TAMU aquaculture students and faculty attended the World Aquaculture Society 2019 conference in New Orleans, March 7-11. Graduate Students Fernando Yamamoto and Clement de Cruz were recognized at this year’s show. The conference is the largest aquaculture meeting in the world, with close to 4,000 in attendance. Fernando Yamamoto received the Best Abstract/Travel Award from the World Aquaculture Society and in addition earned a victory in the Student Spotlight Presentation Competition. His presentation on “Growth and Physiological Effects of Replacing Fish Meal By Dry Extruded Seafood Waste Blended With Plant Protein Co-Products In Diets For Advanced Red Drum Sciaenops ocellatus Juveniles” was selected as best overall student presentation. Clement de Cruz won the 2019 Pentair and USAS Student Travel Award. Numerous other students from WFSC gave outstanding oral presentations and poster presentations on their current research.
Writer: Laura Muntean, 979-847-9211, email@example.com
Contact: Allison Kohler, 612-814-1230, firstname.lastname@example.org
COLLEGE STATION – The North American flying squirrel fluoresces pink at night under ultraviolet light, but the purpose of the pink color is still a mystery to researchers.
Allison Kohler, a graduate student in the Texas A&M University wildlife and fisheries department in College Station, helped make this discovery as well as affirm other flying squirrels do in fact fluoresce pink. More information can be found at http://bit.ly/FlyingPinkSquirrels.
Kohler’s undergraduate professor Dr. Jon Martin, associate professor of forestry at Northland College in Wisconsin, was doing an exploratory forest survey with an ultraviolet flashlight in his backyard. Initially, he was looking at different lichens, mosses and plants to see what fluoresced. By chance, a flying squirrel happened to be at his bird feeder. When he saw it under the ultraviolet light, it was hot pink.
A team to investigate this discovery was formed and included Martin, Kohler and two of Martin’s colleagues at Northland College: Dr. Paula Anich, associate professor of natural resources, and Dr. Erik Olson, assistant professor of natural resources.
With access to a museum collection at the Minnesota Science Museum, Martin asked Kohler to take the lead on the project and develop a protocol to help further investigate exactly what it was they had found.
“I looked at a ton of different specimens that they had there,” Kohler said. “They were stuffed flying squirrels that they had collected over time, and every single one that I saw fluoresced hot pink in some intensity or another.”
In order to expand the search, the team went to the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago and gathered more specimens. In all, they researched over 100 specimens ranging across numerous states, all confirming their “pink theory.” They also looked at five additional live specimens.
“We tested all three of the North American flying squirrel species: the Northern flying squirrel, the Southern flying squirrel and the Humboldt’s flying squirrel, and all three of them fluoresced,” she said.
After comparing the flying species to other squirrels, like the American red squirrel and gray squirrel, the team found that the pink color is unique to the flying squirrel.
The reasons for the squirrels to fluoresce pink is still under investigation, but communication and camouflage are two top contenders for why this might be happening, the team has hypothesized.
“They could be communicating with members of their own species by showing off their fluorescence to each other, or it might be a sort of mating display,” Kohler said. “The other hypothesis is that they could be using this fluorescence as an anti-predator trait to communicate with other species, avoiding predation by other species by blending in or dealing with their potentially ultraviolet-saturated environments.”
As the research develops, she said, the importance of this find will present itself more clearly. Kohler plans to continue her research while pursuing her master’s degree at Texas A&M. Further research will look firmly at the implications of the team’s find.
“It could potentially help with the conservation of the species or other species, and it could also relate to wildlife management,” Kohler said. “The more that we know about the species, the more we can understand it and help it. This is opening a new door to the realm of nocturnal-crepuscular, or active during twilight, communication in animals.”
The post Think Pink: Texas A&M student aids in discovery of fluorescent pink flying squirrel appeared first on AgriLife Today.
Southern flounder are “floundering” as wild population densities decline. One of the big three sportfish in Texas, along with redfish and spotted seatrout, southern flounder are a sought after gamefish of commercial and recreational importance. Due to overharvest, accidental bycatch, water temperature rise and other factors, the flounder numbers are declining in Texas waterways. Along with Texas Parks and Wildlife, Texas A&M University’s Department of Wildlife and Fisheries’ Dr. Todd Sink and graduate research assistant Elizabeth Silvy have developed a methodology that may aid stock enhancement programs that promote the flounder fishery.
The inherent cause of stock decline can be attributed to the fact that male flounder outnumber female flounder in the wild, and that larval flounder are temperature dependent when it comes time to form gonads. If temperatures are too high or too low, a majority of the offspring produced will be male. This has been proven true in the wild as well as in stock enhancement programs currently run by TPWD. To produce a hearty wild flounder stock, or even promote hatchery numbers, a majority of the offspring must be female, as one male can mate with a hundred females.
Using gynogeneitic clones of female flounder, broodstock females that are genetically female and physically male are created. These female/male flounder can then be bred back to wild females collected from TPWD’s stock enhancement programs to produce all female progeny to be release in the wild.
How does it work? After milt (flounder sperm) and eggs are collected from adult fish, the milt is subjected to a UV irradiation treatment that renders the DNA within useless for passing on to the offspring. The UV irradiated milt is then mixed with eggs collected from the female flounder. These fertilized eggs are subjected to different shock treatments using either a hydrostatic pressure chamber or a cold water bath. This causes the egg to retain the second polar body and hatch as a gynogenetic clone of the female flounder.
Once the larvae are developed, they are subjected to a methyltestosterone treatment that will aid in the development of male reproductive organs in a genetically female fish. These fish will never be released into the wild; instead they will be kept as broodstock to breed with female flounder collected from the wild to maintain genetic diversity. These fish will only produce genetically and physically female flounder that have not been altered in any way. These offspring can then be released into the wild to supplement wild populations.
So, the next time you eat a flounder, know that there’s more that goes intro flounder production than just butter and crab meat.
To see more about what the Aquacultural Research and Teaching Facility entails, head over to the ARTF Facility‘s page. For information on how to Give to the Wildlife and Fisheries Sciences Department to support our research and opportunities, visit our Giving page.
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.
- Nicolette (Nikki) Roach, a PhD Student at Texas A&M University, is on a mission to find the elusive Santa Marta Toro again.
- The tiny rodent was last spotted in 2011, for the first time in 113 years.
- Roach says that finding and gathering data on the Toro would be a huge symbol of hope for conservation.
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.
Interview with Nicolette (Nikki) Roach
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.