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The University of Massachusetts Amherst

NE CASC Participates in 78th Annual Northeast Fish and Wildlife Conference

Friday, May 26, 2023
Acadia National Park, Maine - Credit: Kristi Rugg, NPS

A contingent of NE CASC team members recently joined approximately 500 natural resource managers, researchers and NGO staff for the 78th Annual Northeast Fish & Wildlife Conference, which was held from April 30th-May 2nd in Hershey, PA. A key event for the regional climate adaptation science community, the conference offered a variety of skill-building workshops, networking events, and more than 20 symposia or technical sessions featuring roughly 250 speakers.  NE CASC highlights at the conference included two presentations at separate symposia and a poster presentation. 

NE CASC Science Coordinator Michelle Staudinger participated in the symposium,  “Implementing Collaborative, Landscape-Scale Conservation in the Northeast,” which was co-organized by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Science Applications (SA) Program and the Northeast Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies Diversity Technical Committee (NEFWDTC).  Moderated by Donovan Drummey of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the symposium highlighted how the Service has worked with a variety of partners–including numerous state agencies, NGOs and NE CASC–to address threats and reverse declines among regional species of greatest conservation need at local and landscape scales. For her presentation, Staudinger outlined the NE CASC effort to synthesize climate change information and tools to support the 2025 revision of State Wildlife Action Plans in the Northeast.

More broadly, the symposium featured discussion of several useful conservation tools to emerge from partnerships involving the Service, including: 

Burgio and Staudinger also collaborated with a group of undergraduate interns on a poster that explored climate change impacts on regional species of greatest conservation need, especially those that rely on an extremely vulnerable habitat—vernal pools. Climate change projections indicate that the northeast will be subject to warmer temperatures and fewer–but more intense–precipitation events in the future. If these projected conditions become reality, vernal pools may dry out before dependent species, like blue-spotted salamanders and fairy shrimp, have had an opportunity to finish their breeding cycle. Additionally, other species that rely on them for water or food may need to find other sources of sustenance. The authors created this poster to illustrate the need for additional study of these species and help northeastern states identify research priorities for them while planning for the impending updates of their State Wildlife Action Plans.   

Finally, UMass Amherst Postdoctoral Researcher Jennifer Rogers presented findings from the NE CASC project, “A Framework for Protecting Aquatic Biodiversity in the Northeast Under Changing Climates,” with a talk on “Modeling Freshwater Mussel Biodiversity in New England Streams to support Management Decisions that consider Climate Change.” Coauthored by NE CASC Affiliated Investigators Graziella DiRenzo and Allison Roy, the presentation examined the plight of freshwater mussels, one of the most imperiled taxonomic groups worldwide, including in New England where over half of the 20 extant freshwater mussel species are imperiled. In this talk, Rogers addressed one of the biggest challenges for wildlife conservation, including freshwater mussels: understanding how to use recent advances in climate change modeling to inform conservation decisions by integrating projected changes in habitat with projected changes in species distributions. Rogers detailed how her NE CASC project team is using advanced statistical models to 1) understand how climate-affected variables (stream temperature, stream flow) will drive mussel biodiversity, and 2) estimate which assemblages across New England will be most impacted by climate change using climate change projections. She also summarized the team’s evaluation of different management approaches that could be used to offset some of the impacts of climate change on freshwater mussel occurrence. These results show that climate change impacts differ significantly between freshwater mussel species. The team’s next steps will involve assessing impacts to mussel biodiversity more holistically and investigating the effectiveness of additional management interventions. 

This conference report was provided by Donovan Drummey, Kevin Burgio, and Jennifer Rogers.