"Most of the Western Hemisphere's charismatic large mammals no longer exist. As a result, without knowing it, Americans live in a land of ghosts" - Paul S. Martin

"A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise." - Aldo Leopold

Rob Lonsinger

I am currently working on my PhD at the University of Idaho (Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources). As a member of the Laboratory for Ecological, Evolutionary, and Conservation Genetics, I am advised by Dr. Lisette Waits. My dissertation research focuses on employing noninvasive genetic sampling techniques to assess the demographic parameters of kit fox and coyote populations in western Utah. Furthermore, I am evaluating population genetic structure and the influence that anthropogenic landscape alterations have on the spatial dynamics and connectivity of these populations. My professional interests include landscape genetics, spatial ecology, the effect of anthropogenic landscape alteration on populations, urban ecology, predator-prey dynamics, and statistics.

Randy Smith: NW Section Wildlife Administrator of the Year!

I had the pleasure of presenting Randy Smith with the Northwest Section of The Wildlife Society’s Wildlife Administrator of the Year award.   Randy has devoted his entire career to the conservation and management of wildlife populations in Idaho and the northwest. Randy was nominated by a cohort of his peers and received a well-deserved standing ovation by a packed house for a lifetime of achievements for wildlife!

The Idaho Chapter of The Wildlife Society's Annual Meeting (Boise, Idaho)

Paige Byerly, a senior undergraduate student in the Ecology and Conservation Biology Program at the University of Idaho, recently presented her research entitled “Resource partitioning between sympatric carnivores: a comparison of historic and contemporary dietary overlap”. Along with my advisor, Lisette Waits, I have mentored Paige throughout this project and I was very pleased to see her give such a great presentation at her first professional conference. Congratulations Paige on a job well done!

I recently presented the first chapter of my PhD dissertation at The Wildlife Society's annual conference in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I review how information on sample accumulation and DNA degradation rates can be used to optimize noninvasive genetic sampling design. By optimizing sampling, researchers and managers can extend limited funding to maximize the spatial and/or temporal extent of sampling. A recording of this presentation can be viewed at http://tws.sclivelearningcenter.com/index.aspx?PID=6893&SID=182295.

Financial support for this research was provided by the U.S. Department of Defense.


"There still is hope" -Dr. Steven Amstrup, Senior Scientist for Polar Bears International

As part of a student led effort to bring leading researchers to the University of Idaho. Dr. Steven Amstrup recently spoke on polar bears and climate change. Dr. Amstrup shared knowledge and insights from his over 30 years of experience working in the Arctic.

For your viewing pleasure, this seminar was recorded and made available online along with the slides. To view this seminar, go to http://www.webpages.uidaho.edu/ecologyonline/seminars.htm and select the link for "Oceans, Ice and Climate Change: Polar Bears".

This seminar was supported financially by a grant from the University of Idaho's Sustainability Center to Rob Lonsinger and Matt Mumma.

A Glimpse Into the Past

For the last few days, I have had the pleasure of sampling specimens at the Natural History Museum of Utah. It is a marvelous museum, and the staff and curators have granted me permission to sample nearly 100 historic kit fox specimens from across western Utah. I have been sampling both skins and skulls for DNA, which I will use to investigate how kit fox genetic diversity and effective population size have changed over the past 50 (plus) years in western Utah. The samples were collected from 1949 to 1970, with the majority of the samples being from the early 1950’s. It is fortuitous to have such a substantial reference collection to work with and I am grateful for the support and collaborative nature of the museum.

If you are ever in Salt Lake City, don’t miss out on the natural history museum!

OCEANS, ICE, AND CLIMATE CHANGE: POLAR BEARS


A student led coalition of University of Idaho (UI) Fish & Wildlife Graduate Students, in collaboration with the UI Sustainability Center, have initiated a seminar series on climate change. This effort has aleady brought one leading scientist, Dr. Shallin Busch, to UI to discuss climate change and its impacts on ocean acidification. Dr. Busch's seminar was a huge success and we hope to build upon that success for the second seminar, featuring Dr. Steven Amstrup.

Dr. Amstrup is a UI alumnus and is currently a Senior Scientist for Polar Bears International (PBI), where he serves as an advocate for polar bears and climate mitigation. He dedicated 30 years of study to polar bears as a biologist for the USGS. Considered the preeminent polar bear researcher in the world, reports from Dr. Amstrup's research team in 2007 and 2008 led to the listing of polar bears as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act. He was recently awarded the "Indianapolis Award", which is one the highest international honors for animal conservation, as well as the "Our Earth Bambi Award", a national conservation award in Germany, for his contributions to polar bear conservation.

Climate change has received a considerable amount of attention over recent years by scientists, policy makers, and news outlets. For many years, the debate and associated headlines neglected to focus on the consequences of climate change, but rather on whether or not climate change was occurring. It is now recognized by the majority of scientists and supported by strong, credible scientific evidence that accelerated climate change is being driven by anthropogenic influences and that these changes pose a significant risk o natural ecosystems, including the persistence and health of fish and wildlife populations (Van Putten 2002, Root et al. 2003). Despite the growing scientific consensus and risks associated with climate change, American’s rank climate change among the least important public concerns (Brulle et al. 2012).

The primary objectives of the project are to (1) educate students and faculty, as well as the general public, on the impacts that climate change has on fish and wildlife populations, (2) connect changes in fish and wildlife populations to ecosystem health and ecosystem services, and (3) facilitate campus wide interdisciplinary communication. Additional goals of the project are to (1) motivate participants to think more intently about how their day to day decisions influence climate change, (2) encourage sustainable living practices, (3) motivate participants to educate the broader public, and (4) inspire individuals to assert their influence on local, state and federal governments.


De-Mystifying R




I was recently invited to give a workshop on R, a computer programming language and statistical computing and graphing environment, at the Idaho Chapter of The Wildlife Society annual meeting (http://www.ictws.org/2013AnnualMeetingFinalProgram.pdf) in beautiful Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. The workshop, entitled “De-mystifying Program R: A Statistical Program Short-course,” was intended introduce participants to the functionality of R and to provide a foundation in R programming code and syntax that will allow attendees to begin effectively utilizing R.

Winter 2013


In early January, I kicked off my first full field season of data collection for my PhD research. Greeted by deep snow and a blanketing inversion, the beginning of the season was dreary and slow going. Some days were particularly cold and harsh, but after nearly a month, the inversion lifted and the scenery revealed itself. Data collection continued through the cold, blistering wind. Fecal DNA samples were collected from all carnivore scats collected and are now being analyzed for species and individual identification at the Laboratory for Ecological, Evolutionary, and Conservation Genetics.


The "Golden Age" of Biology


When scientists think about communication, we often think primarily about communication within the scientific community: working with collaborators, presenting our research at professional scientific meetings and conferences, and publishing our research in scientific journals. The general public does not attend these meetings, does not read the scientific literature, and does not knock on our doors asking for the latest and greatest findings. But they do fund a significant amount of our research through taxes and fees that ultimately fund state and federal grant programs. Thus as scientists, we have a critical obligation to learn to communicate with the general public in a way that effectively disseminates information and excites people about the work we are doing. Only a small proportion of leading scientists have these communication skills naturally and when they do, they can make everybody who they talk with motivated to learn more.

In the past couple of years I have gotten to know one of these charismatic and innovative scientists, Dr. Jesse Barber, Assistant Professor at Boise State University. Dr. Barber studies sensory ecology, including how anthropogenic noise influences wildlife species. I have seen him speak on multiple occasions and his ability to communicate with and excite his listeners is unparalleled. In fact, I have chosen to forgo other presentations to see him give a presentation a second time.

Recently, Boise State’s NPR station interviewed Dr. Barber about one of his ongoing research projects. In this audio clip Dr. Barber states that we are in the “Golden Age” of biology. Give this short interview a quick listen to find out what he means by this. You will certainly enjoy the story. [Click here to be redirected to the NPR interview]

 Recent Scientific Updates

The notion that fine-scale genetic structure of highly mobile habitat generalists may be driven by individual heterogeneity in habitat preferences has been gaining support over recent years. A recent article entitled "Dietary Differentiation and the Evolution of Population Genetic Structure in a Highly Mobile Carnivore" provides additional support to the idea and finds that the dietary specializations of wolves in eastern Europe may be influencing the observed fine-scale genetic structure. Take a look at the complete article, written by Pilot, Jedrzejewski, Sidorovich, Meier-Augenstein, and Rus Hoelzel, at http://www.plosone.org/article/info:doi/10.1371/journal.pone.0039341.



Journeys to the West Desert

I have spent the last 2 weeks in the West Desert of Utah initiating the field portion of my summer DNA degradation study. Weather included atypical rainfall, including heavy thunderstorms, for several days, followed by multiple days of temperatures around 100 degrees.

In addition to initiating the degradation study, this trip has allowed me the opportunity to get out on the landscape and better understand the ecological system. I have conducted multiple transect surveys to gather additional information on scat deposition rates, have begun to become familiar with local plant species and habitat associations (which are in some areas very similar to the Magic Valley, where I have spent the last 2 years), and have collected a series of samples from transect surveys to assess the success rate of species identification based exclusively on size of scat. This trip has also provided an opportunity to coordinate planning necessities with local resources. I missed several excellent shots of pronghorn and coyotes, but I was able to capture a few shots of local reptiles.
  

Recent Updates

American Society of Mammalogists Annual Meeting

On June26th, 2012, I presented portions of my Master's research on the population genetics of ringtails at the annual meeting of the American Society of Mammalogists, a professional society that I have been a member of for 5 years now. The presentation went smoothly and was well attended. I received quite a bit of positive feedback regarding my research and the presentation.




Program MARK Workshop

I recently attended the MARK Workshop at CSU in Fort Collins, CO from June 3 - 8. The workshop was intense, with 12 - 13 hour long days. The level of expertise and 'apparent' patience of the instructores was incredible. By far, this workshop was well worth the money, time, and stress. The beer in Fort Collins was equally great. RTFM!





On to the University of Idaho!

In May of 2012, I made a move to the University of Idaho to work on my PhD. I am fortunate to be working with two incredible advisors, Drs. Lisette Waits and Jon Horne. My research will focos on employing noninvasive genetic techniques to assess the population demographics of kit fox and coyote populations in west Utah. I am also interested in investigating the population genetics and landscape ecology of these two species. Stay tuned for updates! Cheers!

Educating Tomorrow’s Leaders

Aldo Leopold, the father of wildlife ecology, said that "the object is to teach the student to see the land, to understand what he sees, and enjoy what he understands." We can only expect future generations to respect, care for, and conserve the natural environment if we take the time to help them learn about and develop an appreciation for that environment. As part of the Environmental Education Outreach Program, I recently visited a series of both public and private schools to teach students about local wildlife species and the habitats on which they depend. I focused on the important topics of habitat, carrying capacity, and human influences on these. I tried to give them one interesting fact about each of the local species covered to spark their curiosity.


24 Hours of Reality: Local Implications of Climate Change

I was invited to participate on an expert panel to discuss the impacts of climate change on local natural resources. Panelists included me (wildlife), Jim Rineholt (forestry) and Wendy Pabich (water resources). Following the viewing of the live “24 Hours of Reality” rally from Colorado, we each provided a short, 10 minutes presentation on the local implications of climate change. The floor was then opened for questions and discussion with the audience. A huge thanks to the Environmental Resource Center and the City of Ketchum for hosting this event.



Last week I learned of the passing of Dr. Ulysses McElyea. Upon hearing the news, I found myself overwhelmed with a mix of emotions. Although I was filled with sadness, I could not remember a moment when thoughts of Dr. Mac brought anything but a smile to my face. That is still true. Dr. Mac was always quick with a joke and was the bright spot in anybody's day who crossed his path. I was fortunate enough to get to know Dr. Mac and even more fortunate that he was willing to serve as a mentor and a friend. When I began my graduate career at New Mexico State University, Dr. Mac gave me the opportunity to work under him. The knowledge I gained and the example he set will remain with me throughout my life. My thoughts go out to Natalia and all of Dr. Mac's family and friends. Dr. Mac, you are missed.

Snowy Owls

I recently received a call about this injured snowy owl. As a result of a collision with a vehicle, the owl had suffered two broken wings, appeared to have internal injuries, and had to be euthanized by a local veterinarian. An unusually high number of snowy owls have been reported across the northern states and the sightings appear to be driven by an irruption due to a lower than usual lemming population, the snowy owls primary prey. Click here for more information.

Recent Science Updates

Predicting carnivore occurence with noninvasive surveys and occupancy modeling

by Robert A. Long, Therese M. Donovan, Paula MacKay, William J. Zielinski, and Jeffrey S. Buzas
Abstract - Terrestrial carnivores typically have large home ranges and exist at low population densities, thus presenting challenges to wildlife researchers. We employed multiple, noninvasive survey methods—scat detection dogs, remote cameras, and hair snares—to collect detection–nondetection data for elusive American black bears (Ursus americanus), fishers (Martes pennanti), and bobcats (Lynx rufus) throughout the rugged Vermont landscape. We analyzed these data using occupancy modeling that explicitly incorporated detectability as well as habitat and landscape variables. For black bears...

What's New

Central Idaho Wolverine and Winter Recreation Research Project
Kim Heinemeyer (Round River Institute) will be giving presentations across Idaho on the Central Idaho Wolverine and Winter Recreation Research Project. Click here for dates, times, and locations.


Our thoughts and prayers go out to Tom Kunz and his family as we all hope for a quick recovery.



Check out the latest VOLUNTEER opportunities!


Check out upcoming programs and presentation related to wildlife in south-central Idaho!

Images from the Field


 

Trapping/Banding American White Pelicans
  
Mountain Lion, City of Rocks National Reserve, ID
 
Red Fox, Albion Mountains, Idaho
 

Yellowstone National Park

Bull Moose in along Blackfoot Reservoir, Idaho


 
Aerial Sage-grouse Surveys

Fishing my favorite little trout stream



Kes and I in Utah