Poster Presentations for the 2020 Natural Areas Virtual Conference 

name: Pighetti, Claudia
co presenter 1:
name: Miles, Danielle

topic: Technology in natural areas conservation

prop. title: Novel Use of Passive Acoustic Recorders for Mapping Coyotes on Public Lands

Co-Authors: Claudia Pighetti, University of Nevada - Reno Danielle C. Miles, University of Nevada - Reno Dr. Kevin Shoemaker, University of Nevada 
prop. abstract: Reno Passive acoustic technologies are changing the way habitat managers track wildlife by providing increasingly low-cost detectors that can be deployed for weeks to months without maintenance. In northern Nevada, a highly understudied region, the use of passive acoustic recording has transformed and simplified long-term species monitoring, bringing forth new opportunities for understanding species presence in lands in northern Nevada experiencing pinyon-juniper removal. To monitor the effects of pinyon-juniper removal on songbirds, we deployed Wildlife Acoustics SM4 passive recording devices for 3 field seasons (2017-2019) in 5 regional project areas distributed widely across the Great Basin in Nevada: Sheldon National Antelope Refuge (USFWS), Ely region (BLM & Mount Grafton Wilderness Area) Elko/Ruby Mountain region (BLM), Vya region (BLM), and Austin region (USFS). In nearly 200 5-minute sound files, we have manually detected howling coyote (Canis latrans) packs using sound visualization software (RavenPro) and anticipate more occurrences in the 2020 summer field season. Coyotes are the most abundant mammalian predator in northern Nevada and their populations affect natural biodiversity and grazing activities alike. This makes efforts to map their habitat use and activities important to land managers, ranchers, and field ecologists. This study explains how we have used passive acoustic technologies and how they can be adapted in future studies across disciplines, specifically by 1) summarizing seasonal coyote habitat use along the sagebrush to pinyon-juniper vegetation gradient , 2) demonstrating the use of triangulation to identify and locate coyote pack vocalizations, and 3) reporting on the costs and benefits of using passive acoustic detectors for monitoring coyotes. Passive acoustic recording has made possible efficient, wide-spread species monitoring on northern Nevada's public lands and will allow more opportunities to gain a better understanding of habitat use in Nevada's understudied regions.

name: Hale, Clayton
title: Graduate Research Assistant

topic: Rare species management

prop. title: Modeling Habitat Suitability for Mountain Stewartia and the Implications for Plant Conservation on Public Lands

Coauthors: Dr. Joshua J. Granger, Dr. Qin Ma, Dr. Jia Yang
prop. abstract: Modeling species habitat suitability has become a critical first step in conserving rare or threatened plant species. These models allow conservationists to locate previously undocumented populations and prioritize populations and habitats for conservation. Mountain Stewartia is a rare shrub or small tree endemic to the piedmont and mountains of Georgia, Tennessee, and Alabama with isolated populations occurring in Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, and Mississippi. The species often goes misidentified or overlooked by land managers and conservationists. As a result, Stewartia habitat niche descriptions and distribution data are insufficient for restoration and conservation use. Presented is the habitat suitability of the species across its natural range. Herbarium records (25), research-grade INaturalist observations (25), and other author identified locations (15) were used with 10 environmental layers to develop a maximum entropy model (Maxent). A cross-validation Maxent model was run 65 times and was determined to be statistically significant with an AUC of 0.916 and a standard deviation of 0.155. The resulting probability map was classified into bins of 10% of habitat suitability for spatial analysis. A total of 264,210 ha were designated within the top 10% tier of which 30% is nonindustrial protected lands. The presented model will allow plant conservationists to potentially locate new populations of mountain stewartia and identify suitable areas for the establishment of new populations. This approach provides a framework for using citizen science and natural history records for the modeling of other rare plant species with limited occurrence data.

name: Demro, Delaney
title: Master's Student and Research Assistant

topic: Collaborative approaches to conservation - public/private partnerships

prop. title: CREEQ: A Public Perceptions of Recreational Water-Quality Citizen-Science Initiative

prop. abstract: The application of citizen science in formal research has become increasingly utilized by professionals across disciplines. This approach has to potential to be highly valuable in stream ecosystem conservation in the face of recurring nutrient over-enrichment of surface waters. Achieving accurate monitoring of stream water quality statewide at a high enough spatial and temporal resolution to maintain protected uses is highly resource-intensive. The NY State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) with a research team at the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry (ESF), applied this collaborative approach to conservation to supplement the existing network of stream monitoring efforts performed by the agency. This poster presentation outlines the supporting theory, methods, and preliminary results of the Citizen Recreational Evaluation of Environmental Quality (CREEQ) initiative. Through an online survey, the CREEQ initiative asks citizen-science volunteers to perform a visual evaluation of water quality and recreational usability of publicly-accessible stream locations. In response to volunteer surveys, the research team traveled to evaluated locations to validate submitted reports and collect water column samples. These samples were then analyzed for physical and chemical water quality-indicating parameters to relate volunteer observations to traditional monitoring practices. Validating this relationship and approach is crucial to reliably use public-reported data to inform stream monitoring efforts across New York state and other landscapes.

name: Strain, Katherine

topic: Managing fire regimes in a changing world (good fire/bad fire)

prop. title: Controls on plant-soil feedbacks of herbaceous community following fire in the Ruby Mountains, NV, USA

prop. abstract: Erin J. Hanan, University of Nevada, Reno As larger and more frequent fires continue to shape landscapes in the Great Basin and across the western United States, it is increasingly important to understand how fire influences ecosystem processes such as carbon and nitrogen retention, streamflow, and water quality. Studies that couple carbon and nitrogen dynamics with vegetation recovery following fire can help us identify when and under what circumstances wildfires are changing the structure and function of Great Basin plant communities, ecosystems and watersheds. To examine how burn severity and soil moisture influences the composition of recovering herbaceous species and soil biogeochemical dynamics, we sampled vegetation and soils from burned and unburned plots following a wildfire that burned a portion of Lamoille Canyon Recreation area outside of Elko, NV, USA. We quantified the cover, presence, and biomass of herbaceous species and analyzed foliar carbon and nitrogen content at the peak of the first postfire growing season and the following year. We also collected mineral soil and forest floor samples (where present) and measured their carbon and nitrogen content, microbial biomass, pH and net mineralization and nitrification rates. Preliminary data show that in the first year post-fire, herbaceous species composition differs between burned and unburned plots and that soil microbial biomass is negatively associated with burn severity. These results, though preliminary, contribute to our understanding of how fire influences herbaceous community dynamics and soil biogeochemical dynamics in Eastern Nevada. Future work will involve continued sampling of vegetation, soils and forest floor. We will also use our results to inform an ecohydrological model that we will use to examine possible effects of changing climate, plant invasion, and fire regimes on ecosystem processes.

name: Ready, Alice
title: Master's Student

topic: Invasive species management - new and effective approaches

prop. title: Phenology-based UAV remote sensing for classifying invasive annual grasses to the species level

prop. abstract: The spread of invasive plant species severely alters wildfire regimes, degrades critical habitat for native species, and has detrimental impacts upon ecosystem function, rangeland productivity, and dynamics of long-term carbon storage. Remote sensing technology has greatly improved our understanding of invasive plant ecology, and hence our ability to manage invasive species. Imagery obtained from airborne or space-borne platforms can provide spatially explicit estimates of plant population size, extent, and spread. However, it has proved quite challenging to remotely detect and monitor weed invasions at the species level, as detailed satellite imagery is commonly greater than one to four meters in resolution and is too coarse to identify isolated individuals or small patches of invasion. Species-specific weed mapping is essential for early detection of new invasions. Controlling emerging and individual infestations is critical for slowing the rate of invasion and promoting rangeland biodiversity in regions that are potentially at risk. By capitalizing on species-specific differences in plant phenology and using high resolution Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) imagery we are able to collect detailed data emphasizing the spectral differences between invasive plants at the species level, even where different species co-occur in a fine-grained mosaic. UAVs can produce images at the centimeter scale, avoiding the 'mixed-pixel problem' where larger pixels encompass multiple cover types and plant species, confounding classification efforts. This study refines a novel methodology to separate invasive annual grasses based on plant phenology, increasing the utility of remote sensing data in invasive species management. Because areas of invasion vary spatially according to cultural features and environmental influences, predictive species distribution models can improve monitoring by incorporating habitat suitability. By relating occurrence data and likely modes of species dispersal to landscape-explicit data, we can develop predictions of plant invasion over space and time. Using predictive models to explain, approximate, and predict environmental conditions under which invasive species establish and spread will focus monitoring on the most vulnerable locations. This research will use fine-scale UAV imagery to develop a predictive landscape model of future invasion risk. Thus, development of new remote sensing approaches for early detection of medusahead invasions will be timely and advantageous for allowing range managers to control its further spread.

name: Board, David
title: Ecologist/Data Analyst

topic: Managing fire regimes in a changing world (good fire/bad fire)

prop. title: Effects of plant functional groups determine 10-year sagebrush recovery following fuels treatments, A regional study.

prop. abstract: Many sagebrush ecosystems in western North America are at risk of developing invasive grass-fire cycles prompting management aimed at increasing resilience to wildfire and resistance to invasive annual grasses. Managers implement large-scale fuel treatments to reduce fire risk by decreasing woody fuels and increase recovery potential by promoting native perennial herbaceous species that recover after fire. Responses to these treatments are variable and little is known about long term effects on recovery of keystone sagebrush species. The Sagebrush Treatment Evaluation Project (SageSTEP) was established to evaluate effectiveness of woody fuels treatments (prescribed fire, mechanical, herbicides) in sagebrush ecosystems and now has long-term (10 yr) data on treatment effects. We used path analyses to evaluate effects of community interactions on sagebrush cover and density for sites exhibiting pinyon - juniper expansion and cheatgrass invasion. We included 6 discrete time-steps â€' pretreatment and 1, 2, 3, 6 and 10 years after treatment. We asked two questions. (1) How did cover of the dominant plant functional groups influence post-treatment sagebrush population dynamics over time? (2) How did population responses to treatment differ on relatively cool and moist pinyon and juniper expansion sites and warm and dry sagebrush sites exhibiting cheatgrass invasion? Preliminary results indicate that in controls sagebrush cover and density was consistent over the ten years while annual grass cover increased for both expansion sites and invasion sites. Density and cover of sagebrush in fire treatments at expansion site types increased slowly over the ten years after the initial reduction. Sites with the highest residual sagebrush cover recovered best. Pretreatment sagebrush cover negatively affected perennial native grasses, which negatively affected on cheatgrass, indirectly linking pretreatment sagebrush cover to post-treatment cheatgrass invasion. Mechanical treatment of expansion sites had little impact on sagebrush density and cover. Mowing treatments in the invaded sites reduced sagebrush cover and density neither of which recovered from the treatment over the ten years. Initial analyses of big sagebrush sites exhibiting cheatgrass invasion indicated that tebuthiuron application gradually reduced sagebrush density over time. Competitive interactions among sagebrush, perennial native grasses, and cheatgrass changed following treatment. Effects of sagebrush cover were reduced and effects of perennial native grasses on cheatgrass became apparent. Management implications are that adequate residual sagebrush cover post-treatment will increase sagebrush recovery, while adequate perennial native grass cover will reduce cheatgrass.

name: Hall, Mark
title: Field Manager
co-presenter 1:
name: Rhode, Dave
Research Professor

topic: Natural areas management in light of climate change

prop. title: Palaeoecological Studies for Past, Present and Future: A Case Study From Soldier Meadows

prop. abstract: The purpose of this poster is to illustrate the utility of pollen cores as tools that can provide valuable insights into the past, present and potential future of local vegetation communities. Also illustrated will be the utility of pollen cores in informing land management decisions. A pollen core was obtained from the wet meadow surrounding Mud Meadows spring inside the Soldier Meadows Area of Critical Environmental Concern (ACEC) located in the Black Rock-High Rock Emigrant Trails National Conservation Area (NCA) in northern Nevada. It is an unique habitat for threatened plant (basalt cinqefoil) and animal (desert dace) species. The core was processed to recover pollen and non-pollen palynomorphs. A Bayesian age-depth model was constructed for the core from Pb isotope and radiocarbon dates. The core extends back 1500 years and its dated resolution ranges from a decade to just under 200 yrs. The irregular time series of the proportions of various plant species and taxa are discussed. Through the Medieval Climatic Anomaly (MCA), the vegetation community is dominated by Chenopodiaceae and Asteracea. In the Little Ice Age (LIA), Artemesia and perennial grasses dominate the vegetation communities and have remained fairly resilient through time, even in the presence of commercial grazing. Analysis of the charcoal grains suggests a decrease in the fire frequency from the MCA through the LIA. The cyanobacteria Rivularia increases and Glomus decreases circa 350 BP to the present. This is indicative of a change in water chemistry and potentially water level. The Modern Analogue Technique, in combination with the North American pollen database, is utilized to reconstruct climatic indicators. As expected, the MCA was a warmer and drier period--a climatic condition that is expected to become prevalent in the future. For planned and potential habitat restoration projects in the Soldier Meadows ACEC, the pollen core yields insights on the types of vegetation and relative quantities of it out there, and its resilience. In accounting for climate change and habitat restoration projects, the pollen core provides evidence of species and taxa that may be better suited for future conditions.

name: Spei, Benjamin

topic: Aspen conservation

prop. title: Differences in community composition and structure between riparian and non-riparian aspen (Populus tremuloides Michx.)

Benjamin A. Spei University of Idaho P. Charles Goebel University of Idaho
prop. abstract: The future trajectory of trembling aspen (Populus tremuloides Michx.) health and persistence in the Western United States is uncertain. Many theorize that predicted increasing temperatures and extended periods of drought will have a detrimental effect on the current distribution, composition, and structure of trembling aspen, especially in arid and semi-arid regions of the Intermountain West. Our project is exploring these relationships, and we are interested in whether riparian zones of the Intermountain West can potentially increase aspen stand stability, regeneration and resistance to drought. We sampled nine riparian aspen stands and nine paired, adjacent non-riparian aspen stands of the Caribou National Forest of southeastern Idaho during the summer months of 2019. Plant community composition, structure, age distribution and regeneration dynamics were assessed within multiple 100-m2 plots established along 2-4 100-m transects oriented along the long axis of each aspen stand. Differences in plant community composition between the riparian and non-riparian stands were determined using multivariate analysis, including non-metric dimensional scaling (NMDS). Additionally, aspen stem size and age distributions were compared between riparian and non-riparian aspen stands with histogram analysis; statistical differences among size class and age group categories were compared with a chi square test for independence. While both the riparian and non-riparian plant communities are dominated by aspen, the riparian stands were dominated by a mixture of forbs, graminoids and woody shrubs, the non-riparian stands had a lower herbaceous species density, and different woody shrub species. Additionally, we observed higher conifer encroachment in the non-riparian aspen stands. Overall, the stand structure of riparian stands exhibit an even size distribution, while non-riparian aspen stands are dominated by larger, older stems. Additionally, riparian aspen stands have significantly higher seedling and sapling densities than adjacent non-riparian stands (P < 0.05). Our results suggest that riparian aspen stands have a higher variation in aspen stem size and age, and higher aspen regeneration densities relative to adjacent non-riparian stands. The compositional and structural complexity of riparian aspen stands may prove more resistant to future environmental stressors caused by climate change. Furthermore, the higher densities of seedlings within riparian zones show evidence of a higher likelihood of stand stability (i.e. not dependent on disturbance for persistence). We suggest riparian zones could provide refugia for aspen in areas where increasing temperature and drought are expected.
attachment: No

name: Flauta, Christine

topic: Collaborative approaches to conservation - public/private partnerships

prop. title: Rapid ‘hi‘a Death: A Multi-agency Effort to Detect, Contain and Monitor an Emerging Threat to Native Hawaiian Fores

prop. abstract: ‘hi‘a (Metrosideros polymorpha) is a keystone plant species in Hawai‘i’s native ecosystems, making up about 1,000,000 acres of forest across the state.  Ranging in altitude 0 – 10,000 ft it can thrive in intense geological conditions and can be found from dry lava beds to the wettest Hawaiian rainforest. On O‘ahu, Hawaii’s most populated island, ‘hi‘a is essential to forest health but limited to areas with remnant native and intact ecosystems.  In 2014, a new fungal disease in the genus Ceratocystis began decimating populations of ‘hi‘a on Hawaii Island. In 2018 the pathogen referred to as Rapid ‘hi‘a Death (ROD) was identified as two strains, Ceratocystis lukuohia (destroyer of ‘hi‘aand Ceratocystis huliohia (disrupter of ‘hi‘a). ROD quickly spread through 30% of  Hawai‘i Island’s ‘hi‘a populations and 90% of the trees sampled were infected with the more aggressive strain, C. lukuohia.  The intense spread of this pathogen prompted the creation of the O‘ahu ROD working group. This group focused on dividing work loads between private, residential, military and state managed lands.  It coordinated multiagency ground and aerial surveying with sampling while developing new methodologies to detect potentially infected trees. Learning from partnerships created on Hawaii island, O‘ahu was able to create an action plan to respond to this ecological disaster.  To date over 174,000 acres have been surveyed on O‘ahu resulting in 5 detections of C. huliohia.   This collaboration between agencies, landowners, and residents made it possible for the early detection and suppression of ROD. The ROD working group will continue to make strides to delineate and manage the growing threat of ROD and will be crucial in planning efforts to secure funding to mitigate the impact on native forests. 

name: Salo, Cindy

topic: Invasive species management - new and effective approaches

prop. title: Understanding army cutworms can help restore cheatgrass-invaded areas in the U.S. Intermountain West

prop. abstract: Cheatgrass (Bromus tectorum) has invaded many low, dry areas in the U.S. Intermountain West. This exotic annual grass forms near-monocultures across large areas and often dominates sagebrush and salt desert scrub understories. Cheatgrass competes vigorously with species seeded and planted for restoration. Starting in 2003, widespread cheatgrass die-offs have occurred in some of the lowest, driest areas of the West. Native army cutworm (Euxoa auxiliaris) outbreaks can consume cheatgrass and exotic mustards (Brassicaceae) to produce die-offs. The larvae can also defoliate native shrubs (Artemisia and Atriplex). Army cutworm eruptions seem to occur when: 1) a year of dry weather ends with heavy late summer rain, 2) numerous adult moths, called miller moths, return from high elevations in fall to lay eggs, and 3) dry weather resumes through winter. Army cutworms overwinter as larvae, feeding at night and resting under objects or in the soil during the day. Larvae pupate in late spring and emerge as miller moths. The moths follow the blooms of flowering plants to high elevations for the summer. Miller moths travel long distances. Those emerging in the Great Plains fly through Colorado's Front Range on their way to high peaks in the northern Rocky Mountains. Grizzly bears feast on the fat-filled moths. Miller moths emerging in the Intermountain West apparently spend summers in nearby mountain ranges. Large aggregations were found in Great Basin National Park after outbreaks and die-offs in 2014, and black bears were seen feeding on miller moths in the Jemez Mountains of northern New Mexico in the summer of 2003. I have studied cheatgrass die-offs and army cutworms since 2003 and am developing a network of observers to monitor fall miller moth populations and watch for winter army cutworm outbreaks and cheatgrass die-offs. Understanding Euxoa auxiliaris outbreaks and migrations in the Intermountain West will let us better predict cheatgrass die-offs. Predicting these events will let us take advantage of these times of reduced competition from cheatgrass to seed and plant desirable species in cheatgrass-invaded areas.

name: Brumbeloe, Jennifer
title: Restoration Ecologist
co presenter 1:
name: Dagley, Christa

topic: Aspen conservation

prop. title: Vegetation recovery following forest restoration thinning and pile burning in aspen-conifer stands around the Lake Tahoe

prop. abstract: Land management agencies around the Lake Tahoe Basin have been actively restoring aspen stands at high risk of loss for over a decade. Before these restoration interventions, conifers had been overtopping and shading out the shade-intolerant aspen, and gradually replacing them. Restoration techniques have included mechanically removing conifers from aspen stands, lopping and scattering conifers within aspen stands, and hand thinning, piling, and burning the thinned conifers in and adjacent to aspen stands. The latter technique is commonly used but we know very little about its effects as well as its effectiveness. Through monitoring work we are beginning to understand the effects of pile burning on aspen trees and other components of the aspen ecosystem. In this study we are collecting and analyzing data on tree regeneration inside and adjacent to burn piles, and assessing the changes and recovery of herbaceous vegetation on spots where piles were burned. The earliest restoration thinning treatment that we have regularly monitored was implemented in 2009 followed by pile burning once the cut wood had dried. Additional stands were thinned in 2010 and subsequently burned. Recovery of vegetation has proceeded rapidly, but is variable within and across the range of mesic and xeric study sites. This presentation includes maps and schematic layout of the 2.5-acre permanent monitoring plots surrounding Lake Tahoe, images of actively burning piles and post-fire conditions, and time-series data quantifying rate of vegetation recovery after the forest restoration activities at nine permanent long-term monitoring installations on lands managed by federal and state agencies in California and Nevada.

name: Bartz, Tessa
co presenter 1:
name: Leger, Elizabeth

topic: Development and use of native seed in natural areas management

prop. title: Measuring Local Adaptation in Widespread Common Forbs of the Great Basin

prop. abstract: Restoration in dryland systems is challenging and prone to failure, but applying evolutionary concepts can improve its efficacy. Locally-sourced native populations may have a greater chance of restoration success because of their adaptations to local conditions. However, the characteristics important for local adaptation can differ drastically between taxa and environments, so it is important to conduct research on a diversity of species and populations to better understand which characteristics influence survival and performance among groups. In the Great Basin, few local adaptation studies have been conducted using forbs, despite their importance in these ecosystems. Here we describe a field-based seed germination and establishment study that compliments a large-scale common garden project designed to examine the variation in traits between populations of 3 widespread forbs of the Great Basin Desert using common gardens and germination experiments. We gathered 113 populations of hoary tansyaster (Machaeranthera canescens), 98 populations of Douglas' dustymaiden (Chaenactis douglasii), and 80 populations of tapertip hawksbeard (Crepis acuminata), and planted them in 6 common gardens; this presentation focuses on the Reno common garden. We transplanted 109 populations of hoary tansyaster, 75 populations of Douglas' dustymaiden and 19 populations of tapertip hawksbeard into an un-watered common garden in fall 2019, and we will measure phenology, neighbor survival, basal rosette diameter, plant height, leaf size, leaf shape, number of seeds per flower, and seed weight. In addition, we planted a seeding trial for a subset of 10 populations of each species randomly selected across the spectrum of local precipitation amounts. Seeds were sown directly into the ground, and will receive 3 watering treatments that encompass the local seasonal precipitation for the majority of our gathered populations. We are monitoring emergence and survival of each seed, and will be able to determine whether these are associated with water availability during early life stages. This work will add to our body of knowledge about the scale of local adaptation in an important guild of plants, native perennial forbs, and provide the opportunity to compare results from transplant and seeding studies.



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