Spring 2009

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Announcing the 2008 Wild Resource Conservation Program Grants

P A Game CommissionP A Fish and Boat Commission

The 26 projects that received funding this year, as the culmination of the Pennsylvania Wild Resource Conservation Program’s 2008 invitation for project applications, will share nearly $1.2 million. The priorities targeted for this round of grants were: Effects of Climate Change on Biodiversity; Elementary Education Materials; Wildlife Action Plan Priorities; Wild Plant Management; and General Biodiversity Projects.

The Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources administers the Wild Resource Conservation Program, which is providing the 26 grants totaling $1,179,768 through the Commonwealth’s Growing Greener program. WRCP works with the Pennsylvania Game Commission and the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission to operate the program.
Here’s a peek at what was funded this year, from the 2008 application period. Applications for 2009 are available from WRCP, through a link on the website

Physiological Status of Salamanders Living in Acidified Stream Habitats.
The project assesses the status of a streamside salamander, the mountain dusky salamander, in relationship to acidification of the habitat. The physiological stress response is critical in helping an animal cope with stressors. The project will determine whether stream habitat acidification leads to a blunted stress response in streamside salamanders. Awarded to Duquesne University, $14,516.

Diatoms of Northcentral Pennsylvania.
The project will inventory diatoms of northcentral Pennsylvania, identify habitats containing rare, endemic or invasive diatom species and generate benchmark data for environmental assessments and climate change studies. The work will inventory the diatom flora of northcentral Pennsylvania, characterize diatom assemblages of the high quality aquatic habitats of the region, and produce benchmark data for evaluation of human impact and climate change on aquatic systems and organisms. Awarded to the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia, $25,889.

Identifying Species and Natural Communities in Pennsylvania Potentially Impacted by Global Climate Change and Developing Approaches to Monitor Key Populations.
The Pennsylvania Natural Heritage Program will collaborate with NatureServe to develop the Climate Change Susceptibility Index and apply the tool to plant and animal special and natural plant communities in Pennsylvania that are thought to be most likely impacted by climate change. The project will develop and apply the first iteration of a Climate Change Susceptibility Index, develop a peer-reviewed list of plant and animal species and natural plant communities, and develop publications available to researchers, state agencies and others. Awarded to the Western Pennsylvania Conservancy, $76,533.            

Fish Biodiversity of Selected Youghiogheny River Tributaries .
Conservation of biodiversity requires systematic temporal and comprehensive surveys of biological communities. From such data, local conservation and preservation strategies can be formulated, updated and implemented in regional plans. The project will provide taxonomic lists of fish inhabiting Youghiogheny River tributaries and compare them with existing records; document the presence of “Species of Special Concern” using GPS technology; and create a database for tributaries, which can be integrated into fish data. Awarded to the California University of Pennsylvania, $18,585.

Photo by Bob SteinerPennsylvania's forests
Pennsyvlania's forests provide many services for recreation, the economy and ecosystems. Students will learn more through a WRCP Grant.

High School Forest Conservation Education Modules: Preparing Students to Understand Conservation and Management of Penn’s Woods.
Pennsylvania’s forests are an important natural resource that contributes critically to the Commonwealth’s forest-based economy and to maintenance of invaluable ecosystem services. Current studies indicate a declining interest among high school students. The funded work will enhance hands-on, inquiry-based forest education exercises for high school students, increase exposure and experience of  high school students and teachers to modern means of forest study and inquiry, and train high school teachers to use an inquiry-based approach. Awarded to Allegheny College, $40,375.

Fish Database Review and Demonstration of Application Distribution and Status of Pennsylvania’s Lampreys.
In excess of 30,000 fish survey events are represented in various databases for Pennsylvania. Many of these databases have not been critically reviewed and corrected for errors. Thus, fishery managers have been reluctant to make use of this information. The project will conduct a quality assurance review of existing fish survey and pool databases and convert them to a useable format (GIS, Access, Excel). They will also conduct lamprey surveys to fill gaps in distributional knowledge and assess historical locations. Awarded to the Pennsylvania State University, $20,345.

Use of a Calcium Supplement by Breeding Forest Songbirds.

Photo by Bob Steiner
hermit thrush
Forest songbirds, like this hermit thrush, depend on a variety of food sources. A WRCP-funded study will look into the relationship between forest songbirds and the calciu, supplement that snails provide.

This project will improve understanding of the importance and use of calcium supplements for reproducing forest songbirds. Past research found many relationships between forest songbirds and snail abundance. The work will determine if forest songbirds in central Pennsylvania use snail shells as a calcium supplement for reproduction, by observing birds at snail-shell feeding stations. The work will also collect information on which forest bird species use snails. Awarded to the Pennsylvania State University, $11,374. 

Habitat Selection and Territory Occupancy in Ovenbirds.
Since 1988, over 500 male ovenbirds (Seiurus aurocapilla) have been banded and monitored on two contiguous study sites at Hawk Mountain Sanctuary. Results from this study will provide information on factors influencing long-term reproductive success and annual return rates. The project will determine whether specific territory features, such as vegetative structure, predict territory quality as estimated by occupancy, pairing success and reproductive success and determine the relative importance of male quality estimated by mass and age. Awarded to the Pennsylvania State University, $14,517.

Herbarium Studies and Field Studies of Pennsylvania Plants of Special Concern.
The project will provide essential data from herbarium specimens deposited at the Carnegie Museum and Pennsylvania Natural Diversity Inventory for use in management and conserving Pennsylvania’s natural resources, and to provide important services to staff and other organizations involved in conservation efforts in the Commonwealth. The work will include documenting new taxa for target counties in Pennsylvania, field surveys for rare species, data recording and herbarium services to the heritage program. Awarded to the Carnegie Institute, $17,250. 

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