Clemson is located at the foot of the Southern Blue Ridge escarpment, a feature the Cherokee people have termed the "Blue Wall", which is a plant and animal biodiversity hotspot in North America that has been identified as the top priority area for conservation action in the US. Beyond the Blue Wall, there is gradient of habitats and land use stretching down to the Atlantic Ocean, providing great opportunities to conduct research on how remnant and restored wildlife populations are responding to environmental change. This begins with building a strong understanding of a species natural history, but often also includes a direct evaluation of how environmental change (such as land use conversion or introduced diseases) could be driving wildlife responses at the individual, population and community-level.
Ungulate-predator dynamics of the southeast
In the eastern US, few wildlife species are as popular and well studied as white-tailed deer. Despite this wealth of research, there remains great debate about the context-specific factors that drive differences in the number of deer on the landscape. In particular, the relatively recent arrival of coyotes to portions of the southeast has raised many concerns. A series of well publicized studies suggest that low fawn survival in a population of deer near Aiken, South Carolina was linked to coyote predation. However, we don't know if coyotes are having similar effects in other portions of the southeast where conditions vary. In 2018, in collaboration with state and federal biologists, we initiated a large multi-year study to investigate the demography and movement ecology of doe and fawn white-tailed deer in the Piedmont region of South Carolina. At the same time, we will be investigating the spatial ecology and behavior of coyotes and wild pigs in this system, providing a detailed understanding of this dynamic predator-prey relationship.
More information can be found here.
Project collaborators: South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, U.S. Forest Service, QDMA
Carnivore community ecology
Carnivores are fascinating species that play important roles in ecosystems, while also being highly sensitive to environmental change. For some species like coyotes, populations of these moderately sized carnivores are rapidly expanding. At the same time, some species have been extirpated or are on the decline. We are not only interested in the ecology these species individually, but how they interact and impact ecosystem function at the community level.
We are currently assessing carnivore community ecology across several scales. Globally, we are attempting to shift the narrative that all small to mid-ranking carnivores or mesocarnivores "releasing" (expanding their range and causing destruction to ecosystems) by highlighting their conservation need and the key role they play within ecosystems. At a continental scale, we have been working with collaborators using large-scale camera trapping datasets (and other data sources) to predict the current and future distribution and composition of carnivore communities in response to global change. Finally, regionally we are using long-term camera trap and radio-telemetry studies, in addition to experimental approaches, to evaluate how global change is likely influencing the structure and function of carnivore communities in the southeastern US.
Project collaborators: US Geological Survey, North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission, Virginia Tech, South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, Eastern Band of the Cherokee Indians, U.S. Forest Service
Recent Related Scientific Papers:
Marneweck, C., T. Katzner, and D.S. Jachowski. 2021. Predicted climate-induced reductions in scavenging in eastern North America. Global Change Biology 27:3383-3394.
Marneweck, C., A.R. Butler, L. Gigliotti, S. Harris, A. Jensen, M. Muthersbaugh, B. Newman, E. Saldo, K. Titus, S.W. Yu, and D.S. Jachowski. 2021. Shining the spotlight on small mammalian carnivores: global status and threats. Biological Conservation 255:109005.
Jachowski, D.S., A. Butler, R.Y.Y. Eng, L. Gigliotti, S. Harris and A. Williams. 2020. Identifying mesopredator release in multi-predator systems: a review of evidence from North America. Mammal Review 50:367-381.
Ecology of the eastern spotted skunk
We love a challenge, and prior to research accomplished by our team and others over the past decade, the eastern spotted skunk was one of the least understood carnivores in North America. We have conducted a series of studies on this species in a variety of locations ranging from Virginia to Florida, with our current research focusing on an intensive multi-year study in North Carolina.
We have also led conservation and research for this species nationally, founding the Eastern Spotted Skunk Cooperative Study Group in 2015 and serving as an advisor for the newly formed Island Spotted Skunk Study Group in California.
Given the success of these programs, and our recent findings that weasels could similarly be in need of conservation attention, in 2021 we started a North American Weasel Working Group.
Project collaborators: US Geological Survey, North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission, Virginia Tech, Nemours Wildlife Foundation, South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Forest Service
Recent Related Scientific Papers:
Detweiler, G.P., S.N. Harris, C. Olfenbuttel, and D.S. Jachowski. In press. First tracking of an eastern spotted skunk (Spilogale putorius) litter from birth to independence. Mammalia.
Harris, S.N., J.L. Froehly, S.L. Glass, C.L. Hannon, E.L. Hewett Ragheb, T.J. Doonan, and D.S. Jachowski. 2021. High density and survival of a native small carnivore, the Florida spotted skunk (Spilogale putorius ambarvalis) in south-central Florida. Journal of Mammalogy 102:743-756.
Butler, A., A. Edelman, R.Y.Y. Eng, W.M. Ford, S. Harris, E. Thorne, C. Olfenbuttel, and D.S. Jachowski. 2021. Demography of the Appalachian eastern spotted skunk (Spilogale putorius putorius). Southeastern Naturalist 20:95-109.
Jachowski, D.S., and A. Edelman. 2021. Advancing small carnivore research and conservation: the Eastern Spotted Skunk Cooperative Study Group model. Southeastern Naturalist 20:1-12.
Harris, S.N., C. Olfenbuttel, and D.S. Jachowski. 2021. Canine distemper outbreak in a population of eastern spotted skunks (Spilogale putorius). Southeastern Naturalist 20:181-190.
Harris, S.N., and D.S. Jachowski. 2021. First documentation of above-ground den structures of the Florida spotted skunk. Southeastern Naturalist 20:225-233.
Harris, S.N., T.J. Doonan, E.L. Hewett Ragheb, and D.S. Jachowski. 2020. Den site selection of the Florida spotted skunk. Journal of Wildlife Management 84:127-137.
Eng, R.Y.Y., and D.S. Jachowski. 2019. Summer rest site selection by Appalachian eastern spotted skunks. Journal of Mammalogy 100:1295-1304.
Eng, R.Y. and D.S. Jachowski. 2019. Evaluating detection and occupancy probabilities of eastern spotted skunks in the southern Appalachians. Journal of Wildlife Management 83:1244-1253.
Coastal island bobcats
Over the past several years we have been interested in the ecology of bobcats in coastal ecosystems. We have used a variety of approaches (camera traps, fecal DNA analysis, etc.) to relate land use and management conditions with bobcat and other carnivore occurrence and behavior.
Beginning in 2021 we are initiating a multi-year project to assess the ecology of bobcats on islands - particularly Kiawah Island where there are concerns regarding population declines. Kiawah island is home to one of the most famous and well-studied bobcat populations, and we will be analyzing long-term historical datasets and conducting new field studies of bobcats to evaluate the demographic and behavioral responses of bobcats to land use change and exposure to rodenticides.
Project collaborators: Kiawah Island, Clemson University, South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, Tom Yawkey Wildlife Center
Ecology of remnant bat communities
We are working with Dr. Susan Loeb of the U.S. Forest Service and other collaborators across the eastern U.S. on a variety of issues concerning bat behavior, population and community ecology, and long term monitoring in the eastern US. A primary focus of our work is the impact of white-nose syndrome on bat populations and communities.
In the Carolinas, we are working the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources to evaluate strategies for monitoring increasingly imperiled bat species at the landscape level (i.e., implementing the North American Bat Monitoring Program (NABat)), as well as focused studies on the ecology of individual species of conservation concern (particularly the yellow bat and northern long-eared bat).
We are also studying the response of individual bat species to white-nose syndrome. In 2016, we initiated a study of torpor patterns and hibernacula conditions for the tri-color bat in order to elucidate its vulnerability to white-nose syndrome. In 2018, this research expanded to other portions of the state and the use of alternative roost structures.
An ongoing focus of our work on white-nose syndrome is at the bat community level, where we are studying the complex spatial and temporal shifts in bat community assembly following arrival of white-nose syndrome. In 2016, we initiated a region-wide study to evaluate how bat communities across the eastern US differentially respond to exposure to the disease. This research addresses fundamentally important ecological questions about species plasticity, niche shifts, and the impact of emerging infectious diseases on conspecific species behavior with different life-history traits (e.g., species that migrate vs. species that reside overwinter in hibernacula and are thus exposed to the disease).
Project Collaborators: U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Geological Survey, Virginia Tech, South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, National Park Service
Recent Related Scientific Papers:
Bombaci, S.P., M.J. St. Germain, W.M. Ford, S.C. Loeb, R.E. Russell, C.A. Dobony, and D.S. Jachowski. 2021. Context dependency of disease-mediated competitive release in bat communities following white-nose syndrome. Ecosphere e03825.
Newman, B.A., S.C. Loeb, and D.S. Jachowski. 2021. Winter roosting ecology of tri-colored bats (Perimyotis subflavus) in trees and bridges. Journal of Mammalogy 102:1331-1341.
Shute, K.E., S.C. Loeb, and D.S. Jachowski. 2021. Summer roosting ecology of northern yellow bat and tri-colored bat in coastal South Carolina. Southeastern Naturalist 20:459-476.
Shute, K.E., S.C. Loeb, and D.S. Jachowski. 2021. Seasonal shifts in nocturnal habitat use by coastal bat species of conservation concern. Journal of Wildlife Management 85:964-978.
Neece, B., S. Loeb and D.S. Jachowski. 2019. Implementing and assessing the efficacy of the North American Bat Monitoring Program. Journal of Fish and Wildlife Management 10:391-409.
Teets, K.D., S.C. Loeb, and D.S. Jachowski. 2019. Detection probability of bats using active versus passive acoustic monitoring. Acta Chiropterologica 21:205-213.