Want to study abroad this Winter Break 2019? Want to visit the Amazon River? See the flyer below and contact Dr. Winemiller for this amazing opportunity!
WFSC Advising is now located in the new Wildlife, Fisheries, and Ecological Sciences (WFES) building on west campus.
WFSC does not accept walk-ins for advising. To make an appointment call 979.845.5704 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
There is no check-in process. Simply relax in the advising waiting area in room 114 (down the hallway to the right of the main lobby). Your advisor will call you into their office at the time of your appointment.
Get outside. Connect with a team. Grow as a leader. Show some love to a #txstatepark near you!
Are you an outdoor-loving leader age 18-30 with skills that can serve a state park in Central or West Texas? If so, we want YOU to be an Ambassador!
The journey begins with our Ambassador Leadership Training Adventure at Davis Mountains State Park June 29 – July 4. This outdoor immersion includes 5 nights of camping, hiking and backpacking, a service project, team building, leadership and volunteer trainings, and much more, all with 25-30 new friends who believe life’s #betteroutside.
Ambassadors are then partnered with a nearby state park where they are challenged to contribute 40 volunteer hours toward doable projects in 3 dimensions: hands-on service, social media/digital content, and face-to-face community outreach.
APPLY at our website: texasstateparks.org/ambassador by May 21. Earlier applicants increase their chances to join our team.
Let’s do this! We hope to hear from you soon.
Texas A&M faculty, students continue active role in international Red List work
Writer: Steve Byrns, 325-653-4576, email@example.com
Contact: Dr. Thomas Lacher, 979-845-5750, firstname.lastname@example.org
Nicolette Roach, 510-520-0649, email@example.com
COLLEGE STATION – What do an international gathering of some 10,000 people, a small fuzzy animal thought to be extinct for a century and Texas A&M University have in common? A lot, said a Texas A&M professor involved with all three.
The animal is the Santa Marta Toro. The gathering is the International Union for the Conservation of Nature World Conservation Congress, which runs from Sept. 1-10 in Hawaii. As for Texas A&M — it plays an integral role with both, according to Dr. Thomas Lacher, professor of wildlife and fisheries sciences.
Lacher and Nicolette Roach, applied biodiversity sciences doctoral student in the wildlife and fisheries department at Texas A&M, both at College Station, will be among the thousands of participants from more than 150 countries expected to attend the conservation congress. They will be assisting in the presentation of the results of the reassessment of extinction for all the world’s mammals, and will present on the results for nearly 3,000 small mammals, including the Toro.
The IUCN is best known for its Red List of Threatened Species. Lacher said the main purpose of the list is to catalogue and highlight plants and animals facing global extinction.
“Texas A&M has several major roles within the IUCN,” Lacher said. “We are the site of the IUCN Small Mammal Specialist Group responsible for assessing the risk of extinction for half of the world’s known mammals. We also assist the non-governmental organization Global Wildlife Conservation in the Global Amphibian Assessment. I’m also a member of the IUCN Red List Committee, responsible for developing the IUCN Red List Strategic Plan.”
Lacher added that Texas A&M is the only U.S. university that is a partner with the IUCN and that the university is renewing a new five-year memorandum of agreement with the organization.
But where does the small fuzzy animal fit into all this? Lacher explains.
“Student participation is integral to the success of the IUCN Red List process as they are who will eventually carry the efforts forward,” he said. “All of our students involved with the Red List must pass a rigorous training course, and several have had the opportunity to travel with graduate students doing Red List-related research to Costa Rica, Mexico and the UK.”
Roach was one such student. She completed her undergraduate studies in wildlife and fisheries conservation biology at University of California-Davis and her master’s in wildlife and fisheries biology at Clemson University. Coming to Texas A&M for her doctoral program led her to Colombia.
Roach said Colombia’s Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta is the world’s tallest coastal mountain range and a global biodiversity hotspot. The region, once plagued by political instability, now boasts a growing ecotourism industry and expansive coffee farms.
“Many species that live in this mountain range are rare and elusive, including a number of critically endangered frogs, small cats and a plethora of invertebrates,” she said.
“But what has really caused worldwide excitement since its rediscovery in 2011 is the Santa Marta Toro, Santamartamys rufodorsalis, a medium-sized fuzzy red rodent that casually made its appearance at the eco-lodge El Dorado Reserve. The story of its rediscovery sparked an international frenzy of excitement…as extinction which this animal was thought to be for a century, is irreversible.”
Lacher said the discovery was made by two birdwatching assistants who had no idea what it was and took some pictures.
“It was sitting in the balcony of the lodge,” Lacher said. “When they posted the pictures on social media, mammalogists realized that it was an amazing rediscovery.”
Roach said the Toro has become a symbol of hope for conservation across the world, igniting the belief that conservationists will be able to enact effective policies and save a species initially thought to be gone forever.
“I think the most interesting thing about the Toro is that it is a very charismatic species in that it has bright red fur and a long black and white tail, yet it remained hidden from the general public eye for over 100 years, though locals have seen it a few times during that period.”
Actually seeing the critter, even though its existence is confirmed, is extremely difficult as it’s nocturnal, solitary, arboreal and probably very shy, Roach said.
“Part of Nikki’s work in Colombia was to try to find it in the natural habitat,” Lacher said. “None popped up this summer, but we are continuing the search next year.”
But if nobody seemed to miss it for 100 years, what value is it?
“Small mammals fill lots of ecological roles but particularly as seed dispersers and ecosystem regenerators,” she said. “They are vital for healthy functioning forests. If we lost these animals we would see very negative impacts on the health of our forests.
“We’ve only scratched the surface of Earth’s biodiversity and natural wonders,” Roach said. “What we really need are more resources to document these species in their natural habitats to gather a better understanding of their life history and ecology. Then we will be able to enact effective conservation policies. Humans are altering ecosystems across the globe before we get a chance to figure them out and it is very humbling to realize we really have only scratched the surface of what is happening in the jungles of Colombia and other parts of the world.”
Originally appeared: http://today.agrilife.org/2016/08/30/reappearance-rodent-thought-extinct-causes-warm-fuzzy-frenzy-among-conservationists/
The rare, fuzzy rodent, the Santa Marta Toro, was re-discovered in 2011 after 113 years, and has been missing ever since. Mongabay interviews Nicolette Roach, a PhD student, who has been combing through the El Dorado Reserve in Colombia in search of the Toro.
The re-discovery of that one Toro individual in 2011 got conservationists excited. Scientists even laid out bait stations and camera traps to find more individuals, but their search yielded no result. The Toro was missing again. Consequently, scientists consider the Toro to be one of the world’s rarest species, and know very little about its life in the forest. The species is currently listed as Critically Endangered in the IUCN Red List.
But one researcher, Nicolette (Nikki) Roach, a PhD Student at Texas A&M University and an associate conservation scientist at Global Wildlife Conservation, is on a mission to find these elusive creatures again. She is currently combing through the 1,976 acres El Dorado reserve and surrounding areas in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta (SNSM) mountain range in search of the Toro.
Roach hasn’t spotted a Toro yet, but she remains hopeful. “This is a species that may take some patience to find again; I mean it went over 100 years without being documented!”
Mongabay interviewed Nicolette Roach about her surveys in the El Dorado reserve.
Mongabay: What got you interested in the Santa Marta Toro?
Nicolette Roach: I am interested in the Toro because of my research interests in threatened species conservation and its fascinating story. Species are disappearing at rapid rates and the reappearance of a species is a symbol of hope and testament to the amount of work remaining to be done. The Toro was rediscovered at the El Dorado Reserve in Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta (SNSM), Colombia in 2011. Since then the species has not been documented. The Toro is a rare and highly elusive creature. The Toro, is one of the rarest mammals in the world, and the SNSM region itself contains extremely high levels of species endemism and biodiversity, it is a fascinating place to work.
Mongabay: Could you tell us about some of the methods that you’re using to find the Toro?
Nicolette Roach: Currently we are using camera traps in hopes of documenting the elusive species. We also conducted a series of night surveys for four weeks, surveying patches of forest from 9:00 PM – 02:00 AM recording mammalian biodiversity every 25 meters.
Mongabay: Have you found signs of the Toro, or spotted an individual yet?
Nicolette Roach: We have not found direct signs of the Toro; so little is known about the species that we are uncertain of the types of signs the Toro may leave. But we have had indirect signs from communicating with the local people. We have shown photographs of the Toro to local Colombians; some of the local campesinos (coffee farmers) have told us they have seen the Toro, but three to five years ago. These are positive signs that is still occurs in the region but there is no solid evidence as to what part of the forest and which habitats the species uses. This is a species that may take some patience to find again; I mean it went over 100 years without being documented!
Mongabay: What would re-discovering the Toro mean for the species in general, and for you personally?
Nicolette Roach: I think finding and gathering data on the Toro would be a huge symbol of hope for conservation. Knowing that species we deemed extinct, may not actually be lost forever greatly impacts my optimism for species specific conservation initiatives. The Toro is a symbol for conservation in the Sierra, a region that was not too long ago immersed in political conflict. It represents that all is not lost, we still have time to salvage the wild parts of our world, and that species — even the small ones — are holding on amidst all the environmental change occurring.
Mongabay: What have been some of your most memorable moments from your surveys?
Nicolette Roach: Night surveys are interesting in and of themselves. The landscape transforms and places that were easy to walk to in the day become vastly difficult. New animals emerge from the depth of the forest and certain senses, like your hearing, are heightened. One of our most exciting mammalian encounters was with a Margay (Leopardus wiedii), a small spotted cat, not much larger than a house cat.
While conducting one of our nocturnal surveys, we found a margay sitting in a tree and we were able to watch it for 20 minutes. It is one of the most beautiful animals I have seen. Prior to our sighting it had never been officially recorded on the El Dorado reserve. We also got a picture on a camera trap a few weeks later (both camera trap pictures and real pictures are of terrible quality). Margay’s are very elusive creatures and difficult to see, so I feel really fortunate to have had that experience.
One of my favorite animals are the frogs. The choir of their croaking keeps us company during our night surveys. I am in constant awe of the frogs, the Atelopus species (A. laettisimus and A. nahumae) with their pointed noses, strong limbs, and slow moving grace, have quickly become a favorite of mine. We also have daily (or nightly) encounters with gorgeous moth’s, insects, spiders — including a recently described tarantula species (Kankuamo marquezi), and fossorial snakes.
Mongabay: Why do you think the Santa Marta Toro remains so elusive?
Nicolette Roach: The Echimyidae family (spiny rats) is one of the most poorly understood small mammal families. They are notoriously difficult to study due to their elusive nature and life history strategies — some are completely arboreal, nocturnal, and solitary. Those who have seen the Toro have seen it only once and in rare situations (like clearing the forest for coffee farming). I believe the Toro is likely both rare and shy making it all the more difficult to find and study.
Mongabay: How are you funding your surveys?
Nicolette Roach: My surveys this summer were funding by Global Wildlife Conservation, Rainforest Trust, and field accommodations were provided by ProAves Colombia. We have obtained some more funding, from the Chicago Zoological Society Chicago Board of Trade (CBOT) Endangered Species Fund, to return to the region next summer to increase our search effort for the Toro. We will be applying for more grants this year dedicated to conservation initiatives, for amphibians and small mammals, in the SNSM.
Mongabay: Is there anything else that you would like to add?
Nicolette Roach: The SNSM is the tallest coastal mountain range in the world, rising from 0 to above 5000 meters in under 50 kilometers, is older than the Andes, and contains all ecoregions described in Colombia. This mountain range is a stronghold for biodiversity and endemism and is an incredibly important region for conservation. The SNSM is a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and in 2013, a study published in the journal Science designated the SNSM National Park as the world’s most irreplaceable site for threatened species. While this region maintains an incredible amount of biodiversity, it is also home to a number of people including indigenous groups and campesinos.
Thus, it is really important to consider the landscape as a whole (people and wildlife included) throughout the conservation planning process. The people living here are directly impacted by changes in the ecosystem, and they are the ones most affected economically, ecologically, and socially. They also have the immense knowledge about the landscape and its species. I believe it is extremely important to have a holistic approach to conservation, especially for species like the Toro, where local ecological knowledge could be the key to finding this rare species again.
It is of utmost importance to document and conserve our world’s biodiversity. Habitat continues to be degraded, species are being lost at alarming rates, and climate change poses serious threats to humans and wildlife alike. Gathering a better understanding of these threats will help combat their impacts. Through active community engagement, scientific research, and conservation planning we can hopefully help save species, like the Toro, from a perilous future.
Originally appeared: https://news.mongabay.com/2016/08/in-search-of-a-lost-species-the-santa-marta-toro/
3 undergraduate research groups from the Undergraduate Research Program of the Ecological Systems Laboratory presented their research at 2016 Undergraduate Research Summer Poster Session on August 3rd.
Simulated effects of human-caused disturbance on population trends of Florida manatee
Paola Camposeco*, Jasmin Diaz-Lopez*, Hsiao-Hsuan (Rose) Wang, William Grant
Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Sciences, Texas A&M University
*undergraduate students, contributed equally
Florida Manatee populations had been dramatically declining due to various factors including perinatal mortality, habitat destruction and degradation, and human-related threats. Causes of manatee deaths can be broken down into 5 categories: watercrafts, crushed/drown by flood gate or canal lock, other human-related such as vandalism and entanglement, perinatal, cold stress, other natural such as disease, natural accident, and natural catastrophe. Three out of five of these categories are associated with human. Objective: Develop a population model of Florida manatee and estimate the effects of 5 mortality scenarios on the manatee population which include; all manatee deaths, cold stress, human-related threats, oil spill, and natural deaths. Methods: We conducted a literature review to obtain the basic demographic data available. Moreover, we added new data from synoptic surveys collected by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. A stage-structure population dynamics model for Florida manatee was developed using STELLA 7.0.1. Using the total number of deaths and population size we were able calculate average mortality, and standard deviation from the 5 different mortality scenarios. We simulated each scenario with the worst, average, and better effects from each of their average mortality rates. Finally, the model ran for 30 years with an initial population of 2000 and carrying capacity of 5000, which projected the Florida Manatee population with the effects of each mortality scenario. Results: When comparing all 5 scenarios, the leading factors affecting the manatee population are natural causes followed by the cold stress, the oil spill, and then human related deaths.
Inbreeding effects on demography and population trends of the endangered Florida panther
Chris Chen1*, Anna Cole2*, Kelsea Anthony2*, Hsiao-Hsuan (Rose) Wang2, Tomasz Koralewski3, William Grant2
1Department of Animal Science, 2Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Sciences, 3Department of Ecosystem Science and Management, Texas A&M University, College Station, TX 77843, *Undergraduate Students
There are over 30 species of wild cat that occupy over 90 countries of the world. However, habitat fragmentation leads to common occurrences of inbreeding and subsequent biodiversity loss. One subspecies of felid experiencing such inbreeding is the Florida panther (Puma concolor coryi). A subspecies of puma, the Florida panther historically resided in a large expanse of the southeast United States. Due to urbanization, the habitat has been reduced to two areas in southwest Florida: the Big Cypress Swamp and Everglades National Park and the two populations of Florida panthers are isolated. Physical and reproductive characteristics, such as cryptorchidism, have resulted from inbreeding. Hence, we developed a population model to analyze inbreeding effects. When mortality rates were changed to maximum values, the simulated Florida panther population was close to extinction after 25 years, while the population size reached over 1700 when the parameters were set to minimum values. When each stage mortality rate was altered individually while the others remained at baseline, the population size was ranged from 0 to 10 panthers after 25 years. The natality parameters, however, had much different results; when only natality was manipulated, the population ranged from 0 to 218. These results suggest that natality rates play an important role to sustain the population of Florida panther. Such a scenario can happen by increasing available genes in the gene pool, which happened with the 8 Texas cougars bred with the native Florida panthers.
EFFECTS OF WILDFIRE ON ABUNDANCES AND MORPHOLOGICAL CHARACTERISTICS OF GREEN TREE FROG IN BASTRAP, TEXAS
Thanchira Suriyamongkol1†, Kaitlyn Forks1†, Andrea Villamizar-Gomez2, Ivana Mali3, Hsiao-Hsuan (Rose) Wang1, William Grant1, Michael Forstner2
1Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Sciences, Texas A&M University; 2Department of Biology, Texas State University; 3Department of Biology, Eastern New Mexico University; †Undergraduate students
Wildfires are natural phenomena that can impact native fauna by altering their habitats. In 2011, a large wildfire occurred in 2011 near Bastrop, Texas. Unfortunately, much of its Lost Pines habitats was destroyed, as a result of wildfire, and will take years to recover. The objective of this study is to compare the relative abundances and morphological characteristics of green tree frogs (Hyla cinerea) in burned areas with those in unburned areas near Bastrop to assess the effect of these fires on green tree frog populations in the area. Method: We analyzed weekly data on tree frogs distribution in GLR collected by Texas State University over the five-month period from June to October using PVC pipes placed around each of four ponds. Species trapped were predominantly Hyla cinerea. Results: Frogs were more abundant in unburned areas. However, statistically, the difference between the number of green tree frogs found in burned area and unburned area was not significant (P=0.0744).