Conserve Wildlife Blog

November 23rd, 2016

First Bees Added to Endangered Species List.

WORLD IS EXPERIENCING A DECLINE IN POLLINATORS, NEW JERSEY IS NO EXCEPTION

By Kendall Miller

New Jersey is not exempt from the worldwide decline in pollinators. We face the challenge of protecting wildlife in a highly modified and populated landscape. But the fight is not without hope.

A milestone has been reached for wildlife conservation in Hawaii – and is a win for the world of conservation as a whole. This month, seven species of bees indigenous to the Hawaiian archipelago were added to the endangered species list and brought under federal protection. These are the first species of bees to be listed in the country.

Hylaeus assimulans is one of the seven species of yellow-faced bee to receive Endangered Species Act protection. Photo: John Kaia. Picture taken from Xerces Society.

Hylaeus assimulans is one of the seven species of yellow-faced bee to receive Endangered Species Act protection. (Photo: John Kaia. Picture taken from Xerces Society.)

Many of our native pollinators in the United States are on the decline, and New Jersey is no exception. Two pollinators from New Jersey – the monarch butterfly and the rusty patch bumble bee – have both been recommended for listing as well, and we could see their official listing the near future.

While a species being listed elicits feelings of dread and despair – instead it can be thought of as an opportunity and an impetus for action. The listing of these Hawaiian bees is exciting news for pollinator conservation, because these species are now brought under federal protection. Native pollinators, like these bees, are essential both for the functioning of their native ecosystems as well as human agriculture, so listing and protecting native pollinators benefits our very lives.


Hawaii and the Larger Picture

Native Hawaii wildlife and their habitats face an onslaught of challenges to their existence. Rapid habitat loss and urbanization of the islands have resulted in the blatant loss, fragmentation, and the degradation of habitats. Invasive nonnative species also outcompete and disrupt the natural dynamic of ecosystems. The list of threats is astonishingly long, and all have been brought to the island in some way by people.

Unfortunately, this is a common theme – the same type of challenges threaten pollinators across the globe.

A United Nations report published in February estimated that worldwide 40% of invertebrate pollinators face extinction – a startling fact since nearly 75% of our crops rely on pollinators in some way. The decline and/or total loss of almost half of our most important pollinators would have huge implications for agriculture – what we eat, what we drink and the clothes that we wear.

The listing of these species recognizes their importance and the imminence of the threats facing their existence. It brings to light the plight of pollinators as a whole and the need for their protection.
Listing species in the hopes that one day they may be taken off of that list. In New Jersey, we know the stories of the All-American comeback of our osprey, bald eagles and peregrine falcons. It is our hope that all rare wildlife can make the same comeback.

We can work to protect our pollinators in very real ways – even on the individual level. Everyone can be a steward to their environment with a little knowledge and compassion.


The Story of ‘Nalo Meli Maoli’ – Hawaii’s Native Bees

The bees of the Hawaiian archipelago have a unique story, but unfortunately their plight is all too familiar.

The Hawaiian islands are the most isolated island archipelago in the world, and because of this they have a unique natural history. With such little interchange of species, no other place has harbored the evolution of so many endemic species. Islands are fascinating places to examine the evolution of species. Like Darwin’s famed finches, where dozens of species descended from one common ancestor, all of which have adapted to fulfill a different niche – the bees of Hawaii tell a similar tale.

Only one type of bee made it to the island, a bee of the genus Hylaeus, commonly known as yellow-faced bees. From that original colonist arose 63 different endemic species of yellow-faced bees, all adapted to various lifestyles and habitats, from the wettest to the driest forests, alpine deserts all the way to the coast.

These species are important pollinators of many important trees and shrubs. The non-native European honey bee was introduced to the island and does visit these plants as well, yet they are known as nectar robbers. Their long tongues allow them to drink the flower’s nectar without coming into contact with the pollen. Thus they often do not contribute to pollination like the native species do.

Sophora chrysophylla, an indigenous Hawaiian flowering shrub in the pea and bean family, is an important component of the Hawaiian ecosystem. It is dependent on wild bees for reproduction. (Photo: Forest and Kim Starr via Flickr Creative Commons)

Sophora chrysophylla, an indigenous Hawaiian flowering shrub in the pea and bean family, is an important component of the Hawaiian ecosystem. It is dependent on wild bees for reproduction. (Photo: Forest and Kim Starr via Flickr Creative Commons)

Aside from a few exceptions, these bees are not found where people live. Once described as “ubiquitous” many can only be seen in certain locations like in the mountains where native habitat still remain. The colonization of Hawaii by people has lead to rapid changes which threatens the existence of many bees, and not to mention many other species of animals and plants on the island. Nine of the endemic bees have not been seen in 80 years and could very well be extinct.

Rats, cattle, goats, and pigs alter the vegetation of the landscape in ways that the bees cannot tolerate, and so they disappear from these areas. Even introduced earthworms have been changing soil chemistry in ways that are impacting the native ecosystems and these bees. The bees feed almost exclusively on native flowers, so where these disappear, so do they.

Competition and direct predation by introduced species like the yellow crazy ant and the Argentine ant have wiped out the bees in certain areas. Even an introduced species of foreign yellow-faced bee has wound up on the island, which could pose serious issues since it has the potential to outcompete the highly specialized indigenous bees. These and several other introduced species of insects have found their ways to the island – altering the natural ecosystem dynamic and spelling disaster for native flora and fauna. Due to weak regulations on plant imports, the continued introduction of invasive species is unavoidable.

Unfortunately this story is all too familiar – the rapid habitat loss, fragmentation, and degradation caused by humans is the number one cause of extinction of species, followed by invasive non-native species as the second leading cause. Yet all is not without hope – while many have been lost, some species have been brought back from the brink of extinction.


Learn more:
Feeling inspired? Contact us at kendall.miller@conservewildlifenj.org to learn how you can get involved with pollinator work, which includes habitat restoration, native plantings of pollinator gardens, education, and public events.

You can also learn more about how you can make a difference for pollinators at these sites:

Kendall Miller is a Project Coordinator and Education Assistant for Conserve Wildlife Foundation

November 21st, 2016

Duke Farms’ Tanya Sulikowski Honored for her Conservation Education

By Mara Cige

Tanya Sulikowski, 2016 Education Award Winner

Tanya Sulikowski, 2016 Education Award Winner

We had the pleasure of interviewing our 2016 Women & Wildlife Education honoree, Tanya Sulikowski, and are pleased to share some excerpts below.

As a Program Manager at Duke Farms, 2016 Women & Wildlife Education Award Winner Tanya Sulikowski works tirelessly to connect New Jersey’s people and wildlife. A champion in environmental education, she hosts hands-on creative projects that include bird banding and monitoring, as well as rain gardens and barrels just to name a few. However, Ms. Sulikowski considers her creation of the Teen Action and Leadership Opportunities for Nature program to be her greatest professional achievement because it inspires urban students to make lifestyle changes that incorporate their newly discovered love of nature. Her reach has extended statewide through her various roles within the Alliance for NJ Environmental Educators, where she currently serves as Vice President.

Join us to honor Tanya and the two other 2016 Women & Wildlife Award Winners on Wednesday, November 30th beginning at 6pm. Purchase events tickets and find more information.


CWF asked Tanya a few questions about what working in wildlife rehabilitation means to her:

 

What motivates you to get out of bed each morning and go to work?

It’s not much of a struggle to come to Duke Farms to work each day! I am surrounded by talented people who believe in their work, a beautiful landscape and work that I am passionate about – what more could a person want?

 

What is your favorite thing about your job?

 The “Teen Action and Leadership Opportunities for Nature” Program that we have created here at Duke Farms is what I am most proud of in my professional career. Inspiring young people from Plainfield to connect to the natural world is my greatest achievement. Some of my students now go hiking on their own, try to convince families to make sustainable and healthy changes in their lives and a few are even majoring in environmental studies and natural resource management in college! There’s no better reward for a teacher than to see her students be passionate about what they’ve learned.

 

What interests you the most about New Jersey’s wildlife?

I’ve done a lot of traveling to spectacular places and one of the most impressive things to me about New Jersey’s wildlife is the diversity. It’s so cool to be able to visit Cape May for massive monarch or bird migrations, to paddle off Sandy Hook with the harbor seals in the winter, to hike up to High Point in hopes of seeing a timber rattlesnake, and listen to the croaking of treefrogs in the Pinelands at night. Our home state has so many awesome nooks and crannies to explore.

 

Name one piece of advice you would give to someone who wants to change the world.

Find something you are passionate about and turn it into a career. Work never gets tiring if you love what you do every single day.

 

What is your favorite thing to do when you aren’t working?

 I really enjoy working and I find that my “time off” often overlaps with what I do. For example, I manage the largest organic community garden in the country and I spend a huge amount of time in my own backyard garden – growing our food and creating habitat with native plants. It’s so much fun to translate what I learn in my own life into our educational programs.


Please join us on Wednesday, November 30, 2016 from 6:00 – 8:30 p.m. at the Duke Farms’ Coach Barn to honor the contributions that Tanya Sulikowski, Martha Maxwell-Doyle, and Wendy Walsh have made to wildlife in New Jersey.

We are excited to recognize the leadership and inspiration they provide for those working to protect wildlife in New Jersey. Women & Wildlife will also celebrate the timeless and inspiring journeys of wildlife migration in New Jersey and beyond.

 

November 17th, 2016

Autumn in New Jersey: Why Do Trees Shed Their Leaves?

By Kendall Miller

It’s that time of year again. The trees around us, in our yards, on our streets, and in our forests are shedding their leaves with each gentle breeze or strong gust of wind. A dazzling display of colors drew tourists to gaze at our Northeast forests. After the brief but beautiful show, the leaves drift to the ground to litter the forest floor.

autumn-3

Our red, white, and black oaks, red and sugar maples, american beech, hickory, and cherries and other deciduous trees that dominate New Jersey forests all drop their broad leaves on cue. The few evergreen firs, spruce, and pines that we have hold on to their needle-leaves and contribute to the little greenery we have in the landscape until the following spring.

To us this simply signals another changing season in New Jersey. But to these trees, it offers a tactic for survival.

Shedding leaves presents a solution against unfavorable weather conditions. In temperate climates like New Jersey and the rest of the northeast, trees are dropping their leaves in preparation for a cold and dry winter. In other parts of the world, trees will drop their leaves at the onset of the dry season. They will also drop their leaves at other times of the year, like when they are experiencing a drought (have you ever noticed late summer and early fall leaf-dropping?) or other stresses like pests.

Deciduous is the term for trees that lose all of their leaves for a part of the year. The word translates to “to cut off a part that is not needed”. Evergreen, on the other hand, is a term to describe trees that are adorned in leaves all year round. In New Jersey the general distinction is usually broadleaf means deciduous and conifer means evergreen, however there are always exceptions to the rules. Tamarack or American larch are coniferous trees that drop all their needles after a drastic yellow showcase, and “live oaks” are a type of oak that remain evergreen even in cooler climates.

So why does shedding their leaves help deciduous trees to survive challenging times? In the temperate Northeast, the winter poses many challenges – it is cold, dry, and there is less sunlight to be soaked up. The broad leaves of deciduous trees are very good at photosynthesizing but poor at retaining water and are susceptible to freezing.

autumn-2

The strategy of deciduous trees is to photosynthesize rapidly with their efficient leaves during the warm, wet, and long days of the spring and summer, and to shed leaves and wait out the winter in a state of dormancy. Come spring, new leaves will sprout to replace the old. Growing a whole new set of leaves requires a lot of nutrients, so deciduous trees dominate in areas with rich soils.

So when the daylight shrinks, hormones in the tree send signals to begin the abscission, or cutting, process. First, the trees reabsorb the nutrients in their leaves. A cell layer, called an abscission layer, forms between the stem and the branch, effectively cutting the leaf off from the rest of the tree.
This leaves a fragile connection so that, eventually, a rainstorm or strong wind breaks the leaves from the trees to litter the floor. In forests, the leaf litter provides a valuable influx of nutrients into the soil. But maybe in your yard, it becomes an arduous autumn chore. Consider instead, leaving some leaves on the ground. Going over the leaves with a mower breaks crunch leaves into tiny pieces, acts as mulch, and can actually impede weed growth. Spend more time enjoy crisp, sunny fall days off by making the annual leaf drop work for you rather than against you.

Kendall Miller is a Project Coordinator and Education Assistant for Conserve Wildlife Foundation


LEARN MORE


 

November 14th, 2016

Barnegat Bay Partnership’s Martha Maxwell-Doyle Honored for her Inspiration in Coastal Restoration and Management

By Mara Cige

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Martha Maxwell-Doyle, 2016 Inspiration Award Winner

We had the pleasure of interviewing our 2016 Women & Wildlife Inspiration honoree, Martha Maxwell-Doyle, and are pleased to share some excerpts below.

Currently working at the Barnegat Bay Partnership as a project coordinator for estuary protection and restoration, Ms. Maxwell-Doyle’s years of experience at multiple national estuary programs has made it second nature for her to implement conservation and management plans. Her professional and personal partnerships help advance the ability to survey, restore, and monitor coastal communities such as the Barnegat Bay shorelines.

Ms. Maxwell-Doyle has gained a reputation as always being available for guidance and advice, especially for young women new to the environmental and wildlife field. Her enthusiasm for life and the environment drives her to do as much as possible to repair New Jersey’s wildlife habitats while teaching others that a difference can be made. With over three decades of dedication to resource management, hazardous materials, and environmental protection, Martha Maxwell-Doyle has proved to be a powerful force behind habitat restoration and protection.

Join us to honor Martha and the two other 2016 Women & Wildlife Award Winners at Duke Farms on Wednesday, November 30th beginning at 6 pm. Purchase events tickets and find more information.


CWF asked Martha a few questions about what working in wildlife rehabilitation means to her:

 

What is your favorite thing about your job?

The variety of our work. As one of 28 National Estuary Program focus areas established under the Clean Water Act, we have a comprehensive conservation management plan for Barnegat Bay that looks at all of our natural resources in a holistic ecological manner. That affords us many opportunities on a professional level. Over the last decade I have been able to concentrate my efforts on looking at the impact of climate change on our systems and to develop an estuarine-wide assessment of our coastal wetlands. I love our wetlands for what they do not only for the incredible habitat they provide and the critical role they play for water quality but also how they protect our coastal communities. It’s important that we continue to educate the public about how critical and imperiled these wetlands system are and we can do to be more resilient into the future.

 

Name one thing you can’t live without.

Cedar water (Pine Barrens rivers). I was born and raised on the Mullica River and no matter where I travel the Mullica will also be home to me. Being on the water brings great peace and happiness for me.

 

Do you have a New Jersey wildlife species that you like best?

Brook trout. Why? Because they are native and fly-fishing for them (and other species of trout and salmon) take you to amazing places and people. Also dragonflies because they eat greenhead and horseflies out on the marsh!

 

Name one piece of advice you would give to someone who wants to change the world.

Start local and continue to believe in what you want to do and be. It might take time and some creativity but life is long and each “journey” you take career wise can take you one step closer to your ultimate goal. Be patient and thoughtful.

 

What do you find most challenging about your profession?

Politics, in that with every election cycle priorities can change – and our natural systems don’t care about political cycles.

 

What is your favorite thing to do when you aren’t working?

I love doing anything outdoors; fly-fishing, water and snow skiing, bicycling, boating and running/swimming our Labrador Retriever, “Bear”.


Please join us on Wednesday November 30, 2016 from 6:00 – 8:30 p.m. at the Duke Farms’ Coach Barn to honor the contributions that Martha Maxwell-Doyle, Wendy Walsh, and Tanya Sulikowski have made to wildlife in New Jersey.

We are excited to recognize the leadership and inspiration they provide for those working to protect wildlife in New Jersey. Women & Wildlife will also celebrate the timeless and inspiring journeys of wildlife migration in New Jersey and beyond.

 

November 7th, 2016

US Biologist Wendy Walsh Honored for her Conservation Leadership

By Mara Cige

wendy_walsh

Wendy Walsh, 2016 Leadership Award Winner

As a Senior Fish and Wildlife Biologist at the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, 2016 Women & Wildlife Leadership Award Winner  Wendy Walsh has proven herself invaluable in the endangered species field for her work with wildlife such as the piping plover, swamp pink, and seabeach amaranth. Her most notable work is with the red knot. Ms. Walsh took the species lead in the middle of the federal listing process. Her tireless efforts coordinating, analyzing and interpreting data, particularly detailing the effects of changing climate on these long-distance migrant shorebirds has made her work widely acclaimed as the final rule. From biology to policy, she has an uncanny ability to grasp important information and translate it for any species she finds herself working with. She has created partnerships with additional organizations to accelerate conservation efforts. In such collaborations, Ms. Walsh’s open-mindedness to others’ expertise makes for effective planning and implementation of the vision she has to one day recover all threatened and endangered species.

Join us to honor Wendy and the two other 2016 Women & Wildlife Award Winners on Wednesday, November 30th beginning at 6pm. Purchase events tickets and find more information.


CWF asked Wendy a few questions about what working in wildlife rehabilitation means to her:

 

What motivates you to get out of bed each morning and go to work?

“Engagement with the work. Of course there are those mundane tasks we all have, but in general I find my work highly engaging. Sometimes when I’m at home, I’ll think of some new resource or approach to a conservation problem I’ve been working on — then I can’t wait to bring that idea to the office and try to apply it. When it works, my job can also be very rewarding.”

 

What is your favorite thing about your job?

“I love that I’m constantly learning something new. Over the years, I’ve had the chance to learn about and observe so many species, and I’ve had the chance to really get to know a few in particular — piping plovers, seabeach amaranth, bog turtles, swamp pink, and red knots. And I’ve had the opportunity to work on such a wide range of issues — utility lines, transportation, mitigation, stormwater, beach nourishment, bird collision, volunteer programs, restoration, fishery management, listing, and most recently aquaculture. I’m very fortunate to have a job where there is always a new learning opportunity on the horizon.”

 

Do you have a New Jersey wildlife species that you like best? Why?

“From a non-scientific point of view, I love watching dragonflies and wading birds with my kids, and taking the family to count and tag horseshoe crabs. But professionally, I’m partial to the beach species I’ve worked on — piping plovers, red knots, seabeach amaranth. I enjoy the beach ecosystem, and I feel a responsibility to these beach-dependent species that face so many challenges along New Jersey’s human-dominated coast.”

 

What interests you the most about New Jersey’s wildlife?

“I’m fascinated at the contrast between New Jersey’s really remarkable habitats and ecosystems in the context of our equally remarkable human population density. Generations of pioneering conservationists from past decades have allowed our State’s wildlife to persist even with so many people. I view our generation — and my kids’ — as stewards of that conservation legacy.”

 

 What is your favorite thing to do when you aren’t working?

“I love spending time with my family, such as taking trips with my husband, Mac, and two daughters, as well as time with extended family — Mom, brothers, cousins. I enjoy working with my kids’ Girls Scout troops and helping at their schools.”


Please join us on Wednesday November 30, 2016 from 6:00 – 8:30 p.m. at the Duke Farms’ Coach Barn to honor the contributions that Wendy Walsh, Martha Maxwell-Doyle, and Tanya Sulikowski have made to wildlife in New Jersey.

We are excited to recognize the leadership and inspiration they provide for those working to protect wildlife in New Jersey. Women & Wildlife will also celebrate the timeless and inspiring journeys of wildlife migration in New Jersey and beyond.

 

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