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    • July 18, 2019

    Tony McKinney is the Branch Chief for the Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and Information Technology divisions at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Carlsbad Fish and Wildlife Office (CFWO). His GIS Team, which includes Emilie Luciani and Ed Turner, maintains a link opens in new windowcontinually-updated geospatial database of federally threatened and endangered species occurrences within the Carlsbad office’s area of responsibility – which encompasses 12.9 million acres, 28 Congressional districts, and 29 federally recognized tribes across southern California.

    Rapid development occurring in southern California in the mid-1990s spurred federal, state, and local stakeholders to initiate planning programs to help conserve threatened and endangered species. These planning tools included federal Habitat Conservation Plans (HCP), and the state’s Natural Communities Conservation Program (NCCP). As the HCP/NCCP processes began, CFWO staff realized that tracking biogeographical observations of at-risk species would be essential to the planning process.

    To keep up with the ESA Section 10A(1)a survey reports that poured in, the CFWO initiated an in-house mapping program modeled after CNDDB, except observations are kept as individual records rather than combined into spatio-temporal summaries. The CFWO species observations database currently contains over 26,000 records, and is regularly shared with CNDDB, as well as numerous consultants, agencies, and other stakeholders. The CFWO database is used in conjunction with CNDDB to inform the HCP/NCCP planning process, which is on track to conserve areas of important biological diversity across 12,500 square miles in southern California over the next 50 to 75 years. Together, the federal and state databases are also used to help determine if native species warrant federal Endangered Species Act protection, and to delineate critical habitat for listed species.

    The GIS Team at the CFWO has nearly 100 years cumulative GIS experience, with nearly 75 of those years at the Carlsbad Office. They come from diverse backgrounds, and have worked on numerous conservation projects, including greater sage grouse listing, the San Diego Multiple Species Conservation Program, San Bernardino kangaroo rat critical habitat, Laysan albatross on Midway Atoll assessment, coastal California gnatcatcher critical habitat, and the Western Riverside Multiple Species Habitat Conservation Plan. CNDDB is indebted to Tony and his team for their continuing contributions to CNDDB. We look forward to growing interagency partnerships for the advancement of conservation throughout the state!

    Categories: Contributor Spotlight
    • July 15, 2019

    Ardeidae is a family of wading birds that includes herons, egrets, and bitterns. These birds are often characterized by their long bills, necks, and legs. They forage predominantly on aquatic animals including amphibians, fish, crustaceans, and mollusks. Additionally, some birds can be found foraging for small mammals, reptiles, and insects in grassy fields.

    When the breeding season arrives, most Ardeids, excluding bitterns, gather into colonies called rookeries or heronries. The males will begin nest building and displaying in attempt to attract a female. The birds will form monogamous pairs for the season and take turns incubating eggs, brooding chicks, and foraging. They can lay 2-7 eggs depending on the species. During feedings, nestlings compete for provisions brought in by the parents. In years when food is limited, competition among nestlings increases and can result in aggression and siblicide. Nestlings may also behave aggressively toward nestlings in adjacent nests.

    One of our very own Environmental Scientists has been volunteering with the Audubon Canyon Ranch link opens in new windowHeron and Egret Monitoring Project to assist in their effort to monitor Ardeid colonies in the Bay Area. At a snowy egret (SNEG, Egretta thula) and black-crowned night-heron (BCNH, Nycticorax nycticorax) rookery in a residential park in Fairfield, she monitors and records the heron behavior and nesting success on a weekly basis. The flexible branches of the nest trees and the high winds of Fairfield plus the aggressive nestling behavior result in numerous chicks falling from nests. The survivors get loaded into cat carriers by volunteers and are shuttled to link opens in new windowInternational Bird Rescue in hopes that they will recover and return to the rookery next year.

    California has seven native Ardeid species: great egret, snowy egret, great blue heron, black-crowned night-heron, green heron, American bittern, and least bittern. We have one naturalized species: the cattle egret, which is native to Africa. All these species, except for the green heron and cattle egret, are tracked by the CNDDB. Be sure to fill out an link opens in new windowOnline Field Survey Form if you come across a nest site!

    Collage of rookeries in trees and fledglings on the ground
    Top Left: One of the many trees used by the Fairfield rookery. The white birds are the SNEG. For every SNEG in the photo, there is likely a black and white BCNH adult or brown and white BCNH juvenile present but blending in with the tree. Top Right: Closer image of SNEG. Bottom Left: Fledglings under one of the nest trees – 3 SNEG and 1 BCNH. BCNH are known to have a high tolerance for disturbance as is evident in the proximity of the rookery to homes, traffic, and park-goers. Bottom Right: BCNH fledgling on park sidewalk.

    Categories: Education and Awareness, Taxon of the week
    • July 11, 2019

    Conservation Lecture Series Presents: Multiple Climate Stressors Push Kelp Forest Beyond Tipping Point in Northern California

    Please join our next Conservation Lecture Series talk that focuses on how extreme climatic events have recently impacted marine ecosystems around the world, including foundation species such as kelps. We quantify the rapid climate-driven catastrophic shift in 2014 from a previously robust kelp forest to unproductive urchin barrens in northern California. Bull kelp canopy was reduced by 93% along >350 km of coastline. Twenty years of kelp ecosystem surveys reveal the timing and magnitude of events, including mass mortalities of sea stars (2013-) and red abalone (2017-), extent of nearshore ocean warming (2014-2017), and the sea urchin population explosion (2015-). These stressors led to the unprecedented and long-lasting decline of the kelp forest and the ecosystem services is supports such as the red abalone and sea urchin fisheries.

    Science Institute logoDate: Thursday, July 18, 1:00 - 2:30 p.m.
    link opens in new windowRegister to view online.

    Questions? Contact: Whitney.Albright@wildlife.ca.gov

    Categories: Education and Awareness