U.S. Geological Survey Fisheries and Wildlife Science for a Changing World: Part I

Conservation of the Nation’s fish and wildlife resources is a growing challenge in the face of accelerating changes in the 21st century. Growing pressures from a multitude of environmental stressors threaten many fish and wildlife species and their habitats. Understanding how these changes influence aquatic and terrestrial species and entire ecosystems is critical for effective conservation and management at local and national scales. The USGS Ecosystems Mission Area, the biological research arm of the Department of Interior, provides science to conserve, restore, and protect the Nation’s fish and wildlife resources. Scientists conduct rigorous, unbiased research and monitoring in freshwater, terrestrial, and marine ecosystems to inform conservation and management programs. This session seeks to bring together members of the fisheries and wildlife disciplines to share examples of USGS science addressing parallel natural resource issues. The presentations will cover topics related to species listing and recovery, invasive species and disease, land and water use, climate change and drought, and advanced tools and technologies. Ultimately, this cross-disciplinary exchange will facilitate a better understanding of the connections between these disciplines and identify opportunities to advance coordinated and integrated ecosystem science to ensure these valuable resources remain on the landscape into the 22nd century and beyond.

1:10PM The Dangers Associated with Hatchery Stocking Programs: Lessons to Apply to Native Coregonine Restoration in the Great Lakes
  Joseph Schmitt
In the Great Lakes region, declines in coregonine abundance have been attributed to various factors including overfishing, habitat loss, invasive species, and climate change. As an ecologically-important forage base that once supported lucrative commercial fisheries, there has been growing interest in supplementing populations through hatchery stocking programs. There has also been interest in reintroducing cisco C. artedi to Lake Erie, as overfishing caused this species to disappear by the 1950s. While hatchery stocking programs have successfully restored native fish in the Great Lakes (e.g. lake trout in Lake Superior), studies have shown that hatchery stocking programs can negatively affect fitness and genetic variation in native populations. Here I review some of the risks and challenges associated with hatchery stocking programs in the context of Great Lakes coregonine restoration. Moreover, I review suggestions for mitigating these risks and outline steps that can be taken to improve the effectiveness of hatchery stock enhancement.
1:30PM How the Changing Tools of Conservation Genetics Have Guided Management for Gunnison Sage-Grouse
  Sara Oyler-McCance
Gunnison sage-grouse is a sagebrush-obligate species that was recognized as a new species in 2000. Changes in land use in the sagebrush ecosystem has reduced the species to only 8% of their historical distribution with birds confined to southwestern Colorado and southeastern Utah. Gunnison sage-grouse was listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act in 2014. Although many wildlife research methods have been employed to better understand and manage this species, molecular tools have been particularly informative. As the field of conservation genetics has changed dramatically over the last 20 years, I highlight how molecular data has been used over the years to define the species taxonomically, examine connectivity, and identify local adaptation. This information has been used in on-the-ground management efforts such as translocations and will be important for future management of this species, guiding future efforts in both translocations and habitat restoration.
1:50PM Comprehensive, Inter-Disciplinary Approach to Provide Science to Support Large River Management for the Endangered Pallid Sturgeon
  Aaron J. DeLonay, Robert B. Jacobson, Patrick J. Braaten, Kimberly A. Chojnacki, Caroline M. Elliott, Susannah O. Erwin, Edward Bulliner, Kevin Buhl, Edward Heist, Tyler M. Haddix, Mathew L. Rugg, Gerald E. Mestl
The U.S. Geological Survey, Comprehensive Sturgeon Research Project (CSRP) is a multiyear, multiagency collaborative research framework developed to support information needs for pallid sturgeon (Scaphirhynchus albus) recovery and Missouri River management actions. Project science priorities have been identified in the Missouri River Pallid Sturgeon Effects Analysis (Jacobson and others, 2016) and through prioritization processes emanating from the Missouri River Science and Adaptive Management Plan. The project consists of several interdependent and complementary, decision-relevant science themes that engage multiple disciplines. Research emphasizes laboratory, mesocosm, and field studies of limiting factors that affect critical life-stage transitions within the context of the contemporary Missouri River. Studies include research to refine understanding of reproductive cues, characteristics of functional spawning habitats, spawning patch dynamics, and the interrelations between physical processes and survival during critical early-life stages. We formalize understanding into models of spawning, dispersal of free embryos, and interception of young-of-year sturgeon into supportive habitats. Additional studies assess fundamental questions about sturgeon development and genetics. Information provided by CSRP is collaboratively synthesized, communicated to stakeholders, and assimilated into the Missouri River science and adaptive management process.
2:10PM An Interagency Study Team Approach to Bridge Science and Policy: Recovery of the Yellowstone Grizzly Bear
  Frank van Manen, Mark Haroldson, Justin Clapp, Daniel Bjornlie, Hilary Cooley, Cecily Costello, Michael Ebinger, Kevin Frey, Jennifer Fortin-Noreus, Kerry Gunther, David Gustine, Pat Hnilicka, Curtis Hendricks, Jeremy Nicholson, Daniel Thompson, Daniel Ty
The Interagency Grizzly Bear Study Team (IGBST) was formed by the Department of the Interior in 1973, prior to the 1975 ESA listing of grizzly bears in the lower 48 states as threatened. The IGBST consists of federal, state, and tribal agencies that work across organizational and jurisdictional boundaries and leverage limited resources to conduct long-term research and monitoring of an iconic species with a high public and political profile. Whereas agencies represented in IGBST have different missions and roles in grizzly bear recovery, each member serves as a connection back to its agency, thus bridging the often critical gap between science and management. Additionally, the IGBST reports to the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee (agency directors and regional directors), which was formed to support grizzly bear recovery through coordination of policy, planning, management, and research. Implementation of key conservation measures based on IGBST science ultimately contributed to biological recovery of the population in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. The IGBST has been described as a “boundary organization” that bridges science and policy and ensures that science input is credible, salient, and broadly viewed as legitimate. The structure of IGBST may serve as a model to address complex scientific and conservation challenges.
2:30PM Using Population Models of Interacting Species to Support Decision Makers
  Charles Yackulic
Fisheries and wildlife management can often be improved by a better understanding of the population dynamics of species of concern. Ideally, an understanding of a species’ population dynamics will allow for predictions of population responses to various management actions. Here, we discuss progress in fitting and forecasting species interactions in two disparate systems under various potential management scenarios. First, we discuss how habitat and competition with barred owls are impacting Northern spotted owls across their geographic range. We use two species occupancy models to infer the strength of competitive and habitat effects and forecast future dynamics. While competition with barred owls has driven recent declines, we find compelling evidence that habitat recovery may lessen the need for barred owl removals in the future. Second, we explore interactions between rainbow trout and endangered humpback chub in the Colorado River in its Grand Canyon Reach. Two species mark-recapture models indicate that rainbow trout are negatively impacting humpback chub, but that environmental factors, especially water temperature, play an equal or greater role. We end by briefly discussing the potential implications of declining volume of water in storage in the Colorado River Basin on water temperature and aquatic ecosystems.
2:50PM Refreshment Break
3:20PM Using Structured Decision Making and Machine Learning to Adaptively Manage Invasive Annual Bromes in Grassland Habitats in the National Parks
  Max Post van der Burg, Heather Baldwin, Amy Symstad
National Parks in the Northern Great Plains (NGP) preserve and protect historical and ecological landscapes. That mission is under threat from invasion of exotic annual brome grasses as they reduce native plant diversity and wildlife habitat. Managing these species within parks is a complex problem due to uncertainty about the effectiveness of different management strategies and parks’ limited capacity to implement management. We developed an adaptive management framework to guide park vegetation management and improve understanding of the effects of management actions. Our framework uses a structured decision-making process for defining management objectives and a Bayesian network model for integrating long-term monitoring data and predicting optimal actions. Our model suggests that the optimal action depends on vegetation state. For example, the optimal action for controlling high brome abundance is fall burning and herbicide application. The optimal action for low brome abundance depends on the condition of other vegetation components and is often no management or spring burning. We will describe how we are using this model to inform management decisions at the parks and how new data generated following management actions are used to update the model over time.
3:40PM Research to Improve Control of Invasive Sea Lamprey in the Great Lakes: Vignettes about Telemetry, Pheromones, and Artificial Intelligence
  Nicholas S. Johnson, Christopher Holbrook, Scott Miehls
Control of invasive sea lamprey (Petromyzon marinus) is a cornerstone of ecosystem management in the Laurentian Great Lakes. Sea lamprey populations have been reduced by up to 90% using barriers to block spawning runs and lampricides to kill larvae. Existing control tactics are becoming increasingly difficult to maintain and execute in light of basin-wide restoration goals; barriers block valued fishes and resistance to lampricides may develop. Therefore, managers desire additional control tools and more accurate population assessments. We present three short stories of how USGS research is developing new control tools and improving assessment. The first describes how telemetry-based assessment of adult trapping shifted manager’s expectations about the effectiveness of trap-based control. The second describes how research into pheromone-based trapping resulted in the registration of the first pheromone used in a vertebrate control program. The last is how artificial intelligence is being leveraged to automatically sort invasive sea lamprey from valued fishes at fishways and dams.
4:00PM Antimicrobial Resistant Bacteria and Wild Birds: Genomics, Satellite Tracking, Land Use, and Connections to Human Health
  Christina Ahlstrom, Jonas Bonnedahl, Hanna Woksepp, David C. Douglas, Andrew Ramey
Commensal and pathogenic antimicrobial resistant (AMR) bacteria have been detected in diverse hosts and environments. Previous surveys suggest some types of birds, such as landfill-foraging gulls (Larus spp.) and scavenging birds of prey, may be indicators of resistance in the environment. However, the pathways governing the acquisition and dispersal of bacteria by birds are not well-described. We aimed to explore potential transmission pathways of AMR bacteria in relation to local gull movements and to compare the genetic diversity of bacteria to strains reported in other taxa. We equipped 17 gulls with satellite transmitters and performed whole genome sequencing of >200 AMR E. coli isolates recovered from gull and bald eagle (Haliaeetus leucopehalus) feces collected at sites throughout Alaska. We found extensive genetic diversity of E. coli isolates and antimicrobial resistance genes, including multidrug resistant bacteria and antimicrobial resistance genes of public health importance. We also found evidence for strain sharing among birds through time and space. Satellite tracking of gulls revealed that the genetic similarity of AMR E. coli from different locations generally mirrored gull movements. Our findings suggest that complex epidemiological interactions govern the maintenance and dissemination of AMR E. coli by wild birds in Alaska.
4:20PM Invaded? Now What?
  Jon Amberg, James Luoma, Diane Waller
Early detection of aquatic invasive species (AIS) has significantly advanced in recent years, but tool development for rapid response has lagged. Resource managers presently have few control tools for new invasions. Most of these tools are non-selective which can limit their practical use. Advancements in molecular and synthetic biology as well as modelling of chemistry make it possible to target an AIS while minimally impacting native species. Tools developed in the agricultural and pharmaceutical industries have made it possible to encapsulate and deliver non-selective control agents to select AIS by exploiting unique life-history traits. This approach requires an interdisciplinary team of scientists. The invasive species research group at the USGS Upper Midwest Environmental Sciences Center in La Crosse, Wisconsin brings together scientists from multiple disciplines into a single team with the single goal of developing species-specific control tools. I will provide an overview of this research into selective controls for both Asian Carps and Driessenid Mussels and how the approaches used are transferable to other AIS.
4:40PM Modeling the Management of Non-Native Game Mammals to Reduce Future Conflicts with Native Plant Conservation in Hawai‘I
  Steven Hess, Christina Leopold, Lucas Fortini, Seth Judge
Introduced ungulates cause agricultural damage and degradation of native biodiversity throughout Hawaiian ecosystems. These ungulates include feral livestock which have been successfully managed and eradicated on many other oceanic islands, but also more recently introduced wild species which are more difficult to control. The Hawaiʻi Interagency Biosecurity Plan has identified ungulate control as the single most expensive invasive species problem in the state largely because of costly barriers necessary to separate areas managed for sustained-yield hunting from those where ungulates are eradicated. Large numbers of wild and feral ungulate species have been removed from Maui, Lāna‘i, and Moloka‘i during recent years, partly under marketing initiatives, but substantial population reductions have not yet occurred. Long-term solutions that are being considered to reduce annual management costs will include land use prioritization modeling with stakeholders to protect native threatened and endangered species from extinction, minimize ingress, and to facilitate both population control and sustained-yield hunting. Population modeling would also inform seasonal and daily bag limits to manage for desired levels of abundance; selective removals of females could be particularly effective for reducing adult sex ratio bias and population growth rates similar to “earn-a-buck” programs used in other states to manage overabundant deer.

Organizers: Clint Muhlfeld, Melanie Steinkamp, Steven Hilburger, Jean V. Adams, John Thompson, Mark Wimer, Paul Wagner
Supported by: U.S. Geological Survey, Ecosystems Mission Area

Location: Reno-Sparks CC Date: October 1, 2019 Time: 1:10 pm - 5:00 pm