This past August, Dr. Cohen, post-doc Abby Darrah, and M.S. student Melissa Althouse attended the 39th annual Waterbirds Society meeting, held on the beautiful campus of the College of the Atlantic in Bar Harbor, Maine. The meeting included special sessions on oystercatchers and cormorants, and included a new session on passerines, which lab member Alison Kocek helped initiate. Abby presented a poster on her current plover work: “Decision support population modeling for Atlantic Coast Piping Plover recovery: 2015 field season”. She also gave a talk on her previous postdoctoral work during the Aquatic Passerines symposium – “Effects of tamarisk (Tamarisk spp) biocontrol and removal on riparian breeding bird species of the Colorado Plateau”. Melissa drove up from her field sites on Cape Cod to give a talk on her master’s research: “Quantifying the effects of disturbance on staging Roseate Terns (Sterna dougalli) on the Cape Cod National Seashore” as part of a half-day symposium on avian behavior and conservation. Friday, a field trip day, was spent on a pelagic trip offered to participants by Bar Harbor Whale Watch. The boat cruised by several near-shore islands as well as Mt. Desert Rock, located 22 miles offshore. It was a fantastic trip, and highlights included numerous Wilson’s Storm-Petrels, Great Shearwaters, several species of skuas and jaegers, many Ocean Sunfish, and a porbeagle shark basking near the ocean surface next to the boat. The meeting wrapped up with a lobster banquet and the society’s traditional evening social and swim; Abby joined the many Waterbirds members brave enough to jump into the 55-degree waters of Frenchman Bay.
In September, Abby and Research Associate Michelle Stantial attended the Western Hemisphere Shorebird Group meeting, as well as the pre-conference workshop on Piping Plover life cycle linkages. The meeting was held on the eastern shore of Virginia, at the Chincoteague Bay Field Station. To foster international collaboration, participants could give presentations in either English or Spanish, with translators in every room to provide translations in real-time which were broadcast into headsets available for participants. Michelle presented a poster based on her M.S. work titled “Automated telemetry for monitoring nocturnal behavior of breeding Piping Plovers on the Atlantic Coast”. Abby gave a presentation on her current work, titled “Decision support population modeling for Atlantic Coast Piping Plover recovery” in the Decision Analysis symposium. One morning plenary, given by Ted Simons on American Oystercatcher ecology, was held at Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge, and there were early morning field trips to the refuge, which coincided well with fall songbird migration.
Graduate student Amanda Cheeseman won Best Overall Poster at the 94th Annual Meeting of the American Society of Mammalogists in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma this week. Amanda's poster was entitled "Survival and home range of New England Cottontail (Sylvilagus transitionalis) in response to hunting, competition, and habitat composition", and details the results of her first year of her dissertation research on cottontails in New York State. Congratulations on this well-deserved honor, Amanda!
Grad students Alison Kocek and Laurel Nowak-Boyd recently won competitive travel awards from SUNY ESF's Office of Instruction and Graduate Studies to present their work at conferences. Alison received $500 towards attendance at the International Ornithological Congress in Tokyo, Japan in August. In Japan, she will be presenting results from her work on Saltmarsh and Seaside Sparrows nesting in New York City marshes. Laurel received $300 for the Northeast Fish and Wildlife Conference in Portland, Maine this April, where she will present on her recently completed study of Ring-necked Pheasants in Western New York. Congratulations, ladies!
In December, Dr. Cohen and grad student Alison Kocek participated in a structured decision making workshop at the National Conservation Training Center in Shepherdstown, West Virginia focused on the use of nest exclosures for management of the federally-threatened Atlantic Coast piping plover. Exclosures are a common management technique for preventing predation of eggs, but some predators may use them to trap and kill nesting adults, or may harass adults leading to abandonment of the nest. The workshop was attended by three ecological modelers from the U.S. Geological Survey and several biologists and wildlife managers from Maine to Maryland. The participants built a population model for the piping plover, to serve as a basis for understanding the tradeoff in population growth rate between reduced egg predation and increased abandonment and adult mortality due to exclosures. The workshop team completed a prototype model, identified optimal decisions for exclosure use under different values for the model parameters, and set forth a plan for addressing uncertainties in the model that included presentation of the prototype to a wider audience for review and feedback.
Michelle Stantial received an award for her oral presentation, "Flight behaviors of Piping Plovers Charadrius melodus: implications for risk of collision with turbines and other human structures" at the 37th Annual Meeting of the Waterbird Society in Wilhelmshaven, Germany. Maureen Durkin received honorable mention for presenting, "Waterbird road mortality at Gulf Islands National Seashore, Florida."