Monitoring and Surveillance Projects - NYS Dept. of Environmental Conservation

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Monitoring and Surveillance Projects

General Fish and Wildlife Projects

Managing Data for Conservation Planning

photo of a cricket frog
Cricket Frog
Photo by USFWS

Conservation planning for "species of greatest conservation need" and their habitats can only be accomplished if information about the locations of these species and their status at each site is known, and this information is available in a consistent, accessible format. This project will ensure that data on more than 400 species are integrated into the New York Natural Heritage Program database and is available to a wide variety of conservation planning efforts.

Enhancing NY's Natural Heritage Database

The first line of defense in conserving Species of Greatest Conservation Need depends on our ability to know where these species occur. Currently, the only comprehensive database available to track the occurrence of rare species in the State is maintained by the New York Natural Heritage Program. This database tracks more than 430 animal species and provides a ready resource for land-use planners and decision makers throughout the State. This project will extend the capabilities of the Natural Heritage Program ensuring that they can continue to provide the information needed to make informed decisions about development that will provide the maximum benefit to the people of NY.

A Multi-species Wildlife Inventory Approach in the Upper and Lower Hudson River Basins

Data on population trends and habitat status are lacking for many Species of Greatest Conservation Need. Monitoring hundreds of species throughout the State of New York is a daunting challenge. This project will employ multi-species inventory techniques and the latest analytical techniques in an attempt to maximize data collection efficiency. Species groups to be targeted include freshwater frogs and toads, vernal pool salamanders, and marshland birds.

Rare Species Data Screening and Data Management

The New York Natural Heritage Program was created by the State Legislature to catalog, rank and track the plants, animals and natural communities of New York State, with an emphasis on rare species. A critical step to protecting these species is making sure that status and distribution information for these species are available to managers and regulators to enable informed decision making. This project will fund three main functions of the Heritage program: tracking the status and distribution of rare species, providing staff assistance in surveys for rare species and their habitats, and providing information on rare species to DEC program staff and external partners as part of the review process for development projects in New York State.

Mammal Projects

Determining the Status of New York's Tree Bats and the Significance of Wind-related Mortalities

The three northeastern species of migratory bats, (red, hoary, and silver-haired bats, known collectively as tree bats) are among the rarest bats in NY State. They are also being killed in troubling numbers at wind turbine sites throughout the East. Tree bats are very difficult to study, but we know that they are long-lived species that reproduce only once per year, suggesting the potential for serious population declines when faced with a threat of this magnitude. The objective of this study is to develop a long-term plan to track their population levels across the State using equipment that can detect and record their echolocation calls.

Bird Projects

New York's 2nd Breeding Bird Atlas

Breeding Bird Atlas book cover
Breeding Bird Atlas book cover

New York completed its first Breeding Bird Atlas during 1980-1985, and the second atlas during 2000-2005. State Wildlife Grant funding ensured completion of the second atlas, which documents the current distribution of breeding birds in New York State and quantifies changes in distributions of species between the two atlas periods. Atlas results are available in book and web-based formats for use by conservation biologists, planners, and the public. For more information, visit the Breeding Bird Atlas page.

Marshbird Conservation in Upstate NY

Baseline information on distribution and abundance is needed for many marsh-nesting species in New York State. Species of concern include pied-billed grebe, black tern, least bittern, American bittern, and king rail. This project will survey representative freshwater marsh habitats across the state during 2004-2006 to quantify abundance and habitat use of marsh birds, identify focus areas for marsh bird conservation, and develop a long-term monitoring program.

Boreal Forest Bird Assessment

Boreal forests are recognized as critical breeding grounds for a variety of bird species that occur nowhere else in New York State. Within the state there are two relatively distinct assemblages of bird species found in "low elevation" and "high elevation" boreal forest types, each of which includes a number of New York's "species of greatest conservation need." The overall goal of this project is to better quantify the status and habitat requirements of various low and high elevation boreal forest birds.

Status Assessment and Delineation of Essential Bald Eagle Habitats in the Upper Delaware River

photo of a bald eagle
Bald Eagle
Photo by USFWS

The upper Delaware River in New York is one of the most important bald eagle wintering areas in the Eastern U.S., with as many as 200 eagles estimated to use this area. Eagles also breed here, with six pairs confirmed nesting in 2003. While the presence of eagles attracts thousands of visitors to the area, development pressure is increasing also. This project would use field observations and satellite telemetry to identify critical habitats used by breeding and wintering eagles to help guide management and development of the upper Delaware River corridor to ensure its continued importance to this species.

Assessing Habitat Restoration Efforts in Sterling Forest State Park

Golden-winged warblers are one of the most rapidly declining bird species in New York. Interbreeding with blue-winged warblers is thought to be one of the causes of this decline. Golden-winged warblers also compete with blue-winged warblers for resources that both species use. This project will evaluate previous experimental forest management in Sterling Forest State Park that sought to create habitat conditions favorable to golden-winged warblers. It is hoped that this will lead to guidelines that forest managers can use to aid in restoration of this bird.

Population Monitoring and Critical Habitat Identification for Wintering Raptors

Short-eared owls and northern harriers are two raptor species that regularly winter in NY. Both have undergone population declines as a result of loss, degradation and fragmentation of the low elevation, open habitat that they prefer. That trend is expected to continue. This study will produce standardized protocols for monitoring wintering raptors in New York State and develop a model of key environmental features and habitat characteristics useful for their management and protection.

Monitoring Mountain Bird Communities in New York

The spruce-fir forest of the Adirondack and Catskill Mountains represents a habitat type that is rare throughout the Northeast and its distinctive bird communities reflect this rarity. Stressors such as acid rain, mercury contamination, and climate change have placed mountain birds at risk. This study will provide data to help establish a reliable baseline from which to estimate long-term trends in abundance and occupancy of high-altitude birds, aiding the development of sound conservation decisions.

Reptile and Amphibian Projects

Surveys of High Priority Amphibian and Reptile Species

As a group, a higher proportion of amphibian and reptile species have suffered significant declines than any other vertebrate groups in New York State. To date, much effort has been placed on documenting distribution of these endangered and threatened species. This project will focus on collecting information on the status of known populations, following standard protocols, so that conservation efforts can be prioritized on those in greatest need.

Reptile and Amphibian Species Inventory

Previous studies have identified many reptile and amphibian species in need of conservation, which is the first step in developing baseline information to measure changes in populations. This project will help complete surveys of other reptile and amphibian species that are listed as species of special concern by New York State. Completion of these surveys will produce a mechanism to assure continuity of surveys for this group of species, as gather well as data to determine the status of special concern reptile and amphibian species.

Distribution of Wetland-dependent Amphibians and Reptiles in Northern NY

Very sensitive to pollution, amphibians and reptiles are in general decline in most areas. This project will describe the community of these animals in northern New York. Many species have proven difficult to survey for and the northern portion of the state has received relatively little attention in previous efforts. Better information on the distribution of these species will significantly aid in their protection.

Reptile and Amphibian Mapping

New York DEC maintains a database containing some 70,000 observations of the more than 80 reptile and amphibian species found in the State. Most of this information was gathered prior to the availability of modern, computer-based mapping. This project attempts to examine the location descriptions contained in these records and to plot them on a digital map that will greatly increase our ability to utilize this important data set.

Invertebrate Projects

Karner Blue Butterfly Monitoring Project

To determine whether populations of Karner blue butterflies are large enough to be considered viable under state and federal recovery criteria, and to be sure that we are accurately detecting population trends, we need a practical and reliable method of counting Karner blue populations. The goal of this project is to evaluate alternative census methods to determine the most cost-effective to use.

Odonate Inventory

photo of a dragonfly
Photo by USFWS

There is a need for a comprehensive survey or inventory for odonates (dragonflies and damselflies) statewide. This project will document the current distribution of odonate species in New York State and direct more intensive sampling in selected habitats, areas with expected high odonate diversity, or habitats of rare species. The project will include general surveys conducted by volunteers as well as directed surveys that target specific species, habitats, or poorly known areas of the state.

Allegheny and Susquehanna Drainage Freshwater Mussel Surveys

The Allegheny River and Susquehanna River basins harbor a number of threatened and endangered freshwater mussel species, but distributions, population levels and trends are unknown. The goal of this project is to document the current distribution of all native freshwater mussel species in these river basins. Surveys will be performed in the main stems and tributaries of both rivers, up to the point where stream substrate, flow, depth, or other factors preclude supporting mussels.

Tiger Beetle Survey

There are 26 species or subspecies of tiger beetle reported from New York State. Of the 26 species, nine are considered globally rare or rare in New York State, while another five are thought to be uncommon in the state (Gordon 1939, New York Natural Heritage Program 2004.) Nearly all of the species of concern are found in habitats that have been heavily impacted by development or other deleterious factors. DEC will conduct status assessments for nine species (including one subspecies) of tiger beetles in New York State that will clarify the need for conservation actions in order to maintain these species.

Mayflies, Stoneflies and Caddisflies of Northern NY

This project will describe the community of mayflies, stoneflies and caddisflies in the Adirondack region. Little is known about these insects, which are a vital food source to fish, including the prized brook trout. A diverse array of these species is considered an indicator of water quality. This project will be the first comprehensive survey of these species across the North Country.

Inventory of Freshwater Mussels in Western New York

Freshwater mussels, a vital component of stream ecosystems, are among the most imperiled groups of animals in North America. New York State is home to about 40 species of mussels, but our understanding of their current status is poor, especially in the Lake Ontario watersheds. The objectives of this study are to improve our knowledge of mussel species distribution within the Southeast and Southwest Lake Ontario Basins and provide information that will support habitat management aimed at arresting their decline and ensuring their continued presence in the State.

Baseline Survey of Butterflies and Moths

New York has identified over 500 animal species of conservation concern. Fully 20% of these are butterflies and moths but even basic information to support effective management of most of these species is unavailable. This project aims to collect baseline information on the distribution and life history of a substantial proportion of these species. Researchers will compile museum records, reports, published literature, and unpublished observations, as well as perform targeted field surveys as appropriate.

Fish and Marine Projects

Conservation of Lesser Known Species of Fish

photo of a freshwater drum
Freshwater Drum
Photo by USFWS

This project involves review of DEC and New York State Museum fish records to identify information needs about the status of rare species. Findings will be used to plan new surveys that will eventually allow a complete assessment of the status and distribution of these "lesser known" freshwater fish species of New York State.

Horseshoe Crab Population Surveys

In recent years, apparent declines in shorebird abundance has triggered concern about the status of horseshoe crab populations. Objectives of this project are to design a system assessment and determine population trends.

Atlantic Sturgeon Ocean Abundance and Habitat Assessment

Atlantic Sturgeon stocks along the Atlantic Coast are at dangerously low numbers. The primary benefit of this project is to determine the relative abundance and habitat use of Atlantic Sturgeon in the near shore waters of the Atlantic Ocean off the south shore of Long Island. This information will be used to examine potential impacts of proposed energy projects.

Oswayo and Allegheny Survey of Fish and Habitat

photo of an American shad
American Shad
Photo by USFWS

Several rare fishes have historically inhabited the eastern-most waters of the Allegheny basin. Population status and habitat assessments are planned. After inventories are underway, some sampling will likely extend south of New York to find populations suitable for comparison to areas formerly inhabited here.

Status Assessment of Longear Sunfish and Development of Recovery Plan

The extremely limited area that this species still inhabits has been poorly defined, and critical habitats are unknown. Population size will be estimated and a strategy to improve the prospects for continued survival will be developed.

Note: A final report for this project is available. Follow the Important Links in the right column on this page.

Determining the Seasonal Occurrence of Whales in NY

photo of a humpback whale and a boat
Humpback Whale
Photo by NBII

Ship strikes are an important threat to whales. The high passage rate of shipping traffic through NY harbor means that the potential for strikes is significant there. Information about the seasonal occurrence of whales in New York waters is needed to develop management policies and reconcile the needs of shipping and whale conservation interests. This project aims to determine the seasons and times of day during which the risk for whale and ship interactions in the state's coastal waters is highest. It will do so by installing underwater devices that record whale sounds.

Assessment of Paddlefish Restoration in the Allegheny River System

Paddlefish, historically one of the New York's largest fish, were lost from the state a century ago. Stocking efforts aimed at restoring the fish to the Allegheny River and its tributaries began in 1998. Since they take about 8 years to mature, only now can we expect to see if any of those fish have been reproducing. This project will evaluate whether the stocking has been successful. It will use radio tracking and other methods to determine the relative abundance of juvenile and adult paddlefish, assess seasonal movement patterns and verify reproduction.