What the Georgia Department of Natural Resources is doing to help these threatened and endangered species.
Research efforts in the Conasauga River address habitat improvements, water quality and long term monitoring for the Conasauga logperch, Blue Shiner and Amber Darter. This work is funded by Georgia Department of Natural Resources and the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency. Local cooperators included The Nature Conservancy's Conasauga Field Office and the Conasauga River Alliance.
Research and Public Service activities in the Etowah River include the Amber Darter and the Cherokee Darter as focal species. These efforts are funded by Georgia DNR and the US Fish and Wildlife Service. DNR is funded to develop a Habitat Conservation Plan for the Etowah River basin. This will pro-actively address landscape development activities impinging upon imperiled species.
Conservation activities for the robust redhorse are ongoing. The range of wild robust redhorse includes populations in the Altamaha, Savannah and Pee Dee rivers. The two largest populations are found in the Oconee and Savannah Rivers. We are involved in long-term monitoring of spawning aggregations of robust redhorse in the Oconee and Savannah Rivers. We are also conducting research on robust redhorse introduced into the Ocmulgee River, above Juliette Dam. Research activities are funded by Georgia Power Company, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, and the US Fish and Wildlife Service. The robust redhorse conservation committee holds annual meetings to review research and conservation activities and suggest directions for new efforts. The web site for this is http://www.robustredhorse.com/ .
A technical advisory committee has been meeting since
the inception of the RRCC. A new group of state, federal, private, and
academic based biologists are forming a Technical Advisory group (TAG)
to address issues with conservation of robust redhorse in the Carolinas.
A GDNR herpetologist is responsible for a multitude of
tasks involving conservation of reptiles and amphibians, including education
and outreach, management, monitoring, research, policy and regulation
reforms, inventory, and public assistance.
We also try to change or influences policies of others
that are of conservation concern. For example, we have been working
with the various rattlesnake roundup officials to promote changes that
will lessen the exploitation of rattlesnakes and the animals that are
affected by collection techniques (such as tortoises that die from gassing
their burrows to flush-out snakes). We successfully convinced Fitzgerald
to abandon their rattlesnake roundup in favor of a wildlife friendly
Alligator Snapping Turtles were once harvested
in great numbers from Georgia to provide meat for turtle soup. Researchers
studied this impact on Flint River populations and found that they were
heavily impacted. Over the last several years, DNR has conducted surveys
in other river drainages in the state to evaluate their status.
Gopher Tortoise - one example: the DNR acquires quite a few tortoises of unknown origin each year (primarily through confiscation or finding individuals released outside of their natural range. We have established a colony for these tortoises at McDuffie Public Fishing Area, where the species used to occur naturally but has since disappeared. Researchers at Augusta State University are radio-tracking released tortoises at McDuffie to evaluate their site fidelity.
Indigo Snake - We have recently developed signage to post at public areas informing folks of the protected status of this species. Also, we have a student radio-tracking snakes to determine their warm-season activities and habitat usage, both of which are poorly understood. This should help us conduct warm-season surveys more effectively.
Bog Turtle - see example above, under "management"
Hellbender - We are assisting a student with a study on sperm and egg viability of this species. Throughout much of this species range, reproduction is almost non-existent. One site in Georgia has clearly not experienced that problem - reproduction is succeeding just fine. The researchers plan to compare sperm and egg characteristics of hellbenders from this Georgia site to animals from affected sites in hopes that something can be determined as the cause of failed reproduction elsewhere.
Gopher Frog - see example above, under "management"
Flatwoods Salamander - see example above, under "inventory"
Green Salamander - a new quarry expansion proposal on Pigeon Mountain was thought to possibly impact habitat of this species, though it had never been looked for there. We conducted surveys of this site and indeed found the species. This discovery may help stop a disturbance that would have certainly destroyed the species and its habitat there.
Since 1998, in cooperation with the Avian Research and Conservation Institute, GADNR has documented and studied over 101 STKI nests and fitted 22 birds with radio transmitters. Two birds banded in 2000 have been located in 2001 and 2002 on the wintering grounds in Brazil and after returning to the areas where they hatched. GADNR is coordinating efforts with SC and FL to develop a regional conservation and monitoring strategy for STKIs.
Painted Buntings: Georgia DNR conducted the citizen science project Painted Bunting Watch from 1998-2000. Volunteer participants observed their bird feeders twice weekly during May and June and reported their observations of painted buntings (PABU) and other birds. This survey helped GADNR learn more about buntings in suburban areas and made people aware of threats from cats and other predators as well as the nest parasite, the brown-headed cowbird. GADNR has also supported research by USGS and UGA researchers to understand the ecology of PABUs on Georgia's barrier islands.
In 2001, GADNR organized a meeting of managers, researchers,
and conservationists interested in reversing the declines of PABUs.
This meeting resulted in the South Atlantic Painted Bunting Initiative
(SAPABUCI). The goals of SAPABUCI are to raise awareness of the declining
status of painted bunting and to identify the causes and seek solutions
for these declines on both the breeding areas in the Southeast and
wintering habitats in south Florida and the Caribbean.
There are nearly 70 species of crayfishes known from the state of Georgia. Many of these are considered to be imperiled, especially those species that live in burrows away from streams. The Georgia Natural Heritage Program within the Georgia Department of Natural Resources is conducting a study to determine the ranges of several of these types of crayfishes. Two of the species, the Broad River burrowing crayfish (Distocambarus devexus) and the Piedmont blue burrower (Cambarus harti), are known from only two or three different places. As a result of our surveys, we have found new populations of both species. Both species still have very small ranges, but are probably under-represented in collections because they are so hard to find. Many times you have to dig out the burrow to determine if the animal is "home".
Freshwater mussels are one of the most imperiled groups of animals in North America. Georgia was historically home to nearly 100 different species. At least eight species that used to occur here are considered extinct and about 15 are considered to be in danger of extinction. The Georgia Natural Heritage Program is currently working on several projects concerning rare freshwater mussels in Georgia.
One of the reasons mussels are rare has to do with their complex life history. Juvenile mussels must go through a parasitic stage when their larvae (called glochidia) must attach to the gill or the fin of a fish to complete their life cycle. If the juvenile mussel is unable to "parasitize" the correct host fish or fishes, it will die. In order to help conserve mussels it is very important to determine which fish or fishes a mussel can use for its host. In many cases only a small group of fishes will work. Most of the projects we are working on with mussels are in collaboration with Dr. Paul Johnson of the Tennessee Aquarium Research Institute.
The Altamaha spinymussel (Elliptio spinosa) is a unique animal that only occurs in the Altamaha River basin in Georgia. We have recently completed surveys for this species to determine its current range and status. It appears to be very rare.
We are also studying aspects of its life history so we can possibly propagate it in captivity. As part of the same project we are studying the life history of the Purple Bankclimber (Elliptiodeus sloatianus). Again, we are attempting to determine life history information including which host fish the species needs.
Other researchers are studying the life history and distributions of the Shinyrayed Pocketbook, Finelined Pocketbook, and Coosa Moccasinshell.