species cost the United States more than 120billion in damages every year, as quoted in a 2012 fact sheetby the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service InvasivesFactSheet.pdf). Theeconomic, environmental, and health-related costs of invasivespecies exceed those of all other natural disasters combined.Invasive species of plants, animals, and microorganisms posesubstantial risks to native species, ecosystems, and the healthof humans, fish, and wildlife.Asian carp movement through locks and dams in theTennessee River: Invasive Asian carp are a threat to nativefish and aquatic communities, sport fisheries, recreationaluses, and tourism. All four species of invasive Asian carp (silver carp, bighead carp, black carp, and grass carp) have beencaptured in the Tennessee River and Cumberland River, whichare tributaries to the Ohio River. The Tennessee River andCumberland River flow through four States, and increasingAsian carp populations have created concerns about ecosystemhealth and value across the Southeast. The Tennessee Riveralso has connectivity to the Tennessee-Tombigee Waterwaythat connects to the Mobile River Basin. The Tennessee Unitand the Mississippi Unit are working with multiple State agencies and universities to understand the movement of Asiancarp by using acoustic telemetry. Acoustic telemetry providesmovement data from fish that are surgically tagged and caninform how control and prevention strategies could be usedto stop further invasion. In these systems, there is significantpotential for limiting further invasion of Asian carp at navigation locks and dams. The Units and their partners are workingwith the USFWS and USGS Science Centers (Columbia Environmental Research Center and Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center) to propose and plan for barriers that couldbe deterrents to further invasion. This effort supports nationaland regional goals for the control of expansion of Asian carpin the United States.“The Arkansas Unit is an integral partnerin the Department of

of wildlife management, the program has grown from the original 9 wildlife-only units and today includes 40 Coopera-tive Fish and Wildlife Research Units located on university campuses in 38 States. Signatory cooperators forming the individual units include 41 universities and 44 State fish and wildlife agencies.

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