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Wednesday, April 11 • 11:30am - 11:45am
SYMPOSIA-14: A Citizen Scientist Project: Determining Drivers of Crane Resources Across the Coastal Landscape

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AUTHORS: Lindsey A. Tiegs*, Jeffrey R. Wozniak – Sam Houston State University

ABSTRACT: The last remaining natural flock of endangered Whooping Cranes (Grus americana) exclusively overwinters along the Texas Gulf Coast. Six research expeditions funded by the Earthwatch Institute in 2016 and 2017 incorporated a total of 52 citizen scientist volunteers into our investigation of wintering Whooping Crane behavior and habitat quality at the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge. Behavior was analyzed through the employment of 20 minute observation surveys with the behavior of individual birds recorded every 15 second interval. Habitat quality was assessed through Carolina Wolfberry fruit (Lycium carolinianum), Blue Crab (Callinectes sapidus), and water quality surveys in sites where behavioral surveys had occurred. Pond salinity varied significantly across saltmarsh sites, while wolfberry fruit and crab density did not. Marsh pond salinity across sites fluctuated within and across sampling years in response to shifts in mean sea level and salinity of the adjacent San Antonio Bay. Whooping Crane behavior was not statistically similar at sites comparable in habitat quality, nor did their behavior consistently reflect shifts in habitat quality in a similar fashion. An increase in the number of sampling years is likely necessary to better understand how environmental conditions influence Whooping Crane behavior. The refinement of Blue Crab distribution modeling in reference to shifts in estuarine hydrology through time and space in the coastal marshes utilized by the cranes could be key to future population management decisions. The inclusion of 52 citizen scientists from across the world in this project allowed us to collect expansive data sets each sampling year, as well as increase the reach of the broader impacts of this project to the general public.

Wednesday April 11, 2018 11:30am - 11:45am CDT
LaSalle 5 (7th Floor)

Attendees (3)