• Camera trap monitoring of wildlife following a wildfire at the Altona Flat Rock forest

      Jaeger, Tristan; Adams, Matthew; Staats, Lloyd; Garneau, Danielle; Lesser, Mark (2020-05-05)
      Forest disturbance can drastically alter wildlife habitat (i.e., cover, forage and prey abundance). Response of wildlife to disturbance events, particularly the timing involved in returning to pre-disturbance conditions, are important aspects of overall ecosystem recovery and resilience. Here, we study wildlife occurrence and usage patterns following a disturbance at a sandstone pavement pine barren in northern NY. This site is dominated by Pinus banksiana (Jack Pine) with an understory largely comprised of Vaccinium angustifolium (Low-bush Blueberry) and Gaylussacia baccata (Huckleberry) serving as a major wildlife resource and fuel for this fire-dependent system. In July 2018, ~220ha of this forest was burned in a wildfire. In fall 2018, eight game cameras were installed along transects traversing a gradient of burn severity as well as an adjacent unburned reference area. Annual and seasonal abundances, and diel wildlife activity were characterized using the camTrap package in R Studio. Over the course of the study, overall species richness in the unburned and burned areas were differed (n= 15 and n= 13 respectively), though total occurrences were higher in the unburned (n = 361) than in the burned area (n = 480). Common species captured on the barren include Odocoileus virginianus (White-tailed Deer), Lepus americanus (Snowshoe Hare), and Tamiasciurus hudsonicus (Red Squirrel) which more prevalent in the unburned, while Canis latrans (Coyote) were more common in the burned area. Seasonal trends in wildlife abundance show a clear benefit to being in the unburned area in fall through winter 2018 as it provides resources and hiding cover. In spring, wildlife increased activity within the regenerating burn which remained in high use until summer-fall 2019. Interestingly, Coyote’s use of burned and unburned areas tracks that of their Snowshoe Hare prey and is most pronounced in the burn during spring. At the barren, Snowshoe Hare and Coyote behave nocturnally as compared the diurnal activity of White-tailed Deer. In the unburned area, Coyote appear to shift activity to capture the morning peak of Deer. Further long-term monitoring will elucidate how wildfire affects wildlife community composition, abundance, and distribution on the Altona Flat Rock sandstone pavement barren.
    • Small Mammal Community Response to Wildfire at the Altona Flat Rock Sandstone Pavement Barren

      Garneau, Danielle; Hendrick, Michala; Darienzo, Lauren; Farr, Emily; Epifaino, Alex; Garneau, Danielle (2021-03-17)
      The Altona Flat Rock is a sandstone pavement barren, dominated by the fire-dependent species known as Pinus banksiana (Jack Pine). Changes in seed availability, understory structure, and predator presence influence wildlife migration within the barren. Additionally, small mammal abundance often fluctuates cyclical in response to tree masting. In July 2018, a wildfire occurred at the Flat Rock pine barren. We aimed to monitor small mammal response to wildfire over the course of a year. Small mammal traps were set along established transects capturing the fire severity gradient and adjacent reference unburned area. Along those same transects, giving up density surveys (GUDS) were performed to foraging patterns in these varied microhabitats. We predicted greater capture rates and community diversity in the burn immediately post-fire due to access to the abundant serotinous Jack Pine seeds. In fall 2018 immediately following the wildfire, a total of 67 small mammals were captured with 1.5 times more in the unburned than burned area. The small mammal community consisted of Peromyscus spp. comprising 87% of captures and insectivores Sorex cinereus (Masked Shrew) and Blarina brevicauda (Northern Short-tailed Shrew) were absent from the burn. In fall of 2019, a total of 21 small mammals were captured with 3 times more in the burn than in unburned area. Community composition was exclusively Peromyscus spp. Over the course of a year, we noted a significant reduction in captures and a shift in microhabitat usage from unburned (2018) to burn (2019) likely in response to regenerating vegetation ameliorating predation risk. Interestingly, average body mass and total body length were higher in Peromyscus spp. in 2019, perhaps in response to increased seed predation. GUD survey results show seed foraging was 67% greater in 2018. Collaborators monitoring game cameras at the barren noted increased predator use of the unburned and burned areas in winter 2018 and spring 2019, respectively and a significant decline of predators from the area in late summer-fall 2019. A predator decrease in fall 2019 is paralleled with a significant decline in Peromyscus spp. This preliminary research has revealed the complexity of small mammal response to wildfire. Long-term monitoring will likely uncover their connection to resources, microhabitat structure, and predator abundance as regeneration continues.
    • Survey of Small Mammals on the Altona Flat Rock and the Gadway Sandstone Pavement Barren

      Garneau, Danielle; Frenyea, Kayla; Wilson, Whitney (2014)
      Sympatric species that compete over similar resources should not be able to coexist without niche partitioning. White-footed mice (Peromyscus leucopus) and deer mice (P. maniculatus) both share similar habitat and resources. Researchers have suggested that this coexistence is permitted as a result of physiological and/or behavioral differences among these two species. This study was conducted at two sandstone pavement barrens, selected for their global rarity as natural heritage sites, specifically the Altona Flat Rock in Chazy, and the Gadway sandstone pavement barren in Mooers, New York. Sixty Sherman live traps were monitored monthly, for four consecutive nights, over the course of the summer. P. leucopus and P. maniculatus are similar in pelage color and become difficult to distinguish morphologically, such that several metrics were collected. Additionally, saliva samples were drawn from each Peromyscus spp. in order to determine species using molecular verification via salivary amylase electrophoresus. There was a greater relative abundance of white-footed mice (P. leucopus) as compared to deer mice (P. maniculatus) on both the Altona Flat Rock and Gadway sandstone pavement barren. Red-backed voles, chipmunks, flying squirrel, red squirrel, meadow-jumping mice, and northern short-tailed shrews were also found at the Altona Flat Rock. Red-backed voles were not present on the Gadway sandstone pavement barren; however, northern short-tailed shrews, chipmunks, and red squirrels were common. The overall goal of our experiment was to determine the species composition of small mammals located on these unique sandstone pavement barrens. Additionally, our research served to determine whether sympatric populations of Peromyscus spp. were both present or if the sites were solely dominated by P. leucopus as was previously presumed.