By Jerika Bradford
Can we get a cheer, or what? CWF’s Endangered Species Fund is back in action. And we’re pretty excited to announce that we have eight exciting conservation projects on the go across Canada! Keep reading to learn about the species we’re working to conserve.
Steller Sea Lion
Unfortunately, the coasts of Victoria, B.C. which steller sea lions call home is also home to fishing industries. CWF has supported Dr. Martin Haulena and Wendy Szaniszlo of the Vancouver Aquarium’s Sea Lion Entanglement Study since 2013 in order to provide data on the type and frequency of entanglements in fishing and marine gear or debris. Now we’re moving onto the second phase of our research. We are collaborating with a team of biologists from Alaska to identify individual sea lions in order to verify their gender and age. We’ll also be able to move forward on exciting technological advancements for reducing the risk of entanglements in sea lions. We’ll be disentangling at least six sea lions and sending the debris that they were caught up in over to the WSPA and PEG. These organizations will then start to develop manufacturing solutions to reduce entanglement threats for sea lions and other marine mammals. Read more about the success we’ve already had for the stellar sea lion!
Did you know there were once five known spawning stocks of striped bass in Canada? Now there are only three, resulting in its current listing as Endangered in the St. Lawrence River and Bay of Fundy and as of Special Concern in the Southern Gulf of St. Lawrence. Even though research efforts have been focused on the three known spawning locations, research has yet to be conducted along the eastern shore of Nova Scotia where striped bass have also been known to spawn. With CWF’s help, the Department of Biology at Acadia University will further investigate a previously undocumented aggregation of striped bass in the Mira River in Cape Breton. The goal is to identify their biological characteristics, as well as to tag and monitor other possible spawning sites, overwintering locations, seasonal movements and fidelity to the Mira River. Data collected will be used to provide crucial conservation management decisions to the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada in order to maintain necessary population levels. (Photo: DFO)
With CWF’s help in 2012, Dr. Thiemann, Dr. Obbard and Brandon Laforest of York University were able to able to collect valuable tissue and biological samples from 35 polar bears to determine whether or not the polar bears were adapting their eating patterns as sea ice levels continues to diminish. Not only this, but we are also able to successfully tag 10 GPS collars on adult female bears which will collect their movements, habitat use and population dynamics. Our plan for 2014? We’re now analyzing the data collected to continue examining the polar bears’ diets in the southern portion of Hudson Bay and James Bay. Data collected will predict future shifts in diet and body condition and help with the polar bear recovery plan.
Although the wood turtle has been spotted along the Pollet River, Little River and Halls Creek in New Brunswick, there isn’t currently a lot of information on this reptile along the Petitcodia watershed in Moncton. Because little is known, CWF and Petitcodiac Watershed Wood Turtle Stewardship are working together to collect some much needed data on the wood turtle. Once assessed, a detail annual report of the turtle will be shared with the provincial and federal species at risk biologists and working groups to help put together a plan for further action.
St. Lawrence Beluga
The St. Lawrence beluga’s recovery is being threatened with high rates of cancer and reduced reproductive performance. CWF and Dr. Timothy Frasier of Saint Mary’s University have teamed up to analyze the p53 gene – the most important gene involved in cancer, which also has a strong influence on reproductive success. To do this we are going to need to identify the role that genetic factors play in cancer rates and reproductive performance. After which, we will identify if genetic factors are indeed a threat to the population’s recovery. This information is necessary for identifying what recovery rates are possible for this population in order to implement an effective plan to save this subspecies.
Blanding’s Turtle & Eastern Ribbonsnake
Two of Nova Scotia’s wetland reptile species are at risk: blanding’s turtle and Eastern ribbonsnake. With CWF’s help, Jeffie McNeail of Mersey Tobeatic Research Institute (MTRI) is going to fill in the knowledge gaps of both species in order to implement effective recovery strategies. In order to successfully accomplish this, we must identify the Blanding’s turtle’s seasonal habitat and seek out new sighting reports of ribbonsnakes since this reptile is often isolated and hard to find. By doing so, we will be able to conduct surveys of these reptiles as we find them and collect some much needed data.
Western Tiger Salamander
As a top predator in the fishless wetlands, the Western tiger salamander plays an important role that directly influences the biodiversity and productivity of these ecosystems. CWF has teamed up with the University of Alberta’s Kyle Welsh and Cindy Paszkowski to investigate the salamander’s habitat use in the Aspen Parkland. They will collect data at potential breeding sites to look into the soil composition of the area as well as any disturbance to the soil gradient. This will help predict the western tiger salamander’s presence at new potential wetlands. (Photo: Carla Isabel Ribeiro)
Stay tuned for more information on these exciting project!