Photo by: Bert de Tilly
The Canadian Wildlife Federation is kicking off the New Year with a new crop of projects to fund. In 2011, the Endangered Species Program is supporting an array of new species – from the tiny Olympia oyster to the gargantuan killer whale.
The Olympia oyster is the sole oyster native to British Columbia and in 2003; it was listed as of special concern due to over-harvesting, sediment loads and pollution. The Centre for Shellfish Research at Vancouver Island University and the World Fisheries Trust are joining forces to boost monitoring efforts for the oyster as well as learn more about the population’s biological and habitat requirements.
Assessed as of special concern in 2006, American eels in Nova Scotia have gone unnoticed for many years until now. Their Lake Ontario-Upper St. Lawrence comrades are at risk due to habitat alteration, dams, fishery harvest, fluctuation in ocean conditions and the effects of acid rain. The Bluenose Coastal Action Foundation will work to discover how Nova Scotian populations are fairing, as well as learning how their habitat affects their health.
One of the reasons behind the woodland caribou’s threatened status is that their population seems to be decreasing due to predation. Many calves don’t survive their first year of life due to being preyed upon by predators like wolves and black bears. Researchers at the University of Alberta’s biology department are working to reduce this threat during calving season. Read more about this project, here!
Lake Sturgeon in Saskatchewan
In the last century, the Saskatchewan River Watershed lake sturgeon numbers have dropped dramatically due to overfishing, habitat loss and fragmentation. Researchers from the Department of Biology at the University of Saskatchewan are studying the habitat preferences of young lake sturgeon.
Researchers of the Department of Zoology at the University of British Columbia are studying the environmental, biological and human factors that lead to interbreeding between the region’s native westslope cutthroat trout and the introduced rainbow trout. This will help researchers determine how best to manage at risk westslope cutthroat trout populations.
Eastern Ribbon Snake
The Eastern ribbon snake has been listed as threatened due primarily to insufficient knowledge of the species. The Mersey Tobeatic Research Institute is hoping to change all that in Nova Scotia by increasing our knowledge of the area occupied by the species as well as determining its habitat preferences during the winter months.
Using acoustic tags, researchers with the University of Lethbridge will track endangered lake sturgeon in the South Saskatchewan River to learn more about the fish’s distribution, seasonal habitat use, and critical habitat.
The Atlantic Canada Conservation Data Centre is conducting a survey for the pygmy snaketail dragonfly along the Restigouche River in New Brunswick and the St. Mary’s River in Nova Scotia. The species was listed as of special concern in 2008, but since adults are hard to find, researchers are reliant on their exuviae (the skin they shed when they hatch).
The endangered nooksack dace is threatened by extreme low flows in their habitat due to surface and groundwater extraction. Researchers at the University of British Columbia are studying the habitat needs of the nooksack dace to find out what kind of flow is needed to protect the species.
Approximately 40 per cent of freshwater turtles around the world have been listed by the IUCN as critically endangered, endangered or vulnerable. Learning every facet of their lives is critical if we are to save these reptiles. As such, researchers at Acadia University in Nova Scotia are studying the reproductive system of Canada’s Blanding’s turtle. They will research why there is such low fertility in the Nova Scotian population, how females determine fertilization, and what role territoriality plays in the reproduction system.
Nest predation is a leading threat to the survival of turtle young; as such, researchers are increasingly utilizing nest caging which ultimately reduces nest predation from 90 per cent to 10 per cent. What researchers haven’t tested is how nest caging affects hatchling survival. That is just what researchers will examine through a study by Laurentian University.
The northern resident killer whale population was deemed Threatened in 2001 due to their small population sizes, low reproductive rates, mysterious declines in numbers and human threats. The Gitga’at Land and Resource Stewardship Society and the North Shore Cetacean Society are working to identify critical habitat for Northern resident killer whales in Caamano Sound, British Columbia.
Western Painted Turtle
Due to human disturbances, the western painted turtle’s numbers are diminishing, leading assessment agencies to list it as at-risk. Thompson Rivers University is working to collect critical data about this reptile’s west coast habitat in the Arrow Lakes Reservoir in order to properly monitor the health of the population.
Hydropower and water management dams act as barriers to migrating fish. Fishways, meant to give fish a spot to pass through the barrier, have rarely been studied for their effectiveness. In 2005, a vertical slot fishway was installed on the Richelieu River in Quebec; it seemed to be effective in passing sturgeon and was designed to allow for entire fish communities to pass through. A Carleton University research project will test its effectiveness in this regard in order to establish design criteria for Canada’s fishways.
Recent research has found that certain commercial fisheries methods could result in considerable amounts of bycatch including an array of turtle species like snapping, painted, musk and map turtles due to the fact that the reptiles can’t breathe while netted. A Carleton University research project is working to modify the nets in order to drive down the number of turtles caught in freshwater fishing in eastern Ontario.
The St. Lawrence beluga whale was hunted from the 1600s to the mid 1900s, driving down their population to minimal numbers. As a result, they’ve been designated as threatened. Surviving belugas in the region have divided into various groups; however researchers are scratching their heads as to the purpose of this subdivision. Researchers at Saint Mary’s University are working to identify the factors that led to this subdivision as well as assessing how the structure affects their health.
Oregon Spotted Frog
With only three breeding populations left in Canada and 500 frogs keeping the species from extirpation, the Oregon spotted frog (Rana pretiosa) is Canada’s most at risk amphibian. Their status is due to the lack of breeding and rearing habitats suitable to the frog. Researchers at Simon Fraser University are working to determine which method of re-introduction is best for the species.