Wildlife and Biodiversity Committee

Lake Champlain Research Consortium

September 2004

 

Five Year Research Priorities

 

A.     A.      Research Needs

 

Amphibians and Reptiles

 

Inventory and map the distribution, abundance and critical habitat needs of rare, threatened and endangered amphibian and reptile species in the Vermont portion of the Lake Champlain Basin with a focus on the following species:

  • distribution of Eastern Ribbonsnake (very rare, S1)
  • denning sites of Eastern Ratsnakes (proposed for threatened status)
  • feeding ranges of Timber Rattlesnakes (endangered)
  • distribution and abundance of Five-lined Skink (endangered)
  • important turtle habitat along Lake Champlain (all species).
  • distribution and abundance of Mudpuppies (S2, species of special concern)
  • Eastern Racer distribution and abundance in the Lake Champlain basin (was thought to be extirpated in Vermont but was recently rediscovered in the Connecticut River Valley).

Examine land use history and its effects on vernal pool-breeding amphibian occurrence/productivity (e.g. do pools with different land use histories support different assemblages of amphibians and/or productivity).

Map potential vernal pool locations using large scale color infrared aerial photographs and verify occurrence through ground-truthing on public/conservation lands within the basin

Birds

Continued monitoring of Neotropical Migrant Landbird populations.

Investigate avian breeding populations in forest habitat patches of different sizes, configurations, and connectivity in the Champlain Valley, using FBMP (Forest Bird Monitoring Program) sites as a baseline.

Fish

Study the movement patterns of wide-ranging fish species in Lake Champlain.

Research the potential to install barriers to aquatic species movements, including in and out of Lake Champlain to the sea.  Includes barrier design, feasibility and cost/benefit analysis of various designs.

Trophic dynamics - how are the fish species and their relative abundances changing in Lake Champlain?

Invasive and Nuisance Species, Control Methods and Impacts of Controlling Them

A literature review and modeling project addressing are the ecological consequences of the potential introduction of alewife to Lake Champlain. 

A Genetic analysis of Sea Lamprey in the Lake Champlain basin.  Are they native?  If so, why are they more of a problem now than they were fifty years ago?

 

Test alternative Sea Lamprey control techniques in Lake Champlain tributaries.  Use this data to further build the sea lamprey population viability model.

 

Long-term monitoring of rare, threatened, and endangered species (distribution and abundance) in streams treated with lampricides.

Advance cormorant work with population viability analysis and management techniques in the same way as the sea lamprey to get at the same fundamental question - why is this native species now super abundant?

Survey and map for the entire basin the most and least infested places for a host of invasive species (both aquatic and terrestrial).

B.    B.     Interdisiplinary Research

 

An investigation of mercury levels and effects of calcium depletion in forest thrushes along an elevational gradient.  Despite well-documented negative impacts of elevated methylmercury (MeHg) toxicity on wildlife populations, few data exist on mercury burdens in terrestrial, migratory passerine birds.  Preliminary data from montane-fir forests in the Green Mountains suggest that MeHg levels in Bicknell's Thrush and 3 other insectivorous passerines were higher than would be expected for a terrestrial system.  In addition, calcium depletion in forest soils due acid precipitation has been linked to declines of Wood Thrush.  A better understanding of Hg pathways and the effects of Ca depletion within forested systems and migratory landbirds in needed.  This study would evaluate Hg levels and the effects of cacium depeletion in forest thrushes along an elevational gradient, sampling Bicknell's Thrush in montane-fir forests, Swainson's Thrush in transitional forests, Hermit and Wood Thrushes in mid-elevational stands, and Veery in low elevation bottomland forests.

 

A study investigating the ecological and economic consequences of the potential introduction of alewife to Lake Champlain.  In combination with a literature review/modeling of ecological consequences, sociologists/economists would conduct an economic impact analysis.

 

A study of the ecological and economic impacts of selected invasive species in the Lake Champlain Basin, and development of effective education strategies drawing on the expertise of ecologists, economists, educators and marketing specialists.