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First Bees Added to Endangered Species List.

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2016

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

US Biologist Wendy Walsh Honored for her Conservation Leadership

Monday, November 7th, 2016

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.

 

Volunteers and biologists add the next oyster reef to Dyers Cove

Thursday, October 6th, 2016

Team works through threat of downpour to strengthen Delaware Bay’s resiliency and ecology

By Emily Hofmann, Project Coordinator

 

Although the weather was on the brink of being rainy and bleak, that did not stop a team of dedicated biologists and volunteers from building an oyster reef on the Delaware Bayshore this past Saturday. Committed volunteers and young people braved the weather to work alongside American Littoral Society and Conserve Wildlife Foundation to build a near-shore oyster reef at Dyers Cove, at the end of Dyers Creek Road in Newport, Cumberland County, New Jersey.

 

oyster-reef-2

This reef – like the one at South Reeds Beach – was built to protect restoration work done after Hurricane Sandy and provide habitat. Constructed to prevent sand loss from wind-driven waves and create calmer water for spawning horseshoe crabs, this is the third of five such reefs that have been built by the Littoral Society and CWF. The conservation organizations will continue to monitor whether the reef breakwaters help reduce beach erosion and create calmer water for spawning horseshoe crabs.

 

Due to the heavy rain over the course of the week, the conditions were not ideal. Low-tide never went below waist deep, so it was hard to construct the reef accordingly. But that did not stop the team!oyster-reef-build_5

 

“Every oyster reef we’ve built so far on the Delaware Bay incorporated a different restoration strategy. We have had to adapt new strategies with what has worked best in the past and with what will realistically work based on site conditions. By blending the successes from the previous reefs with innovative approaches, we have been able to construct three reefs to date,” said Capt. Al Modjeski, Habitat Restoration Program Director for the American Littoral Society.

 

The bayshore beaches need restoration and improved resiliency so that horseshoe crabs have proper breeding grounds. Crab eggs feed migratory shorebirds, like the Red Knot, which stops in New Jersey each spring on its long journey from South America to the Arctic Circle. The Red Knot and other shorebirds help bring $11 million in tourist dollars to New Jersey’s Delaware Bayshore region each year.

 

“New Jersey’s Delaware Bayshore hosts an annual wildlife spectacle of global significance – the time-honored migration of Red Knots to reach the eggs of these ancient horseshoe crabs,” said David Wheeler, Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey Executive Director. “Volunteer projects like this help connect the people of New Jersey with these endangered shorebirds and the largest population of horseshoe crabs in the world.”

 

“Originally, this event was a bare-bones volunteer effort of placing shell bags off the Dyers Cove eastern beach,” said Capt. Al. “But thanks to a donation from Betancourt, Van Hemmen, Greco & Kenyon, we will have a ‘shell-a-bration’ that celebrates the ecology and community of the Delaware Bayshore.”

oyster-reef

In 2015, over 130 volunteers and veterans built an oyster reef at South Reeds Beach in the first annual Shell-a-Bration. That same year, Veterans Day on the Bay dedicated the reef to all veterans and highlighted veteran involvement in the effort to restore New Jersey’s Delaware Bayshore. The second annual Shell-a-Bration, held in April 2016, saw a handful of dedicated volunteers brave a blizzard to build a reef at Moore’s Beach. The third annual Shell-Bration will be held this coming Spring 2017.

 

“There are many strategies to defend our Delaware Bayshore, but one of the best and most productive are these oyster reefs,” stated Dr. Larry Niles, a biologist with the American Littoral Society and Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey. “They not only replicate a lost but important habitat on Delaware Bay – reefs once covered much of the bayshore – but they provide just enough protection to make a difference in how long our beaches persist against the unrelenting forces of nature. In a way, we are fighting nature with nature.”

oyster-reef-4

The projects are being funded by National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) through their Hurricane Sandy Coastal Resiliency Grants Program, and are being developed in partnership with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife.

 

Emily Hofmann is a project coordinator for Conserve Wildlife Foundation


LEARN MORE


 

 

Gov. Kean, Biologists Enliven Premiere for James Fiorentino Traveling Art Exhibit at D&R Greenway Land Trust

Wednesday, October 5th, 2016
Over 200 attend kickoff for three-year art exhibit scheduled for venues across New Jersey and New York

This weekend the nonprofit Conserve Wildlife Foundation attracted over 200 art and wildlife enthusiasts to the premiere showing of their Rare Wildlife Revealed: The James Fiorentino Traveling Art Exhibition at D&R Greenway Land Trust in Princeton.

More than 200 supporters, including Governor Tom Kean (and four of our Species on the Edge Art & Essay Contest winners), attended our Opening Reception for the premiere exhibition of Rare Wildlife Revealed: The James Fiorentino Traveling Art Exhibition at D&R Greenway Land Trust on September 30th.

More than 200 supporters, including Governor Tom Kean (and four of our Species on the Edge Art & Essay Contest winners), attended our Opening Reception for the premiere exhibition of Rare Wildlife Revealed: The James Fiorentino Traveling Art Exhibition at D&R Greenway Land Trust on September 30th.

Former Gov. Tom Kean headlined the program, along with the nationally recognized artist Mr. Fiorentino, Conserve Wildlife Foundation (CWF) executive director David Wheeler, and D&R Greenway president & CEO Linda Mead. CWF field biologists were also present to discuss their innovative work protecting and restoring the region’s vulnerable wildlife species, many species of which were featured in Mr. Fiorentino’s paintings, as well as a live peregrine falcon, the fastest animal on earth, displayed by Mercer County Wildlife.

The event also honored several 5th-grade winners of the statewide Species on the Edge Art and Essay Contest, who were congratulated by the former Governor and Mr. Fiorentino before a cheering audience to conclude the program.

Crowd gathered at the art opening reception at D&R Greenway.

Crowd gathered at the art opening reception at D&R Greenway.

Mr. Fiorentino has painted 25 stunning watercolor images of at-risk wildlife species from New Jersey for this exhibition, from the bobcat and bald eagle to the Pine Barrens tree frog and little brown bat. The exhibition will travel around New Jersey and the Northeast over the next three years.

At 15, Mr. Fiorentino became the youngest artist to be featured in the National Baseball Hall of Fame with paintings of baseball legends like Reggie Jackson, Cal Ripken Jr. and Ted Williams; his sports art has since graced national magazines and landed him in interviews with ABC World News Tonight and countless other news studios. Now 39, Fiorentino’s Conserve Wildlife Foundation exhibit is being hosted at D&R Greenway through October 14.

“Renowned as one of the best sports artists in the country, Jim’s works hang in major museums,” says Governor Kean, who met the artist while serving as president of Drew University—Fiorentino was a student there in the 1990s, when his sports figures started receiving national attention. He was featured on ABC World News and in The New York Times. “In recent years he has turned to wildlife. Jim has created an amazing body of work… Many of the creatures he paints are endangered, and Jim celebrates their uniqueness and beauty.”

Fiorentino’s realistic paintings depict some of the state’s most endangered and vulnerable species. Among other venues, the exhibition will be shown at Salmagundi Club at 47 Fifth Avenue in New York next spring.

“Mr. Fiorentino’s incredibly evocative artwork inspires viewers by reconnecting them with the natural world all around us,” says Conserve Wildlife Foundation executive director and wildlife author David Wheeler. “His watercolor paintings help to educate and engage viewers about the precipitous declines that many of these vulnerable wildlife species have suffered, and helps us bring attention to the very tangible steps that people can take to save these species.”

Gov. Kean and Wheeler wrote the foreword and introduction, respectively, for the art exhibition hardcover book accompanying the exhibition. Through October, sales of the original paintings, limited edition digital prints, the exhibition book, and wildlife merchandise will benefit Conserve Wildlife Foundation and D&R Greenway Land Trust.

“The subject of disappearing New Jersey wildlife speaks directly to the work that we do to protect habitats,” says D&R Greenway President & CEO Linda Mead. “As an admirer of James Fiorentino’s artistic talent, I am thrilled that we were selected as the premiere venue for this exhibition.”

Fiorentino started painting animals when he was 10, and he later became a trustee for the Raptor Trust in Millington, N.J.

“We rehabilitate 4,000 wild birds a year and release about half that number,” says Fiorentino. “These wild birds have had a tremendous influence on me. I enjoy getting close to birds of prey, and it brought me back to nature art.” Before going back to his studio to paint the details, Fiorentino sketches the animals up close, sometimes holding them, taking in their details.

His two young sons enjoy being in nature, the oldest son joining his father to draw wildlife, especially butterflies—proving that humans, too, benefit from having wildlife in their midst. “I am awed by what we see in our own backyard: the Eastern box turtle, great horned owl, pileated woodpeckers, foxes, hawks and butterflies,” says Fiorentino. “It’s an amazing backyard ecosystem.”

Eastern Box Turtle by James Fiorentino.

Eastern Box Turtle by James Fiorentino.

Rare Wildlife Revealed: The James Fiorentino Traveling Art Exhibition is sponsored by Omni Distribution, LLC, Flying Fish Brewing Company, Merrill G. & Emita Hastings Foundation, Studio 7 Fine Art Gallery, and Somerset Patriots.

Conserve Wildlife Foundation has been a long-time partner with D&R Greenway, exhibiting our Species on the Edge fifth-grade art and essay contest winners annually in D&R Greenway’s Olivia Rainbow Gallery. This year, the fifth graders art will be exhibited simultaneously with the Fiorentino exhibit.


For more information on James Fiorentino, please visit www.JamesFiorentino.com.
To learn more about CWF, please visit www.ConserveWildlifeNJ.org.


Digital photos from the event are available upon request, as are high-resolution images of the original Fiorentino artwork.

Kids are Back in School – but Their Summer Wildlife Lessons Endure!

Thursday, September 29th, 2016
Conserve Wildlife Foundation brought three conservation-themed summer learning experiences to the New Jersey coast.

By: Kendall Miller

I went back to “camp” this summer, seeing schoolkids learn first-hand about wildlife and what biologists do. CWF offered three summer learning experiences for the first time, each with a different theme, content, and location.

Observing the kids’ excitement and enthusiasm for nature was uplifting, and I was also impressed with how knowledgeable they all were. Offering hands-on opportunities – to learn about wildlife while experiencing these habitats – is so important in fostering an appreciation in the younger generations.

“Education is a major goal of CWF’s mission. Through project-based, experiential learning, we hope that camps like these leave impressions with children,” said CWF Director of Education Stephanie DAlessio, who developed the new program. “While we are out having fun, we are also learning about the importance of protecting and preserving wildlife and their habitats in New Jersey.”

This summer was a great start, and CWF is excited for the years to come!

Bayshore Adventure at Leonardo Marina
Seining, special wildlife guests and sandcastles along the Raritan Bayshore!

Located in the harbor, across from Sandy Hook, noisy terns and gulls fight over their catches as kids arrive in the morning to spend the part of their day learning about the bayshore environment. Sunny, sand-filled learning about marine and coastal wildlife and habitats, seining for coastal creatures, mini-science activities and special guests were balanced with a healthy dose of wiffleball games and sandcastle-building contests.

Kids met biologist and beach nesting bird manager Todd Pover. He talked about - of course - the piping plover, and issues with conserving threatened and endangered beach nesting birds.

Kids met biologist and beach nesting bird manager Todd Pover. He talked about – of course – the piping plover, and issues with conserving threatened and endangered beach nesting birds.

NJ State Park police officer Karl Mott and K9 Kelly, a police dog who finds lost cellphones, wallets, and even people. Campers were able to see her in action and participate in hiding drills.

NJ State Park police officer Karl Mott and K9 Kelly, a police dog who finds lost cellphones, wallets, and even people. Campers were able to see her in action and participate in hiding drills.

Wildlife Explorer Program at Duke Farms
Raptors, art and orchids on a North Jersey nature oasis!

Set in the lovely Duke Farms in Hillsborough, every day of this week-long camp was a new and exciting experience featuring different types of wildlife! Kids spent time exploring the grounds at Duke, played games and explored their creativity through art projects alongside famed artist James Fiorentino, met real life biologists and best of all – got up close and personal with all kinds of raptors (like the red-tailed hawk below), amphibians and reptiles. These memorable experiences will hopefully cement in their minds the importance of being stewards to their environment.

Campers explored the Orchid Range and saw a collection of plants from all over the world.

Campers explored the Orchid Range and saw a collection of plants from all over the world.

Bill Streeter of Delaware Valley Raptor Center visited to talk about amazing birds of prey, bringing with him their resident educational birds. Campers sat in awe of these raptors like this red-tailed hawk.

Bill Streeter of Delaware Valley Raptor Center visited to talk about amazing birds of prey, bringing with him their resident educational birds. Campers sat in awe of these raptors like this red-tailed hawk.

Beach.Birds.Biology
A day afield with a beach nesting birds biologist!

Shorebird biologists know the importance of educating people about the plight of beach nesting birds in New Jersey, who rely on the beaches that people flock to in the summertime. So on three different occasions, parents signed their kids up to spend a day on the beach learning about these birds with CWF biologist, Emily Heiser – like the piping plover, American oystercatcher, black skimmer and least tern. Kids got to practice being wildlife biologists. They used spotting scopes to read tags on decoy birds and searched for camouflaged eggs in the sand. The day was also filled with games, beach scavenger hunts, and a fun poster drawing project to be put on display.

Campers spot some plovers and oystercatchers feeding in vernal pools along the inlet at Barnegat Light.

Campers spot some plovers and oystercatchers feeding in vernal pools along the inlet at Barnegat Light.

After learning about the plight of beach nesting birds, the kids got creative by drawing signs to be posted near nesting and feeding sites.

After learning about the plight of beach nesting birds, the kids got creative by drawing signs to be posted near nesting and feeding sites.


For more information about these educational programs, please visit our website at www.ConserveWildlifeNJ.org , or contact our  Director of Education Stephanie DAlessio at (609) 292-9451.


Kendall Miller is a Program Coordinator at Conserve Wildlife Foundation.

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