Nature

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10 Years of Formal Presentations on the BAC Deer Study

The April 7 meeting of the Mid-Atlantic Chapter of the Ecological Society of America marked Bryn Athyn College’s 10th anniversary of formal presentations on the Deer Study. The Deer Study is a collaborative research and education project between Bryn Athyn College and the Pennypack Ecological Restoration Trust (PERT) that began in 2006. The main focus is to track the movements of white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) fitted with high tech GPS/GSM radio collars in the suburban oasis of the beautiful Pennypack Creek valley, which is surrounded by residential and industrial development.  The study fuses the fields of biology, ecology, and environmental science together with advances in geospatial science. The purpose of the Deer Study is to learn more about the ecology, behavior and movements of suburban white-tailed deer in time and space. 

Three posters were presented at the Annual Meeting of the Mid-Atlantic Chapter of the Ecological Society of America on April 7. The conference, which was held at Rutgers University-Newark, was well attended and the Bryn Athyn College  posters received lots of attention.

The posters presented include:

 Rath, S., G. McMackin, E. Higgins, F. Bryntesson and E. Potapov. 2018.  Human activity and animal movement: are they connected? The 2018 Meeting of the Mid-Atlantic Chapter of the Ecological Society of America. Rutgers University, Newark, NJ. April 7, 2018.

 Potapov, E., F. Bryntesson, E. Higgins, S. Rath, K. Roth and G. McMackin. 2018. Is there a gender conflict between male and female deer over territory? The 2018 Meeting of the Mid-Atlantic Chapter of the Ecological Society of America. Rutgers University, Newark, NJ. April 7, 2018.

 Snyder, E., F. Bryntesson, L. Clymer, K. Roth, S. Rath, E. Higgins and Eugene Potapov. 2018. Effect of ambient noise on the movement of white-tailed deer in a fragmented suburban landscape. The 2018 Meeting of the Mid-Atlantic Chapter of the Ecological Society of America. Rutgers University, Newark, NJ. April 7, 2018.

Students and professors present their research poster

Students and faculty at the Annual Meeting of the Mid-Atlantic Chapter of the Ecological Societies of America at Rutgers University, April 7, 2018. Left to right: Stefani Rath, Prof. Edward Higgins, Prof. Grace McMackin, Prof. Fredrik Bryntesson, Elizabeth Snyder, Prof. Eugene Potapov

The Deer Study first presented results (2 posters) on April 19, 2008, at a conference at Wilkes University. The Deer Study has now presented a total of 30 posters and given seven oral presentations at 20 different scientific meetings and published four articles in peer-reviewed journals. More than 30 students have participated in various aspects of the Deer Study and 21 of those have been co-authors on our conference and meeting presentations. To date, six BAC students have used the Deer Study as the basis for their senior capstone projects.

map of deer study presentations at scientific meetings

A more detailed look at the study and its findings can be found at brynathyn.edu/deer-study. There you will be able to view past papers and posters as well as related news stories and links. The core faculty team on this ongoing project includes principal investigator Eugene Potapov, Fredrik Bryntesson, Edward Higgins, and Grace McMackin. The late Sherri Cooper conceived the Deer Study while teaching a deer ecology class at Bryn Athyn College, and many students have contributed to this growing and vibrant legacy over the years.

President Brian Blair remarked, “The 10th anniversary is indeed a special milestone for this program, the science department, and the College. Developing this important research has benefitted the surrounding community while setting an example of academic excellence that the Bryn Athyn College family can point to with pride and admiration.”

Congratulations to all those who are and have been involved in this exciting project! May there be many more years of study, discovery, and scholarly contributions under the auspices of this collaboration.

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Professor Bryntesson’s Adventures in the Florida Wilds

While on sabbatical this spring, Professor Fredrik (Figge) Bryntesson, Ph.D., took two trips to Florida to study the Ivory-billed Woodpecker–the largest woodpecker to have lived in the United States.  Due to habitat destruction and hunting, the number of Ivory-bills dwindled in the early 1900s and the last definitely known population disappeared in the 1940s. Some now fear that the species could be extinct. However, there have been a number of reports of Ivory-bills throughout its historic range in the Southeastern US since the 1940s to the present.

two birds on a treeBryntesson and Chuck Hunter, Southeast Regional Refuge Biologist for the National Wildlife Refuge System, US Fish and Wildlife Service in Atlanta, are working on developing a comprehensive understanding of the historical status of this bird (Photo, left: Ivory-bill specimens at the Florida Museum of Natural History). To do so, they are gathering information from the published literature, and, importantly, from the unpublished archival documents such as field notes, correspondence, memos, and reports on the subject. It is clear from archival documents that there are many more reports of Ivory-bills than have been published, and archival information also provides us with very important insights such as the views and thoughts about Ivory-bills held by many ornithologists and Ivory-bill searchers. Therefore, the archival sources significantly add to our understanding of the historical status of Ivory-bills (Photo, right: researching in the archives).archive storage cabinets

In May, Hunter and Bryntesson journeyed to northwestern Florida and visited multiple areas where sightings of Ivory-billed Woodpeckers have been reported. The Dead Lakes, and the Chipola, Apalachicola, Aucilla, Wacissa, and Wakulla Rivers provide the type of swampy surroundings where Ivory-bills have historically been seen (Photos below, left to right: Dead Lakes, Wacissa, and Wakulla rivers).

dead lakes wacissa river wakulla river tree

american alligator on river bed
While investigating these habitats, they were able to spot a range of interesting wildlife, and though they were mostly on the lookout for birds, they also saw a couple of alligators (Photo, right: American Alligator. Photos below, left to right: Great Egret, Pileated Woodpecker, Purple Gallinule, Red-shouldered Hawk).

great egret pileated woodpecker on tree purple gallinule on bush red shouldered hawk standing on branch

Bryntesson’s interest in the Ivory-billed Woodpecker dates back to 2005 when it was announced that the bird had been reported in Arkansas. This announcement was big news because many people thought that the bird was extinct. Hunter’s interest goes back much further. He said, “For me personally it all goes back to childhood, when at age ten I thought I had seen an Ivory-bill near my house and I found out how to contact the local Audubon Society chapter.” Professionally, he started focusing on the Ivory-billed Woodpecker as part of his job with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 1989. He has been the general go-to for evaluating reports and other odds and ends for this species ever since.  Hunter said, “This became nearly a full-time effort with the 2004-2005 Arkansas reports and I, among other things, assisted in planning and implementing searches across the Southeast with various state and federal agencies, and other private parties.  Alas, by 2010, nothing better than the original reports emerged, but there were many reasonably credible reports from a variety of folks with noted levels of expertise.  That however, has led to no resolution of whether or not the species continues to persist.”

professor bryntesson with robert turner

Bryntesson and Hunter at the County Record in Blountstown, Florida. Photo by Robert Turner.

During the trip, Bryntesson and Hunter worked to gather and analyze more information about Ivory-bill reports.  The two spent much time in several archives reviewing notes, records, and publications on historic Ivory-billed Woodpecker sightings. They found a wealth of useful information, mostly about Ivory-bill reports between the 1930s and 1960s, including material about the Chipola River Wildlife Sanctuary, which was a refuge for ivory-bills managed by the National Audubon Society between 1950 and 1952.  Figge says, “The published literature contains relatively brief descriptions of, or references to, the reports of Ivory-bills in the area in the early 1950s, and the subsequent establishment and closure of the Chipola River Wildlife Sanctuary, but there is no comprehensive account published. The purpose of our research is to produce a detailed account of these historic events.”

So the mystery continues, and Bryntesson and Hunter work to tell the story. Bryntesson said, “Working out this type of history is like solving a giant jig-saw puzzle. Every now and then we find new pieces to add. Recently, we have found many important documents in archives. These items provide us with a better understanding of the history of the searches themselves, and the evidence that has been amassed.”

This spring, Bryntesson and Hunter presented a poster on their Chipola River Wildlife Sanctuary research at a scientific conference at Stockton University. Bryntesson gave a talk at the Tall Timbers Research Station in Florida, and an articleopens in a new window was published about their research in The County Record of Blountstown, Florida.  Bryntesson related one of his favorite parts of this work: “One thing that I really like about researching the historic status of the Ivory-billed Woodpecker is that it is not just about the bird, it is about people too. The searchers have been, and are, incredibly dedicated and it is fascinating to learn about their findings and thoughts, as well as their passion and enthusiasm for finding the bird.”

The gallery below includes pictures from the research trips in Florida. Click on each picture to enlarge. Photo credits: All photos taken by Fredrik Bryntesson unless otherwise noted.

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