Poster Session

2021 iPoster Session


All posters will be visible in the online gallery for the duration of the conference as well as be available online in our gallery after FRSES concludes.

Poster presenters will be live in their respective chat rooms to answer questions during the poster session March 3rd, 3:30 – 6:00 PM MST.

Poster presenters can opt into running a personal live session for participants or host a chat room to interact with poster viewers and judges throughout the symposium.

2021 Poster Abstracts

Using bird host ecology to inform patterns of avian influenza prevalence: Spatial autocorrelation over network space – Brooke Berger

A pathogen is rarely uniformly distributed across its entire geographic range. Determining what biological and environmental factors drive this heterogeneity can be challenging at broad spatial scales. Examining spatial autocorrelation of disease prevalence is a valuable first approach to deciphering what these underlying mechanisms are. In the avian influenza (AI) disease system migration of wild waterfowl reservoir hosts may drive broad scale patterns of prevalence. During long distance migrations, hosts can skip over hundreds of miles of habitat between stopovers. In these cases, geographic distance between prevalence measurements may not be the most biologically relevant way to define nearness. Instead, we propose an autocorrelation analysis where spatial nearness is defined by a weighted adjacency matrix. This matrix will be populated using a weighted, directed bird migration network constructed from USGS band recovery data for Northern Pintail ducks. If we see significant autocorrelation using network nearness it would suggest that host migration is an important driver of AI prevalence at broad spatial scales. This would also suggest that, in pathogen systems where hosts migrate, network adjacency may be a more biologically relevant measure of “distance” than geographic distance.

Food web responses to species losses can provide insight into ecosystem service vulnerability – Aislyn Keyes

Human-driven threats are changing biodiversity, impacting ecosystem services. The loss of one species can trigger secondary extinctions of additional species, because species interact — yet the consequences of these secondary extinctions for ecosystem services remain underexplored. Herein, we compare robustness of food webs and the services they provide; and investigate factors determining service responses to secondary extinctions. Simulating twelve extinction scenarios for estuarine food webs with seven ecosystem services, we find that food web and service robustness are highly correlated, but that robustness varies across services depending on their trophic level and redundancy. Further, we find that species providing ecosystem services do not play a critical role in stabilizing food webs whereas species playing supporting roles in services through interactions are critical to the robustness of both food webs and ecosystem services. Together, our results reveal indirect risks to services through secondary species losses and predictable differences in vulnerability across ecosystem services.

Clark’s nutcracker (Nucifraga columbiana) forest habitat use and resource selection In Yellowstone National Park – Thomas McLaren

Clark’s nutcrackers (Nucifraga columbiana) harvest and cache seeds from many conifer species across their range. Evidence indicates that multiple seed resources in any region are important to sustaining nutcracker populations. Their coevolved mutualism with whitebark pine (Pinus albicaulis), a declining species, raises concern for future seed dispersal dynamics. To understand how nutcrackers use forest habitat within Yellowstone National Park, we established transects and point count surveys using distance sampling methods, relative cone abundance indices, and behavioral observations in different forest communities. By surveying nutcracker abundance during summer and fall seed harvesting and caching we hope to determine which forest types in the park are used by nutcrackers and how variation in cone production influences their use within and across years. Preliminary modeling trends show the highest numbers of birds in whitebark pine forest. Additionally, we observed high annual and spatial variation in transects in limber pine and Douglas-fir conifers also used as seed resources within the park. We expect this project to result in a habitat use model that integrates detectability based on distance sampling analysis and a power analysis for use in development of a monitoring protocol.

Identifying conservation units in the threatened species Canada Warbler (Cardellina canadensis) – Caitlin Miller

Conservation units (CUs) are populations that are considered distinct for conservation purposes. CUs can be defined by multiple methodologies, which can lead to discordance between what populations are prioritized for conservation management depending on what methodology was used to define CUs. The Canada Warbler, a migratory songbird that ranges from Canada to the United States (US), is considered threatened in Canada but not in the US. It remains unclear if conservation management strategies should be different for the species in the US versus Canada. Our research aims to determine what CUs are appropriate for the Canada Warbler by combining evolutionary history and adaptive potential across the species range. To do so, we determined the overall population structure to represent evolutionary history and gene-environment correlations for signals of environmentally-linked adaptive potential. From our preliminary results, we found that population structure suggested an east/west divide in evolutionary history and that adaptive potential was higher in the eastern portion of the range. These results suggest that the management of the Canada Warbler may be better coordinated in CUs that divide the range between the eastern and western edges, but more research is necessary to include population demographics when determining CUs.

Climate change education in rural schools – Madison Scheer

Earth system science (ESS) education is becoming more important as our understanding of climate change (CC) increases. Climate literacy, however, is threatened by political discourse regarding the anthropogenic causes of CC, which is especially heightened in rural spaces. For this study, we chose to explore how rural rangeland teachers explain and perceive their own climate change education (CCE) instructional choices. This phenomenological study describes the lived experiences and perceptions of the study participants (nine rural teachers). There were four major findings, teachers: 1) perceived that they maintained objectivity by not making definitive scientific claims about CC, 2) expected students to find their own evidence of CC, 3) do not model scientific reasoning about CC, and 4) do not prioritize ESS curriculum. By learning how rural science teachers communicate CC in their classrooms, these data can be used (1) by communication experts to collaborate with teacher educators on how to effectively communicate SSIs and (2) to develop resources for teachers as they build both curricular materials and instructional strategies around CC arguments. Research focused on climate literacy is fundamental to creating an informed generation capable of making conservation, land stewardship, and natural resource management decisions.

Cattle as Partners in Conservation: Collaborative Management of Government-Owned Lands – Anna Clare Monlezun

Could conceptualizing cattle as partners in conservation be a win-win for the livestock and rangeland conservation sectors, resolving the [often] paradoxical objectives of food production and natural resource management? To learn more about collaborative grazing management on Colorado’s rangelands, we are investigating partnerships between private ranchers and government land managers along the Front Range. Our study uses a holistic model to evaluate the three pillars of sustainability (ecological, economic, and social) and address these landscapes as complex social-ecological systems. The ecological component examines soil health measures of organic carbon, total nitrogen, and water infiltration, and vegetation measures of biodiversity, plant community composition, and forage nutritive quality. The socio-economic component explores the values, attitudes, and perspectives of diverse stakeholder participants regarding the ecosystem services produced by collaborative grazing management. These data will be combined into a system dynamics model, an applied, interactive tool. The model will examine relationships and interactions among ecological and socio-economic themes, allowing us to apply context-specific variables to generate and visualize management alternatives to inform adaptive and integrated decision-making.

Reduction in winter snowpack drives changes in growth and survival of temperate plants – Annelise Rue-Johns

Winter ecology in much of the world is driven by the presence and persistence of snowpack. The climate change-induced reduction of this snowpack has caused widespread mortality of Alaska yellow cedar (Callitropsis nootkatensis), as well as declines in annual growth of sugar maple (Acer saccharum). While the loss of snowpack is currently restricted to temperate regions adjacent to snowless regions, climate change is expected to convert snow- to rainfall in a much larger region within the next 100 years. This will expose many more snow-adapted species to novel conditions. Loss of persistent winter snowpack is thus a novel but widely occurring disturbance agent. This research examines the existing literature on the effects of snow loss on tree species, with the goal of identifying patterns and thresholds that may be useful when describing future impacts of snow loss on a larger scale. Preliminary results indicate that most species experience either no effects or negative effects (mortality, declining productivity, etc.) as a result of declining snowpack. Root freezing is the most commonly proposed mechanism, but few studies definitively test this hypothesis. These preliminary results show a need for more comprehensive research focused on the mechanisms and patterns of mortality and damage caused by climate-induced snow loss.

House sparrow social hierarchy in urban environments – Sarah Bicocchi

House sparrows (Passer domesticus) are closely associated with human development, being found near both rural and urban structures. Differences in resources and potential threats in these areas may result in differences in sparrow behavior. Social hierarchies of sparrows within an urban environment were assessed via observation of birds at a feeding station. Observations included the sequence and gender of the bird arrivals, time spent at the feeding station, and time between successive bird arrivals. Some individuals were identified by feather anomalies and color patterns. Observations were conducted at an apartment located near downtown Casper, Wyoming, occurring on four consecutive days during the breeding season in May 2020. From data collected, it appears that female house sparrows take more initiative when foraging for food, arriving earlier at the station. The females were often the earliest to arrive and tended to stay the longest. This may indicate that the females are more dominant than the males during this time in the spring breeding season. In addition, various sub-flocks were noted, indicating that the sparrows may form triads to forage in. The benefit of such sub-flocks, and comparison of similar behavioral observations in rural foraging groups represent future questions we would like to address.

Structure and scale in spatially synchronous southeastern US trout populations – George Valentine

The salmonid species brook trout (Salvelinus fontinalis), rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss), and brown trout (Salmo trutta) are important cultural and economic resources in the southeastern USA. As projected climatic changes increase water temperatures and alter flow regimes across their range, these coldwater species will face major challenges. Recent studies have shown that populations exhibiting spatial synchrony are more vulnerable to broad-scale threats such as climate change. We assess the scale and structure of spatial synchrony in trout abundance using 30+ years of multi-pass electrofishing data from 346 sites in North Carolina. Asynchrony between locations will be assessed by pairwise comparison using Mantel tests. We expect that spatial synchrony resulting from the Moran effect will be generally mediated by habitat heterogeneity, specifically by covariates such as groundwater influence, elevation, and topography. Insights gained from this study will be employed in expanding the investigation to include data from Georgia to Maine. Our findings will inform regional interagency cooperation to monitor trout resources by accounting for the spatial scales of synchrony.

Using drones to create a new multifaceted fire severity index – Lauren Lad

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) are a relatively new technology with potential to improve the spatial and temporal scales of fire ecology. Ecological changes are ecosystem specific, and as such, no single measure of change can be applied universally. As a result, fire effects field observations are commonly assessed as an aggregation of visual changes in vegetation color and size. When translated to remote sensing, such metrics can include spectral information such as vegetation indices or structural information such as tree crown volume or base height. Existing remote sensing strategies focus on either structural or spectral changes to vegetation (Lentile et al., 2006). However, the use of UAVs allows for the capture of both spectral and structural data at the tree-level. Additionally, the ability to control the temporal resolution of observations facilitates the use of spectral indices that relate pre- and post-fire conditions and capture the complex and dynamic changes resulting from fire (McCarley et al., 2017). The proposed research will explore changes in structural and spectral metrics to provide a comprehensive assessment of ecological change following fire. Combinations of these metrics will be analyzed for creation of a new fire severity index which can be applied at the individual tree level.

Examining the effects of forest conditions on defoliator outbreaks under varying climatic conditions – Olivia Santiago

Concurrent with warm and dry conditions, irruptive insects have caused widespread tree damage and mortality in temperate forests worldwide over the past two decades. Such mortality has important consequences for carbon cycling, habitat provisioning, timber and recreational industries. In the western United States, the irruptive folivore responsible for the most damage is the western spruce budworm. Despite the devastating impact of the WSB on western forests, the drivers of WSB outbreaks are not yet fully understood. Western spruce budworm (WSB) outbreaks may increase in frequency and severity with the onset of climate change, although the drivers that control the population dynamics of this species are not fully understood yet. Here, I will discuss the effects of climate variability at the interannual, interannual, and multidecadal scale on periods of widespread WSB outbreak in the Southern Rocky Mountains of Colorado. I hypothesize that the driver may be (a) above average summer moisture that increases foraging availability, (b) drought that increases foraging quality, or their temporal interaction. To address these hypotheses, I will present preliminary analyses from a multicentury record of WBS outbreak derived from tree-ring methods. I will then contrast these findings with existing research.

Application of high-resolution satellite imagery to classify treeline conifer species in Rocky Mountain National Park – Laurel Sindewald

Since the launch of Landsat 1 in 1972, Landsat has provided an important, continuous dataset for monitoring agriculture, assessing forest fire extent and severity, and mapping landcover among other applications. Until recently, however, the spatial, radiometric, and spectral resolution of satellite imagery have been too coarse to be useful for distinguishing or mapping plant species in mixed communities. Species-level classification can be done using hyperspectral imagery in combination with lidar collected from aircraft, but this approach is costly and impractical for large-scale studies. The use of high-resolution satellite imagery to estimate forest composition at the species level would enable mapping of tree species at fine scales over large distances for a fraction of the cost. Treeline communities in general are not well-characterized by species because of inaccessibility. We are exploring the use of 1.24 m resolution, 8-band multispectral imagery from Maxarâ’s WorldView-3 satellite to distinguish limber pine (Pinus flexilis) from Engelmann spruce (Picea engelmannii) and subalpine fir (Abies lasiocarpa) in treeline communities in Rocky Mountain National Park.

How does land tenure drive rural land cover change: Evidence from buffer area communities surrounding protected areas in Madagascar – Stephen Chang

Local communities are deeply affected by the way they can interact with land and natural resources. Land tenure, livelihood choices, ecosystem services, and economic factors are all intricately connected on many scales, from local to global. Although only in my first semester, my research attempts to clarify the link between land tenure and land cover change in the environs of several protected areas in Madagascar. By incorporating data from different rapid and participatory rural appraisal methodologies collected in the late 1990s by a team of diverse interdisciplinary and international researchers with remote sensing methodologies, I intend to shed some light on the relationship between different tenure systems and socioeconomic factors existing within rural communities and the corresponding changes in landcover. Understanding the complex linkages between rural livelihoods and natural resources is essential to making prudent land management decisions that help societies remain resilient in the face of increasing climate uncertainty.

Variation in Benthic Littoral Zone and Pelagic Algal Productivity in the Sierra Nevada, California – Caitlin Charlton

Observations of benthic algae have increased in recent years across mountain lakes in the western United States, similar to lakes across the globe. While there is quantitative knowledge on the effects of nutrient pollution and warming temperatures on increasing overall lake productivity, knowledge of what drives variation in benthic productivity between lakes is largely unknown. Littoral zone benthic incubation experiments were performed in lakes across Sequoia and Yosemite National Parks during summer 2018 and 2019 to estimate benthic gross primary productivity (GPP), capturing a drier, warmer year (2018) and a wetter, cooler year (2019). Benthic GPP varied by an order of magnitude between lakes (0.02 – 2.50 ug O2/cm^2/hr). Pelagic chlorophyll a values were on the order of ultra-oligotrophic (0.05 – 3.15 ug/L). Despite different climatic conditions between years, GPP values correlated most strongly with total dissolved nitrogen (TDN), total dissolved phosphorus (TDP) and basin aspect, where as chlorophyll a most strongly related to TDN, surface water nitrate and annual precipitation. The lack of correlation between benthic and pelagic productivity suggests that pelagic productivity is more strongly influenced by climatic factors, whereas littoral habitats are more directly influenced by nutrient fluxes.

Uncovering mechanistic underpinnings of regenerative farming systems on soil organic carbon – Aaron Prairie

Regenerative farming practices such as no-till, diversified cropping rotations, reduced synthetic input, cover crops, and livestock integration systems have the potential to address worsening trends in soil degradation and climate by enhancing soil organic carbon (SOC) and reducing GHG emissions, but they are rarely considered together on a system level. SOC is very complex and requires separation into multiple components with contrasting properties and behavior in order to study and predict its dynamics. Separating SOC into particulate (POC) and mineral-associated (MAOC) forms, two SOC components that are fundamentally different in terms of their formation, persistence, and functioning, is now recognized as the leading strategy to understand and predict broad-scale SOC dynamics to provide recommendations to managers and policymakers. We will quantify POC and MAOC stocks in soils collected from 24 farms (96 fields) enrolled in the General Mills regenerative agriculture initiative in Kansas. Combining SOC pools data with management, soil health, and biodiversity data we will advance our understanding of the mechanisms promoting SOC storage, and quantitatively assess the ability of a range of regenerative agro-ecological approaches to stimulate long-term SOC sequestration, as well as maintain soil health.

Bird diversity in relation to vacant lots and unmaintained parks in inner-city Detroit – Michael Barker

Detroit is a post-industrial city that has experienced rapid rates of human population decline, resulting in a large number of unmaintained parks and vacant lots. While emerging evidence suggests that vacant lots may have deleterious effects on human health, little is known about the value of these features for providing avian habitat. Understanding how to restore these areas to foster a higher abundance and diversity of birds could benefit both human health and local biodiversity. We evaluated species richness and diversity of the avian community in 9 unmaintained parks from 2019-2020. We collected passive acoustic recordings in June or July of each year and counted vocalizations of each avian species identified in spectrograms. We examined the relationship between species diversity from acoustic recorders and those derived from eBird citizen science checklists. Using modelled avian diversity across Detroit, we tested the influence of the density of vacant lots, unmaintained parks, and vegetation type and structural complexity from the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI). We conclude that restoring vegetation structure in unmaintained parks and vacant lots could benefit urban avian populations. Restoration projects should be co-developed with local communities to ensure benefits for birds and neighborhood residents.