TWS member Mark Smith appointed to Federal Advisory Committee

U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Thomas Vilsack appointed Mark Smith, a member of The Wildlife Society, to the National Wildlife Services Advisory Committee (NWSAC) on March 2.

Smith received this appointment with the support of TWS headquarters and TWS’ Wildlife Damage Management Working Group.

“I am truly honored to have been selected to serve on this committee,” said Smith, the W. Kelly Mosley environmental professor within Auburn University’s College of Forestry, Wildlife and Environment. “The work Wildlife Services does is essential for the coexistence of humans and wildlife, and serves as the cornerstone of contemporary wildlife management in this rapidly changing world. I look forward to the opportunity to contribute positively to the goals of this committee.”

Smith, also an extension specialist with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System, has expertise on reducing damage caused by invasive wild pigs through collaborative work with agricultural producers, forest landowners and natural resource professions. He has worked extensively with USDA Wildlife Services staff on various applied research projects and outreach activities aimed at addressing the needs of their shared stakeholder groups.

Established in 1986, the NWSAC is composed of 20 voting members and advises the Secretary of Agriculture on matters of public health and safety, conservation of natural resources, protection of agricultural resources from predation and other wildlife damage, and reduction of property damage due to wildlife.

Council members represent a multiplicity of stakeholder groups such as academia, farming and livestock producers, state wildlife agencies, and airport safety. The NWSAC serves as an open forum, allowing the voices of diverse stakeholders to influence the policies, guidance, and strategic planning for USDA Wildlife Services.

Smith has served at every organizational level of The Wildlife Society. A 2018 recipient of the TWS Fellows Award, he has shown exceptional service to the wildlife profession. He is a past-chair of TWS’ Wildlife Damage Management Working Group, providing expertise on the management of wildlife damage and human-wildlife conflicts to the organization. Smith is also a past president of the Alabama Chapter and Southeastern Section of TWS.

Smith will serve a two-year appointment on the committee and can serve up to three consecutive, two-year terms.

More information about the National Wildlife Services Advisory Committee is available through the committee’s website.

NWTF seeks wild turkey research proposals

The National Wild Turkey Federation is accepting applications for its Wild Turkey Research Request for Proposals, a program that supports wild turkey research projects across the country. The request for proposal follows an effort last year that allocated $360,000 for seven wild turkey projects.

“We are at a junction where there are many new questions being raised about wild turkey ecology,” said Mark Hatfield, NWTF director of conservation services. “Disease, population dynamics, habitat use, nest success, hunter influence—there are many areas that need greater understanding to deliver optimal conservation and management; this is where research comes in.”

The NWTF invites proposals that investigate the dynamics and drivers of the “post-restoration era” as well as those that address one or more of the following research priorities:

  • Development of regional and national population and abundance estimates
  • Evaluation and development of habitat management practices and habitat conditions that would increase wild turkey nest success and poult survival
  • Investigation of underlying wild turkey diseases and their impacts on wild turkey populations
  • Understanding the effects of harvest management strategies and season structure on wild turkey populations
  • Wild turkey (adult and poult) survival and correlated causes of mortality

All projects must have a minimum 3-to-1 leverage rate and may span up to three years in length. Applicants are highly encouraged to obtain endorsement from the representative NWTF state chapter(s) and the representative state wildlife agency(ies) while investigating one or more of the above topics.

Applicants must submit proposals no later than May 1, 2023, for consideration. Project funding awards will be announced during the NWTF National Leadership Conference, June 2023. Proposals will be scored and ranked by the NWTF Technical Committee and NWTF conservation staff on the applicability of the projects, scientific rigor, partner engagement and secured matching funds.

Download the application form here.

2023 TWS Elections: Vice President

The Wildlife Society is led by an elected Council composed of a president, president-elect, vice president, immediate past president, and eight representatives (one from each identified voting district).

The ballot for The Wildlife Society’s 2023 elections includes nominees for the position of vice president.  TWS’ vice president serves for one year in this position before automatically progressing on to subsequent one-year terms as president-elect, president and immediate past president. The incumbent will fulfil a total of four years on Council.

Additional nominees for this position may be submitted to the CEO by any voting member in good standing, if supported in writing by at least 5% of active members (approximately 550 individuals). The deadline for additional nominations is May 14, 2023.

Electronic ballots will be sent June 1 to all active members with an email address. Members without an email address will receive a paper ballot in the mail. Voting will close June 30. Mailed paper ballots must be postmarked on or before June 30. In accordance with TWS’ Bylaws, newly elected council members are scheduled to be installed at the next regular meeting of Council during the 30th Annual Conference, Nov. 5 to 9, in Louisville, Kentucky.

The candidates’ statements expressing their vision for The Wildlife Society and their interest in running for this Council position along with a link to a complete biographical sketch are below.


Fidel Hernández

For many wildlife professionals, The Wildlife Society is the social fabric through which our professional life unfolds. It represents the organization where we likely delivered our first scientific presentation, attended our first national conference, or met our first colleagues beyond our local social network. It often also represents the venue where we may have obtained an internship, recruited a graduate student, or discovered a career opportunity. For many of us, therefore, The Wildlife Society is the professional home through which our careers develop, and it symbolizes that constant companion accompanying us throughout our professional trajectory. For an organization that gives so much, one cannot help but desire to contribute in our own small way toward the provisioning of similar experiences for others.

One of the most rewarding experiences that TWS has afforded me has been the opportunity to serve. I have been fortunate to have served as a committee member, committee chair and officer at the various levels of TWS (state, section, and international). These learning experiences have allowed me to meet members from all walks of life and better understand the Society’s varied and diverse membership. These experiences also have provided me with a better understanding of the administrative and financial complexities of TWS and the process through which difficult decisions often are made for an organization that spans from local to international reaches. More importantly, they also have allowed me to meet and learn from the dedicated, skilled staff who commit long hours toward the continued excellence of the Society.

These formative experiences have shaped not only my career and professional outlook, but also my vision for TWS. I envision TWS to be the premier professional organization that provides excellence in natural resource science, management, education and policy for North America and beyond, while providing a professional home for a diverse and geographically broad membership where they learn, develop, network and serve. Excelling as such an organization entails many aspects including recruitment of new members, development of existing ones, nurturing of organizational subunits, fiscal growth and responsibility, engagement with conservation affairs, and many others. The sustained success of TWS therefore hinges on 3 main pillars: 1) continued and improved effort in the provisioning of services, benefits and opportunities for all members, including those affiliated to the Society only through chapters or sections, with the goal of better serving the broader membership and unifying all members; 2) enhancing the financial security of the Society through donor relations, an engaged and functioning TWS Foundation Board, and private endowments for the purposes of promoting financial sustainability of the Society and its capacity to support existing—as well as implement new, strategic—programs, benefits and initiatives; and 3) continued improvement of the role of TWS as an effective participant in policy and international arenas with the goal of augmenting the relevance of TWS, its science, and its impact to society at large.

Read Fidel Hernández’s complete biographical sketch here.

Paul R. Johansen

In today’s changing society, it is imperative the wildlife profession be prepared to address a wide range of issues and concerns (e.g., agency relevancy and effective public engagement; growing anti-management sentiment among various segments of the public; threats undermining the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation; matters relating to diversity, equity and inclusion within the profession; recruitment, retention and reactivation of hunters, anglers and other wildlife-associated recreationalists; impacts of climate change and accelerated habitat degradation; successional planning for agencies and institutions; meeting the needs of established wildlife professionals, early career professionals and students). The Wildlife Society is well-positioned to assist the wildlife profession, as we attempt to address many of these challenges. By adopting an effective and business-like approach to management, The Wildlife Society continues to improve its scientific and technical publications, networking and information dissemination capabilities, wildlife policy activities and other programs designed to support its membership in all areas of wildlife conservation, research and management. I fully endorse these initiatives, recognize their importance to our profession and pledge to explore additional means for improving organizational effectiveness and program delivery to our membership.

My vision for The Wildlife Society is straightforward. The Wildlife Society should continue to be the preeminent organization that welcomes and supports all wildlife professionals and students. To be effective, we must remain relevant to both our membership and the broader elements of society.

I am proud to be a member of The Wildlife Society. Through my previous tenure on Council, I observed our leadership consistently demonstrate commitment to the wildlife professionals we serve and the natural resources we value. Should I be elected to the office of vice president of The Wildlife Society, I will attempt to continue this fine tradition and serve to the best of my ability.

Read Paul R. Johansen’s complete biographical sketch here.

USFWS agreement advances conservation on working forests

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has formalized a partnership to advance the conservation of at-risk species on private working forests. The memorandum of understanding with the National Alliance of Forest Owners and the National Council for Air and Stream Improvement, Inc., formalizes the Wildlife Conservation Initiative, a collaborative effort between industry and federal officials to conserve imperiled species, including those protected under the Endangered Species Act.

“This agreement strengthens an already impactful partnership leveraging the strengths of the Service, NAFO and NCASI. It underscores the importance of the contributions private forest owners make to wildlife and natural resource conservation,” said Service Director Martha Williams.

The initiative seeks to advance conservation through open dialogue, including determining the presence of at-risk species on private forests, assessing forest conditions and gauging the impacts of forest management on wildlife and habitats.

As part of the WCI, private forest owners provide access to researchers to conduct on-the-ground studies to inform natural resources management. The Service supports 10 WCI field research projects nationwide on a range of wildlife, including pollinators, turtles, mussels and songbirds.

The agreement “is a testament to the power of collaboration in conservation,” said NCASI President Dirk Krouskop. “By coordinating our resources and expertise, we can make a real and meaningful impact on the conservation of our nation’s most at-risk wildlife.”

Read more from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Maranda Jones-Anderson joins TWS as finance and human resources director

When Maranda Jones-Anderson was just 45 days into a finance position at a previous organization, she was tasked with a big transition—moving the office from New York to Washington, D.C.

“I had to re-create the organizations financial reporting completely from scratch and provide first quarter financials at the first board meeting,” she said.

That wasn’t easy. She didn’t have access to the necessary financials systems and had to learn new systems, implement new financial procedures and manually input everything on paper. Under her leadership, Maranda and her small team worked long nights and weekends. But it was worth it, she said, and the successful transition became one of her proudest moments.

Jones-Anderson is now applying her financial acumen—along with human resource skills—at The Wildlife Society, as she takes on the role of director of finance and human resources.

“Maranda comes to TWS with a wealth of financial management experience and we are excited to have her joining our team” said Ed Arnett, CEO of TWS. “Staff members that have been performing our financial and human resources functions over the past few years can now get back to delivering on mission critical programmatic work. I look forward to working with Maranda and exploring opportunities to improve our overall financial health and long-term stability, as well as potential for growth at TWS.”

Maranda grew up in Los Angeles, which she still refers to as home and even has a map of the state in her office in Maryland. She moved to the D.C. area, where her aunt and grandparents lived, to attend Howard University. But she didn’t begin her career path as a business major.

Instead, Jones-Anderson was on a track to become a nurse—particularly a nurse practitioner or midwife—but just couldn’t deal with the human cadavers. She went straight to her advisor to switch gears. Homing in on her math skills, her advisor pointed her in the direction of business and accounting.

It was the perfect fit. And soon, she found her perfect partner, too—in a nonconventional way. Her now husband was a police officer who had pulled her over. “We’ve been together ever since,” she said.

While building a family with her husband, she finished her undergraduate studies with a bachelor’s degree in accounting and business management and a minor in human resources. She continued on to earn advanced degrees including a master’s in accounting and a master’s of business administration at the University of Maryland University College. “I have a passion for telling a financial story for people that is easy to digest for everyone,” she said.

Since then, Jones-Anderson has spent 15 years in the nonprofit sector in positions from staff accountant, to senior director and CFO in a number of organizations. Anderson-Jones comes to TWS directly after serving as the acting division chief for the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission.

“I saw synergy in my previous position with national parks and urban planning and saw the direct connection there,” she said.

Jones-Anderson is ready to roll up her sleeves as she begins her journey at TWS. In her first month Maranda is elated about, “the number of opportunities for the organization’s growth financially and for it to become the “premier organization for wildlife professionals,” she said. She is especially excited to participate in developing and implementing The Wildlife Society’s strategic plan.

“It’s nice to have great plans,” she said. “To write them is one thing. To execute them well is another. To measure their success is a whole other beast. I’m happy to have a seat at the table to help move this strategic plan and vision forward.”

Migrating birds may break for immune system boost

Researchers knew migrating birds made stopovers to refuel. But a recent study suggest they also take a break to boost their immune systems.

“This is the first time that this has been demonstrated in wild migratory birds,” said Arne Hegemann, a biologist at Sweden’s Lund University who led the research published in Biology Letters.

Migrating birds regularly stop in one place for a few days to rest and eat. This was previously thought necessary to build up new fat reserves. But after collecting and comparing data from different individuals and species, Hegemann’s team found they also build up their immune system during these stops. The team examined examined small migratory birds—such as chaffinches (Fringilla coelebs), dunnocks (Prunella modularis) and common redstarts (Phoenicurus phoenicurus)—and analyzed how their immune system changed when they took a break during migration.

“This provides an important part of the puzzle of how migratory birds cope with the physiological challenges they are faced with on their long journeys,” Hegemann said.

Read more from Lund University.

Extreme heat may limit bison movement

Temperature affects the extent that bison may roam.

The bison herd in the Wichita Mountains National Wildlife Refuge in Oklahoma is one of the first herds to be reintroduced in the U.S. Fifteen animals were first transported there from New York in 1907. That small herd grew to roughly 650 animals today—“the largest bison refuge managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service,” according to the National Park Service.

Nic McMillan, an assistant professor at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, had been studying the interaction between bison (Bison bison bison) and plants for some time. He wondered how climate change may affect plains bison movement.

He led a study published recently in Ecology and Evolution, in which he and his colleagues combined GPS tracking data from 2008 to 2012 of a dozen bison in the Wichita Mountains in southwestern Oklahoma and The Nature Conservancy’s Tallgrass Prairie Preserve in the northeast of the state. Combining this data with weather information in the areas at the times they were studying, they analyzed the way that bison moved under different conditions.

Bison movement in Montana are likely also affected by climate. Credit: Nic McMillan

They found that bison don’t move much when temperatures are colder than freezing. Between -20 degrees Celsius and 0, the bison only moved roughly 30-35 meters every 12 minutes.

The large mammals begin to move more as it warmed up, reaching a peak at 28 degrees Celsius, when they moved 72 meters every 12 minutes. They then began to decrease their movement as it got warmer than that, dropping back down to about 62 meters per 12 minutes at 44 degrees Celsius—the maximum recorded temperature in the study areas during this period.

“Air temperature was really important in describing how far they move,” McMillan said.

McMillan said the study results are similar to those of another study that researchers conducted on wood bison (B. b. athabascae) in Canada. It’s possible that this type of research is revealing the way that bison respond physiologically to air temperatures.

A challenge for bison is that as temperatures warm due to climate change, they may struggle to move quickly to cooler areas where they can function better. When planning for future land conservation, wildlife managers may want to consider that bison will have somewhere to escape to during heat waves.

With this in mind, removing barriers to landscape connectivity in places where bison roam such as the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem is going to become more and more important in the future, McMillan said.

Avian flu found in Texas skunk

Texas has reported the first case of avian flu in a mammal in the state. The National Veterinary Services Laboratories confirmed this week the presence of highly pathogenic avian influenza in a striped skunk (Mephitis mephitis) recovered from Carson County, in northern Texas. The virus has been detected in a number of mammals across North America, including foxes, raccoons (Procyon lotor), bobcats (Lynx rufus), opossums (Didelphis virginiana), mountain lions (Puma concolor) and black bears (Ursus americanus). Health officials say the transmission risk from infected birds to people remains low.

Read more from Texas Parks & Wildlife.

TWS2022: Reintroduction is boosting Puerto Rico parrot survival

Puerto Rico parrots fly and perch inside an aviary in captivity

Reintroduction efforts are critical to recovering Puerto Rico parrots—without sustained efforts to return the endemic birds to the forest, their wild populations would decline.

A million Puerto Rico parrots may once have lived in the wild on the island, but decades of deforestation meant the removal of most of the habitat for these charismatic green, blue and red birds. While they once ranged widely across the island, by the 1970s, only a single remnant population of 13 wild birds remained, occupying El Yunque National Forest. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service listed the parrots as endangered in 1967, prior to the passage of the Endangered Species Act.

A Puerto Rico parrot perched on a branch in the wild, blending in with its surroundings.
A Puerto Rico parrot from the most recent wild population reintroduced to Maricao State Forest. Credit: Marisel Lopez/USFWS

The recovery process began in 1973. Wildlife managers with the USFWS, the U.S. Forest Service and the Puerto Rico Department of Natural and Environmental Resources began taking steps to release captive-bred Puerto Rico parrots (Amazona vittate) into the wild. They started in El Yunque in the 1980s, then added Rio Abajo State Forest in 2007. More recently, wildlife managers have begun to reintroduce a third population into Maricao State Forest. They do this both by releasing captive-bred birds and by taking chicks from aviary nests and placing them in wild parrots’ nests. They also boost wild populations by setting up nest boxes—Puerto Rico parrots nest in cavities in old, dead trees, which aren’t always easy to find in .

Today, roughly 690 Puerto Rico parrots occur on the island—including those in captive breeding aviaries.

Two Puerto Rico parrots sit inside of a nest box.
Wildlife managers have placed nest boxes to help boost reproduction in some newer forests that lack many of the old dead trees Puerto Rico parrots usually require for nesting. Credit: Marisel Lopez/USFWS

In research presented at The Wildlife Society’s 2022 Annual Conference in Spokane, TWS member Lisa Faust, senior director of population ecology at the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago, and her colleagues have analyzed the population viability of these three wild populations, as well as two populations of captive birds in aviaries used for the breeding programs.

The research revealed that all three wild populations would continue to decline without reintroduction efforts. The Rio Abajo population was the most viable—Faust’s models showed that without management, it would only decline by about 1% per year. In El Yunque, where the numbers have never topped 60 and the birds face a 31% chance of extinction, the population would drop 5% per year without management.

It isn’t clear why parrots in El Yunque struggle more than those in Rio Abajo, Faust said. The El Yunque parrots are a remnant population, and the area has the oldest intact forests, which the parrots prefer. But it also bears the brunt of most tropical storms that hit Puerto Rico, she said, and that may make it harder for them to survive.

“The forests are different there,” Faust said. “The El Yunque population, even though it’s the remnant—it had always struggled.”

Two Puerto Rico parrots inside of aqn aviary.
The chicks and eggs of birds raised in captivity are placed in the nests of wild birds to boost numbers. Credit: Lisa Faust

While the Rio Abajo forests experience less intense storms, they remain a challenge, especially for fledgling populations. That’s also true in Maricao, where reintroduction efforts were put on hold due to hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017. These storms also damaged the two aviaries, affecting populations there.

While Puerto Rico parrots have evolved in an environment that has always experienced hurricanes, these storms can have an outsized effect on today’s smaller populations.

“Historically, they were adapted to hurricanes, and they were able to survive and persist,” Faust said. But with small populations, “ can be devastating for a species.”

Climate change could create more concerns, Faust said. Her team’s modeling found that if tropical storms increase their intensity or frequency, all three populations will decrease.

Extirpated vulture returns to Bulgaria

A cinereous vulture stands among griffon vultures.

After reintroduction efforts, the endangered cinereous vulture has been brought back to Bulgaria where it had been extirpated since 1985. The vulture, also known as the black, monk or Eurasian black vulture (Aegypius monachus), has been declining since the 1800s and is globally classified as near threatened. Reintroduction efforts began in Bulgaria in 2015, where immature vultures were sent from Spain and European zoos to captive aviaries in Bulgaria. After acclimatizing, they were released into the wild. There are now two sites where the birds have been reintroduced. There is evidence that the reintroduced vultures are already breeding in the country.

Read the article in Biodiversity Data Journal.