Got Nature? Blog

Help The Hellbender PosterThe eastern hellbender is a large, fully aquatic salamander that requires cool, well-oxygenated rivers and streams. Because they require high-quality water and habitat, they are thought to be indicators of healthy stream ecosystems. While individuals may live up to 29 years, possibly longer, many populations of this unique salamander are in decline across their geographic range. It is the largest salamander in North America, found in and around rivers and streams in 17 states from New York to Missouri. Many hellbender populations are in decline within their geographic range. This publication provides information on identifying and preserving this important aquatic animal. You can find Help the Hellbender, FNR-536-W, as well as other great resources that can be found at the-education-store.com.

Resources:
How Anglers and Paddlers Can Help the Hellbender, The Education Store
Hellbender ID, The Education Store
Improving Water Quality by Protecting Sinkholes on Your Property, The Education Store
Improving Water Quality at Your Livestock Operation, The Education Store
Healthy Water, Happy Home – Lesson Plan, The Education Store

Nick Burgmeier, Research Biologist and Extension Wildlife Specialist
Purdue Department of Forestry and Natural Resources

Dr. Rod Williams, Associate Head of Extension and Associate Professor of Wildlife Science
Purdue Department of Forestry and Natural Resources


The Eastern hellbenders are the largest salamander in North America and have survived unchanged for nearly 2 million years. Hellbender populations are declining across their range, from Missouri to New York. This decline is likely caused by human influences such as habitat degradation and destruction. Many states are developing conservation programs to help the hellbender. To find out what you can do visit helpthehellbender.org.

Resources:
How Anglers and Paddlers Can Help the Hellbender, The Education Store
Hellbender ID, The Education Store
Improving Water Quality by Protecting Sinkholes on Your Property, The Education Store
Improving Water Quality at Your Livestock Operation, The Education Store
Healthy Water, Happy Home – Lesson Plan, The Education Store

Nick Burgmeier, Project Coordinator, Research Biologist & Wildlife Extension Specialist
Purdue Department of Forestry and Natural Resources

Dr. Rod Williams, Associate Head of Extension and Associate Professor of Wildlife Science
Purdue Department of Forestry and Natural Resources


Posted on October 5th, 2016 in Aquaculture/Fish, Aquatic/Aquaculture Resources | Comments Off on Mitchell T Zischke

buoy2What happens when you take water buoys and pair them with Twitter? That is the question that spurred the creation of the twitter account @TwoYellowBuoys, a twitter feed that shares live data collected by these two buoys on Lake Michigan.

Data from the buoys is crucial and continues to help boasters, anglers, or paddlers, make decisions about their personal safety, as the buoys provide them with a way of assessing the conditions for the day.

To see the full article and learn more, visit the IISG blog here.

Resources:
Using Buoy Data to Teach about Lake Michigan Conditions and Current Issues, Got Nature?
New Buoy Offers Real-Time Lake Michigan Data in Indiana, Got Nature?
Meet the buoys of summer who help Purdue and Illinois study Lake Michigan: BTN LiveBIG, BTN

Carolyn Foley, Assistant Research Coordinator
Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant (IISG) & Purdue Forestry and Natural Resources


Human changes to the environment, like urbanization and climate change, have caused and will cause many wildlife extinctions. Efforts to conserve species occur all over the world, but not all species are seen as equal. In the animal conservation world, charismatic species play the lead roles in a show, while lesser-known or less-attractive species act as stage crew: we all know they are present, but we’re largely uncertain of what they do or how they play into the whole picture. As a result, we tend to see less conservation funding for these species.

Charismatic species are often large, fluffy, or cute: polar bears, narwhals, pandas, and koalas are excellent examples. They dominate news stories, children’s books, and most forms of media. In contrast, non-charismatic species are more difficult for humans to relate with: mussels, mice, and small fish fall into this category.

Societal bias towards charismatic species starts young: if you ask any child what their favorite animal is, chances are high that the species will be either cute and cuddly like a rabbits and foxes, or big and fearsome like bears or sharks. Chances are low that it will be a something slimy, small, or otherwise unattractive like a fish, reptile or bug.

Why is funding so low, or non-existing, for the not so furry, not so cute endangered species?
According to a study in the U.K., adults are more likely to donate money to causes represented by photos of charismatic species than non-charismatic species. This bias appeal results in the majority of research and conservation funding being dedicated to a small group of about 80 well-known, charismatic species. These species have what Dr. Hugh Possingham of the National Environmental Research Program (NERP) refers to as “donor appeal”. The remaining, non-charismatic species, tend to fall by the wayside, receive less funding and research interest. As a result, they tend to go extinct at higher rates. As Dr. Possingham says, “…if you’re an obscure animal or plant in a remote place, you have next to no hope of getting conservation resources.”

Clubshell mussel

Clubshell mussel.

Thrasher the Clubshell mussel.

Results showing that the public are not excited to conserve non-charismatic wildlife is not surprising to Belyna Bentlage, a Purdue University outreach specialist, who specializes in research and outreach related to mussels. “People like to protect species that they feel they can relate to, that they can imagine owning as pets, like bear cubs or playful monkeys. It’s difficult to feel a connection to a hellbender or mussel. These animals don’t move as much, aren’t very interactive, and are not very cute. People just can’t relate to them in the same way as more charismatic species,” says Bentlage.

The lack of relate-ability of non-charismatics can spell disaster for many species. Belyna says, “When people don’t feel connected to a species, they won’t give money to fund research or protect the species. Lawmakers aren’t interested because the public isn’t interested, so it’s left up to researchers. So little is known about the ecological role of many of these species, that it’s difficult for researchers to justify why they should be studied. With the competitive funding climate in research, less charismatic species loose out.”

With a tight funding climate, uninterested lawmakers, and a fickle, how can we protect these threatened non-charismatic species?
One solution might just be in making non-charismatic species charismatic. Outreach coordinators like Belyna Bentlage are working cooperatively with biologists to change the way humans perceive of slimy, spiny, gross or otherwise unattractive species.

snuffbox mussel

Snuffbox mussel.

Duke the Rayed Bean Mussel

The project Belyna works on, with Purdue FNR Professor Linda Prokopy and Associate Professor Rod Williams gives super-hero personalities to non-charismatic mussels. Each mussel species has a special power that reflects something about its innate characteristics, like the snuffbox and clubshell mussel images shared in this blog.

“Making these animals more relatable and fun allows both children and adults to better understand their importance. People consciously pick their favorites, compare the drawings, and then get excited when they see these species in the wild. It creates a public that is really interested in protecting the species,” Bentlage explained.

Erin Kenison, a PhD student at Purdue University, has helped use similar tactics to promote conservation of hellbenders. The poorly named species is actually a giant salamander that used to inhabit all Indiana rivers, but is now restricted to the Blue River giant salamander that used to inhabit all Indiana rivers, but is now restricted to the Blue River.

The large, green, slimy creature is aptly nicknamed “old lasagna sides” because of its flappy skin that bunches at its sides. The Help the Hellbender project uses costumes, cartoons, coloring pages and games to generate public attention for the species.

“Historically, its been believed that hellbenders had evil powers and could even cause the death of babies,” says Kenison. “Making the hellbender more relatable dismantles a lot of these beliefs, making it more likely that river-users won’t try to harm them.”

Are we willing to learn more about the non-charismatic species and help with conservation efforts?Hellbender MascotHellbender
While there are many challenges for the conservation of non-charismatic species, Belyna Bentlage also says that the public’s lack of familiarity with these species may be a strength. “When people don’t know much, they are often willing to learn and adapt their actions. They are not as set in their ways, so it’s more likely that we can introduce new behaviors to protect a species. Overall, people generally want to help threatened species, not hurt them.”

Non- charismatic wildlife, as slimy or spiny or unattractive as they may be, are an important part of the natural ecosystem. Next time you see a mussel, hellbender, or similar creature, take a photo, but leave it be. These species need your help and support to survive, even if their beauty is mainly on the inside.

If you would like to find out how you can help or learn more about these endangered species, see the resources listed below:
Heart of the Tippy, protecting endangered mussels
Help the Hellbender
Endangered Plant and Wildlife Species, Indiana Department of Natural Resources (IDNR)

Zoe Glas, Graduate Research Assistant
Purdue Department of Forestry and Natural Resources


Improving Water Quality At Your Livestock Operation videoHellbenders have been rapidly declining since the 1980s due to various factors, including poor water quality.  Many ecological issues contribute to poor water quality, and one important issue we can focus on is how we use the land around rivers and streams. Livestock operations produce a lot of nutrients – largely in the form of manure. When next to a river, this can flow into the water, which reduces water quality through the high nutrient input and added sedimentation.  However, livestock owners can greatly reduce the impact of their operations on water quality using a number of different management practices.

In this new video “Improving Water Quality at Your Livestock Operation,” we focus on how livestock owners can use management practices on their farm that improve water quality while still meeting their production goals. Bob Sawtelle, a livestock owner along the Blue River, uses a forested riparian buffer to filter out runoff from his cattle pen, resulting in cleaner water and healthier wildlife. In this video, he discusses the ecological and economic benefits to this practice in further detail.

Please visit the Help the Hellbender website for more information about other management practices that improve water quality, and also check out the National Resource Conservation Services website (NRCS) for news and other information related to soil and resource conservation.

Resources:
Improving Water Quality At Your Livestock Operation – The Education Store, Purdue Extension Resource Center
Improving Water Quality Around Your Farm – The Education Store
Options for Farmers – Help the Hellbender
Identifying Benefits and Barriers Associated with Reforesting Riparian Corridors – Purdue Engineering
Riparian Area Management – United States Environmental Protection Agency

Megan Kuechle, Undergraduate Extension Intern
Purdue Department of Forestry and Natural Resources

Dr. Rod Williams, Associate Head of FNR Extension and Associate Professor of Wildlife Science
Purdue Department of Forestry and Natural Resources


Posted on May 25th, 2016 in Aquatic/Aquaculture Resources, How To | No Comments »

Improving Water Quality Around Your FarmHellbenders have been rapidly declining since the 1980s due to various factors, including poor water quality.  Poor water quality is caused by a variety of ecological issues, one of which is land use along the river. Farmers can reduce the impact of their farming practices on water quality using a number of different management practices.

In this new video “Improving Water Quality Around Your Farm,” we focus on how farmers can use management practices on their farm that improves water quality while still meeting their production goals. Todd Armstrong, a farmer on the Blue River, uses cover crops and no till farming to reduce soil erosion and describes the ecological and economic benefits to these practices in this video.

Please visit the Help the Hellbender website for more information regarding other management practices that improve water quality, and also check out the National Resource Conservation Services website (NRCS) for news and other information related to soil and resource conservation.

Resources:
Improving Water Quality Around Your Farm – The Education Store, Purdue Extension Resource Center
Options for Farmers – Help the Hellbender
Water Quality – National Resource Conservation Service (NRCS)
Managing Cover Crops: An Introduction to Integrating Cover Crops Into a Corn-Soybean Rotation – The Education Store
Adoption of Agricultural Conservation Practices: Insights from Research and Practice – The Education Store

Megan Kuechle, Undergraduate Extension Intern
Purdue Department of Forestry and Natural Resources

Dr. Rod Williams, Associate Head of FNR Extension and Associate Professor of Wildlife Science
Purdue Department of Forestry and Natural Resources



Aquaculture Production

North Central Regional Aquaculture Center

The North Central Regional Aquaculture Center (NCRAC) is one of the five Regional Aquaculture Centers established by Congress. A network of aquaculture extension specialists has been established among states served by NCRAC. These individuals coordinate development and distribution of educational materials on all phases of aquaculture ventures and conduct training workshops for extension colleagues and members of the industry. Regional networks of each center in the U.S. are also linked to facilitate the flow of aquaculture information nationwide.

Indiana Fish Farming (Indiana Soybean Alliance)

The Indiana Soybean Alliance (ISA) has partnered with Purdue to build our state’s aquaculture industry. Aquaculture is the fastest growing use for soybean meal worldwide. Partnerships with public and private industry have allowed ISA to also help new and current fish producers develop their business in Indiana.


Aquaculture Economics and Marketing

Aquaculture Economics and Marketing Resources

The proximity of Illinois and Indiana to many major markets and the abundance of natural and agricultural resources provide tremendous long-term opportunities for aquaculture farms and businesses in these states. Whether you are an aquaculture producer or you are thinking of getting into an aquaculture business, resources listed here will provide you with science-based information and education to ensure a productive, innovative and profitable aquaculture business.

A Guide to Marketing for Small-Scale Aquaculture Producers

Small-scale aquaculture producers have income opportunities if they plan their production processes—and plan them
well. One of the fundamental principles in marketing is to make it part of the overall planning process. Consider marketing decisions as important as production decisions. No matter how small your aquaculture operation, developing a marketing plan for what you will produce is the best strategy because the fish have to be sold once they reach marketable sizes.


Aquatic Nuisances Species

Indiana’s “Most Unwanted” Invasive Aquatic Plants

Indiana Cooperative Agricultural Pest Survey (CAPS) Program has information on the “most unwanted” invasive plants. The Aquatics page includes information on Brazilian Elodea, Common Reed/Phragmites, Curly-Leaf Pondweed, Eurasian Watermilfoil, European Frogbit, Flowering Rush, Giant Salvinia, Hydrilla, Purple Loosestrife, Reed Canary Grass, Water Chestnut, Water Hyacinth(s) and Yellow Floating Heart.


Aquaponics

Combination of Fish Farming and Hydroponics

Aquaponics combines the soil-less growing technique of hydroponics with fish farming. Fish farming is gaining popularity in the state of Indiana and this concept of plant growth along with the fish farming technique is a topic many are wanting to learn more about.


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