Upcoming Event: Tuesday, October 18th – Monarch Butterflies: Dwindling numbers for an iconic insect

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Tuesday, October 18th – 7 p.m. @ UW Arboretum
Madison Audubon and WSCB Present: Monarch Butterflies: Dwindling numbers for an iconic insect

An Evenings with Audubon presentation by nationally-renown monarch expert Karen Oberhauser

Monarch butterflies populations have been declining over the last 20 years. Because insect numbers are notoriously difficult to assess, and because they often show large year to year fluctuations, simply documenting this decline has been a challenge. It is now important to move beyond simple documentation, and toward responding to the challenge posed by monarch conservation, and insect conservation in general. Monarchs are negatively impacted by many human activities, and various scientists and monarch advocates have implicated habitat degradation and loss, pesticide use, climate change, vehicular collisions, invasive species, and pathogen spread in their dwindling numbers.

In this presentation, Karen Oberhauser, one of the nation’s top monarch conservation biologists, will describe the amazing biology of migratory monarch populations, and the work of citizens and scientists in documenting monarch numbers at all stages of their migratory cycle. She will discuss threats to monarchs, and potential responses to these threats. Because conservation biology must be, at its essence, a science of hope, Karen’s focus is on positive changes as well as on the challenges posed by declining monarch numbers.

Karen Oberhauser is a Professor in the Dept. of Fisheries, Wildlife and Conservation Biology at the University of Minnesota, where she and her students conduct research on several aspects of monarch butterfly ecology. Her research depends on traditional lab and field techniques, as well as the contributions of a variety of audiences through citizen science; this research has resulted in over 100 scientific publications. Her strong interest in promoting a citizenry with a high degree of scientific and environmental literacy led to the development of a science education program that involves courses for teachers, and opportunities for youth to engage in research and share their findings with broad audiences. In 1996, she and graduate student Michelle Prysby started a nationwide Citizen Science project called the Monarch Larva Monitoring Project, which continues to engage hundreds of volunteers throughout North America. Karen is passionate about the conservation of the world’s biodiversity, and believes that the connections her projects promote between monarchs, humans, and the natural world promote meaningful conservation action. She is the chair of the Monarch Joint Joint Venture, and a founding officer of the Monarch Butterfly Fund. In 2013, Karen received a White House Champion of Change award for her work with Citizen Science.

More information can be found at monarchjointventure.org

Photo: Joshua Mayer

Volunteers wanted for DNR prairie seed collection day

Come join WSCB as we assist Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources restoration crews on Sunday, September 11th at Empire Prairies State Natural Area (near Madison). From 2 – 5pm we will be collecting seeds to be used in future restoration projects to expand the prairie. We will meet along the road near 5197 Brabender Rd in Middleton and will ride in from there. Please contact Yasi at yasi.rezai@gmail.com to RSVP, and if you can offer a ride or need a ride from downtown.

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WSCB Member Social on July 18th!

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Join us for a WSCB Member Social, on Monday, July 18th, 6:30 p.m. at the Old Fashioned (23 N. Pinckney St.). Take a break from the NACCB Conference to meet other conservation scientists, practitioners, undergrad and graduate students working in the field of conservation right here in Wisconsin. Hors d’oeuvres included (drinks on your own). We’ll be near the bar on the main floor. See you there!

Join us in the field for our first annual WSCB Birdathon!

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We’re excited to announce that WSCB is doing its first Birdathon this year, as the WSCB Bino Bird Hunters! Our Birdathon date is Sunday, May 15th, from 8:30 a.m. – 3 p.m. near Mt. Vernon and Mt. Horeb, WI. you can join us for all or part of this fun day in the field!

What is a Birdathon? 
“See a Bird, Save a Bird!” – Birdathon is a fundraising tool to help support bird conservation. Friends and organizations make birding teams, raise money by asking for donations or a pledge per species, and then have a 24-hour period to count as many bird species as possible.

What is the Great Wisconsin Birdathon?
The Great Wisconsin Birdathon is an annual statewide event to raise money for the Bird Protection Fund, and is a joint effort between the Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin and the Wisconsin Bird Conservation Initiative. The Bird Protection Fund was established in response to declining bird populations and supports bird conservation projects throughout Wisconsin. The statewide goal for 2016 is to raise $70,000! The Great Wisconsin Birdathon is also a great way to support WSCB, since 50 percent of the funds that we raise goes back to our organization. We see this as a great opportunity to bring our WSCB members together for a day of birding, learning, and fun, while raising money for Wisconsin’s 284 native bird species and, as a bonus, to fundraise for our organization.

Want to join us in the field for our Birdathon on Sunday, May 15th?
To join our team, simply go to: http://wibirdathon.org/participantpage.asp?fundid=2097&uid=4048&role=3 and select “Join a team” under the “Participate” heading. Select the “WSCB Bino Bird Hunters”, set a personal fundraising goal, and that’s it! You’re ready to helping the birds! And remember to mark your calendars for Sunday, May 15th! Birdathon details follow:

We will meet at 8:30 am at Donald County Park just outside Mt. Vernon, at the north parking area off of Hwy 92. We plan to bird until roughly 11:00 am. At that time we will make our way back to the parking area and head to The Grumpy Troll Brew Pub in Mt. Horeb for lunch! Following food, more conversation, and a bit of relaxation, we plan to head to Stewart County Park on the north end of town for a couple more hours of birding. We’ll meet at the parking area just southwest of the lake.

Can’t join us in the field, but still want to support our Birdathon team? To make a donation, visit our team Birdathon page. We thank you for your contributions to bird conservation in Wisconsin, and also for helping support the Wisconsin Chapter of the Society for Conservation Biology!

Recording of “Sifting the Future” Now Available Online

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In case you missed our recent event, “Sifting the Future: The Ecological and Agricultural Impacts of Frac Sand Mining in Wisconsin”, the entire presentation is now available online, thanks to WisconsinEye.

The event featured speakers from FracTracker Alliance and Midwest Environmental Advocates, and focused on the landscape-level impacts occurring due to frac sand mining. For more information on this issue, visit: fractracker.org, and midwestadvocates.org.

Field trip volunteers needed for NACCB!

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Show out-of-state conference attendees how much you love Wisconsin, by volunteering to chaperone one of the pre- and post-conference field trips! All trip costs (transportation, food, etc.) are covered by SCB.

Field trips include paddling the Lower Wisconsin River, visiting the International Crane Foundation and Aldo Leopold Foundation, attending Betty Lou’s Cruises on Lake Monona, birding on the Lakeshore Path, and more!

Interested? Complete the survey here by April 25th.

Bat Conservation in Wisconsin

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Photo: Northern long-eared bat. U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, via Flickr Creative Commons

By: Christa Droste

Before Batman became the legendary vigilante superhero who fought for justice in Gotham City, he fell down a well and became trapped among bats who called it home. Bruce Wayne then took his fear of bats and turned it into a symbol of strength—and why not? Bats are amazing and provide us with ecosystem services ranging from biological pest control to pollination and seed dispersal. They’ve also aided in advancing the areas of medicine and technology with anti-coagulants (thank you vampire bats) and improved airplane flight design. Not to mention they’re responsible for bringing us foods such as cocoa, bananas, and mangos, and pollinating the agave plant used to make tequila.

Unfortunately, due to a combination of popular culture, myth, and ignorance, bats have gotten a bad rap. Now, the creatures of the night we so heavily depend on need our help more than ever. Since its discovery in New York in 2006, researchers have been tracking the westward spread of the deadly fungus Pseudogymnoascus destructans (Pd), otherwise known as White Nose Syndrome or WNS. The fungus was carried on the clothes of a researcher or spelunker who had previously walked through a Pd-positive site in Europe whose bats, incidentally, are resistant to the fungus.

Little Brown Bat J. N. StuartPhoto: Little Brown Bat, J. N. Stuart via Flickr Creative Commons

The temperature and humidity in caves support the growth and reproduction of Pd, which grows as a white fuzz (thus the name), on the nose, ears, and wings of bats. During hibernation, many species can be found clustering tightly together, increasing the rate of spread of WNS. During this time, bats typically wake for very short periods of time to drink water and groom; however, the fungus irritates the bats causing them to wake more frequently resulting in a rapid loss of stored nutrients meant to carry them through winter hibernation. Infected and starving, bats are often found flying during cold winter days to seek non-existent insect prey before either succumbing to hunger or the cold and freezing to death.

To date, caves in the U.S. and Canada have experienced a 90-100% decline in hibernating bats resulting in an estimated 5.7 million bats lost to the disease (whitenosesyndrome.gov). One species, the Northern Long-Eared Myotis (Myotis septentrionalis), which is found in Wisconsin, was the first to have been placed on the endangered species list due to the impact of White Nose Syndrome.

In 2014, WNS made its way across the Great Lakes, and has since been found in eight Wisconsin counties including Dane, Grant, Door, and Iowa where it was first detected. Winter surveys for the 2015-2016 season have not yet been released, but will likely indicate further spread throughout the state. Wisconsin has eight species of bats, half of which utilize caves and mines for overwintering and are listed as threatened in the state, while the other four are on a ‘watch list’. Of the four threatened species, Little Browns (Myotis lucifugus), Northern Long-Eared bats (Myotis septentrionalis), and Eastern Pipistrelles or Tri-Colored bats (Perimyotis sublavus) are more heavily impacted due to their small size. Big Brown bats (Eptesicus fuscus), while also vulnerable to WNS, have a slight advantage in size over the other three and therefore have shown moderate resistance to the fungus. Unquestionably, losses will be felt hardest in the agricultural sector of the state.

In Wisconsin, the Department of Natural Resource’s Wisconsin Bat Program monitors and manages our state’s bat populations. According to John Paul White, a conservation biologist with the DNR, research suggests that bats could save the agriculture industry more than $3 billion dollars in pest control each year by eating insects. He added that further research estimated the economic value of Wisconsin’s bats to be between $658 million and $1.5 billion.

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The devastation of WNS in New York was undeniable, and ignited a torrent of research and monitoring efforts east of the Mississippi River. State and federal agencies teamed up with researchers and nonprofits from around the country and scrambled to gather data on the diversity and population abundance of their bats in order to estimate WNS-related losses in the near future. Overwintering sites were located, censuses conducted, and swabbing for the fungus ensued.

In Wisconsin alone, more than 150 bat hibernacula were identified during the winter of 2010-2011. According to White, the four cave bat species were classified as threatened in Wisconsin due to the threat of WNS, “which afforded protections against direct killing, transportation and possession.” Additionally, Pd was added to the prohibitive invasives list under Wisconsin’s invasive species rule, which, in conjunction with decontamination protocols, may help slow the spread of WNS by cave enthusiasts, researchers, rehabilitators, and pest control operators.

Currently, there are several treatments for WNS being field-tested that are immensely promising. However, due to the unique and fragile nature of the cave ecosystem, these treatments must be found to have negligible impacts on other cave-dwelling organisms in order to be applied.

There’s good news though—you don’t have to be a researcher to help save Wisconsin’s bats! Here are some tips from the DNR’s Wisconsin Bat Program, to help protect our state’s bat population:

  1. Provide habitat for bats in the form of a bat house. Here’s a how-to link from the National Wildlife Federation.
  1. If you have bats in your home, examine entry points in your home and cabin during the winter, and use bat-safe exclusion methods from August 16-May 31 to avoid the birthing period.
  1. If you observe bat activity, please complete the DNR’s Bat Mortality Reporting Form, which helps the Wisconsin Bat Program track and respond to wildlife disease issues.
  2. Interested in monitoring bat populations? Consider volunteering with the Wisconsin Citizen-Based Monitoring Network, which trains volunteers to collect data.
  3. Consider donating to the Wisconsin Bat Conservation Fund, which was created by bat ecologist Dave Redell to support bat conservation efforts in perpetuity. Type “bat program” in the endowment fund text box.

Finally, for more information about WNS, to report unusual bat activity, or to donate to and get involved with the Wisconsin Bat Program, please visit http://wiatri.net/inventory/Bats.

This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

Upcoming event: Decoding the Conservation Congress

WI Conservation Congress Logo

What: Decoding the Conservation Congress
When: Wednesday, March 30th, 5 p.m.
Where: UW-Madison, Union South – 1308 W. Dayton Street, Madison, WI 53715

Join the Wisconsin Chapter of the Society for Conservation Biology for a discussion about the upcoming 2016 Conservation Congress spring hearings, the annual opportunity for Wisconsin citizens to advise the Department of Natural Resources and the Natural Resources Board on how to manage Wisconsin’s natural resources.

We’ll learn more about the Conservation Congress, including an overview of its history, and how it works today. We’ll also hear from DNR’s Scott Loomans, who will break down the April 11th spring hearing agenda items, and how they could impact conservation in Wisconsin.

For more information on the spring hearings and the full agenda, visit http://dnr.wi.gov/About/WCC/springhearing.html

Upcoming event: Frac sand mining in Wisconsin

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The hills of western Wisconsin supply 75 percent of the country’s frac sand market. Join us for a conversation on how frac sand mining is impact our ecological and agricultural landscapes here in Wisconsin.

7 p.m. – Opening Remarks
Caitlin Williamson – President, Wisconsin Chapter of the Society for Conservation Biology

7:05 p.m. – The State of Frac Sand Mining in Wisconsin
Kimberlee Wright – Executive Director, Midwest Environmental Advocates

7:20 p.m. – Impacts of Oil and Gas Development in America
Brook Lenker – Executive Director, FracTracker Alliance

7:30 p.m. – Watershed resilience, changes in agricultural productivity, and wildlife habitat alteration associated with silica sand mining in West Central Wisconsin
Ted Auch, PhD – Great Lakes Program Coordinator, FracTracker Alliance

8:15 p.m. – Q&A

8:30 p.m. – Refreshments

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Feb. 17th – WSCB Meeting featuring Gathering Waters: Wisconsin’s Alliance for Land Trusts

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Wednesday, February 17th, 5 p.m.
UW-Madison Science Hall, room 15

Join us this Wednesday for our next WSCB meeting and a discussion with Mike Carlson, interim executive director of Gathering Waters: Wisconsin’s Alliance for Land Trusts. We’ll hear about conservation challenges and opportunities from the perspective of the land trust community.

Gathering Waters is a statewide service center for Wisconsin’s land trust community, providing direct services and consulting, government relations, and outreach. To find out more about land trusts and the work that Gathering Waters does in Wisconsin’s conservation community, we hope you’ll join us!