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Projects


New Projects – 2018

Reed, Sasha, Colin Tucker: USGS-Moab

Project: Climate Adaptive Biocrust Restoration to Restore Ecosystem Function on The Colorado Plateau

Research: To cultivate and restore biological soil crusts (biocrusts) at multiple sites in southeast Utah with the goal of re-establishing ecosystem function and building resilience to a hotter and drier future climate.

Mike Duniway, Steve Fick, Nichole Barger and John Tatarko:, USGS, University of Colorado – Boulder, USDA-ARS

Project: Achieving Dryland Restoration Through the Deployment of Enhanced Biocrusts to Improve Soil Stability, Fertility and Native Plant Recruitment.

Research: Evaluate changes to wind and water erosion in artificially induced biocrust communities. 

Duniway, Mike, Molly McCormick: USGS-Moab, UT and Flagstaff, AZ

Project: Field Trial Network

Research: We propose to deploy an experiment that investigates how decisions related to restoration treatment and seed mix affect recovery of vegetation. This experiment will be part of a field trial network for dryland restoration led by the USGS Southwest Biological Science Center, in collaboration with Northern Arizona University.  Field trial sites have been established near Flagstaff AZ and in the Petrified Forest NM.  Treatments to be tested include Con Mods, wood mulch, planting method (seedlings vs. seeds), and making small depressions in the soil surface.  There ¼ of the area will be saved for additional studies.

Duniway, Mike, Andreas Ciblis, Matt Redd: USGS-Moab, New Mexico State University, The Nature Conservancy

Project: Criollo Cattle Project

Research:  Our primary research objective is to examine whether Criollo rangeland use and behavior will lead to more sustainable ranching in Canyon Country rangelands as compared to more traditional cattle breeds. In this pilot study, we will attach collars with GPS trackers to 20 animals (10 Criollos and 10 traditional breeds). This research will be in collaboration with researchers from New Mexico State University and the USDA-ARS Jornada Experimental Range who have expertise in livestock and more specifically the study of Criollo behavior. In addition, the NMSU researchers will collect fecal samples from each collared animal for laboratory analysis of diet. With these data, we will be able to ask questions about differences in forage and habitat preference between breeds and the implications of those differences for sustainable ranching on the Colorado Plateau, now and in the future. The data collected from this study may be used to apply for larger grants in the near future, likely from the Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program (https://www.sare.org) or other external funding source.

Continuing projects

Barger, Nichole, Mike Duniway, Becky Mann, Dave Hoover, and Akasha Faist: University of Colorado – Boulder, USGS, USDA, and New Mexico State University

Project: Restoring Ecosystem Services in Highly Degraded Grazing Lands: Testing Novel Approaches and Evaluating Trade-Offs with Current Livestock Management

Research: The goal of this project is to employ the latest technologies and implementation strategies in soil stabilization and native plant establishment to restore important ecosystem services while maintaining agricultural services provided by rangelands.

Duniway, Mike, et al.: USGS-BRD-Moab.

Project: BLM Rangeland Plot Monitoring

Research: Continued monitoring, as funding is available, of a subset of the BLM rangeland plots that Mark Miller (NPS-SEUG) established in 2006-2008 while working for the USGS. Protocols are similar to the National Park Service’s upland monitoring conducted by Northern Colorado Plateau Network’s Perkins and Witwicki (reported below in the Recently Completed Projects section).

Duniway, Mike, Jayne Belnap and David Houser: USGS-BRD-Moab.

Project: Rainout Shelters Simulating 30% Reduced Precipitation

Research: Within a range of 30 miles from Moab, 40 rainout shelters and control plots were installed in 2010 to evaluate the effect of a press-type drought (30% reduction annually) on Colorado ecosystems. Eleven of the 40 sites occur on CRC lands. Sites span a broad range of soils and plant communities. Data on plant performance, cover, and demographics are collected annually.

Duniway, Mike and David Hoover: USGS-BRD-Moab.

Project: EDGE – Extreme Drought in Grassland Ecosystems

Research: Four-year manipulative experiment testing how extreme seasonal drought impacts grassland communities of the Colorado Plateau. This experiment includes both 66% warm season drought and 66% cold season drought treatments on grassland plots with, and without, shrubs.

Grady, Kevin and Christopher Updike: Northern Arizona University.

Project: Cottonwood Genetics Experimental Restoration Garden

Research: National Science Foundation Macrosystems Biology grant awarded to study resiliency in genetic variation of cottonwood (Populas fremontii) trees. The five-year study is one of three experimental gardens in a regional-scale research project investigating climate change on riparian ecosystems. Approximately 4,000 tree replications, consisting of 12 genotypes, were planted on four acres of CRC land near “The Island” in the summer of 2015. Irrigation of approximately one acre-foot per year will be obtained from the Dugout Reservoir. Further study is anticipated beyond the initial five-year grant period. CRC funded this project at $5K level in 2016.

Havrilla, Carrie, Miguel Villareal, and John Vogel: University of Colorado – Boulder and USGS

Project: Exploring biocrust-plant community diversity relationships with unmanned aerial systems (UAS) remote sensing in Canyonlands, Utah

Research: To explore larger-scale relationships between biocrusts and vascular plant community structure, we used UAS’s to collect very high-resolution (1 cm) imagery and ground measurements of biocrust and plant communities in six, 5-hectare plots within the Colorado Plateau region of Southeast Utah.

Havrilla, Carrie, Lior Gross, and Nichole Barger: University of Colorado - Boulder

Project: Biocrust Functional Recovery Across Differing Spatial Scales of Disturbance

Research: Examine how different spatial scales of soil disturbance influences biocrust recovery.

Nehring, Kyle: Utah State University

Project: Interactive Effect of Abiotic and Biotic (Herbivory) factors on Artemisia tridentata Stress and Survival

Research: Past research has focused on how soil factors can influence soil water availability on   sagebrush establishment. This study is focused on how browsing interacts with these factors to influence sagebrush stress and survival and provide insight on successful establishment on the Colorado Plateau. This study specifically examines the interactions between soil depth, soil texture, and herbivory on sagebrush stress and survival. CRC funded this project at $2K level in 2016 as part of the Research Fellowships Grant.

Refsnider, Jeanine: University of Toledo

Project: Lizard Community Response to Climate Change

Research: This goal is to understand how lizard communities will respond to climate change.  Traits that differ spatially along an elevation gradient are likely to also allow organisms to adjust temporally to a changing climate, either through behavior changes or genetic adaptation. Research is analyzing temperature-sensitive traits in low- and high-elevation populations of four common lizard species to determine which traits differ with elevation.  Specifically, behavioral adjustment of basking behavior is thought to be critical in allowing lizards to respond to a changing climate. A method is being developed that uses light-level data recorders to continuously record thermoregulatory behavior in short-horned lizards (Phrynosoma hernandesi) in their natural habitat. This will help determine whether the mechanistic basis of thermoregulatory behavior is genetically-driven or behaviorally-plastic and is a critical step in validating models of lizard responses to climate change.

Shue, Jerry: Grand County, Utah Honeybee Inspector

Project: Diversity of Feral Honeybee Populations within the Indian Creek Corridor

Research: Research is designed to provide a baseline of feral honeybee species occurrence within the Indian Creek corridor. Honeybees are not indigenous to North America, but after their arrival they have been found to exist in locations otherwise thought inhabitable. This research will monitor the use of traps, or constructed nest sites, monthly. Species of honeybees will be identified as well as a test for the presence of Varroa mite, the primary factor impacting honeybee health.

Recently completed projects

 

Past projects

Barger, Nichole, Jeffrey Herrick and Mark Miller: U of CO - Boulder, USDA - Jornada Basin Long Term Ecological Research, and National Park Service

Project: Plant and Soil Responses to Fuels Reduction Treatments in Upland Pinyon-Juniper Woodlands (Shay Mesa)

Research: In 2009, BLM sought to reduce fuel loads and restore sagebrush-grassland ecosystems utilizing three treatments: mastication, lop and scatter with broadcast burning, and hand pile burning. Researchers measured herbaceous vegetation cover, invasive species cover, soil erosion, and soil stability after treatments occurred compared to control sites. Additional monitoring occurred in May 2015.

Bekker, Matthew: Brigham Young University

Project: Tree Ring Analysis of Beef Basin

Research: Chronology was undertaken on two tree cookies provided by Joel Tuhy (TNC-Moab) and cores from over 100 trees in Beef Basin and Dark Canyon Plateau collected in 2012 by Eric Allen. Analysis has not been completed by Dr. Bekker due to time and funding constraints. Eric Allen contacted CRC for potential funding to complete analysis of tree cores in conjunction with Utah State University in fall 2016 with the intent of writing a research paper.

Belnap, Jayne and Natalie Day: U.S. Geological Survey – Moab

Project: Soil Stabilization Using Synthetic and Natural Adhesives

Research: This is a short-term demonstration project prior to a larger field project being implemented in the Mojave Desert. The study will test the effectiveness of different soil stabilization materials on ground that is physically disturbed. Monitoring is scheduled every two months for the latter of 2016. Treatments include synthetic and natural polymers, rocks, and biocrust organisms. 

Bowker, Matthew, Anita Antoninka, and Cristina Rengifo Faiffer: Northern Arizona University

Project: Syntrichia Reciprocal Transplant Experiment

Research: The aim of the research is to understand how moss-dominated biocrust will respond to warming and drying in the Colorado Plateau.

Bowker, Matthew and Anita Antoninka: Northern Arizona University

Project: Biological Soil Crust Restoration and Resiliency

Research: This project is focusing on greenhouse production of both early and late succession biological soil crust species for applicability to landscape-level restoration. Research also consists of common gardens conducted across elevation gradients, with the CRC acting as the mid-elevation zone, Harts Point as the high-elevation zone, and Rio Mesa Center (USU) as the low-elevation location. The experiment is located at the CRC facility north of the pavilion. Goals include improved methods for co-culture of multiple biocrust organisms; field survival rates of greenhouse-grown biocrusts with, and without, environmental stress mediation; and the degree of local adaptation to climate zones using common gardens along elevation gradients. CRC funded this project at $5K level in 2016.

Cobb, Neil: Northern Arizona University

Project: Arthropod Research

Research: Pitfall traps were set in upland and riparian systems at the CRC. All specimens are at NAU awaiting identification; awaiting report and/or publication.

de Anguera, Alice: Utah State University

Project: Canyonlands Research Center Communications Plan

Research: Capstone for Masters of Natural Resources at Utah State University seeking to revise the CRC Communications Management Plan; determine what collaborative success, both internal and external, means for the CRC’s partners and external stakeholders; analyze mechanisms for success at comparable research organizations and in scientific literature; and develop sample outreach or communication products that makes CRC’s collaborative success relevant to stakeholders.

Diamond, Judy and Alan Bond: University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Project: Dimensions of Color Resemblance in Horned Lizards

Research: Conducted a feasibility trip in 2015 for future research in horned lizard color resemblances. Past research has focused on Corvidae family of birds. The two researchers have recently published the book, “Concealing Coloration in Animals” (Belknap/Harvard 2013).

Hoover, David, Adrienne Pilmanis and Troy Wood: USGS-BRD-Moab, BLM Colorado Plateau Native Plant Program, USGS-Flagstaff

Project: C4 Grass Monsoon Manipulation

Research: Utilizing transplants of James’ galleta grass (Pleuraphis jamesii) from four locations (Sevilleta, NM; Chaco Canyon, NM; Moab, UT; and Delta, UT), the CRC acts as a common garden to monitor the plasticity to intra-annual variability in precipitation. After one year of establishment, manipulation of the monsoon to spring precipitation ratio will be implemented using greenhouse shelters. Measurements will analyze a suite of responses including: ecophysiology, morphology, phenology, and productivity. The results of this study will inform strategies to develop seed lines adapted to the diverse environmental settings of the Colorado Plateau in need of ecosystem restoration as well as provide fundamental ecological information about a dominant species of this region.

Lewis, Leah: Utah State University

Project: Mexican Spotted Owl Habitat (Master’s Thesis)

Research: Focused on identifying habitat features associated with Mexican spotted owl occupancy, nest success, and fledgling success; constructing a predictive model for the owls in Utah; analyzing owl diet and determining the primary prey species. Compared to forested habitat, canyon habitat is poorly defined. A better understanding of this species, such as identifying utilization of structural features and dominant vegetation types, as well as climate variables, helps improve management decisions.

Perkins, Dusty and Dana Witwicki: National Park Service, Northern Colorado Plateau Network

Project: Northern Colorado Plateau Network, Uplands Monitoring

Research: The Northern Colorado Plateau Inventory and Monitoring Network (NCPN) of the National Park Service have monitored vegetation and soils within the park boundary of the CRC annually since 2006. When plot establishment is completed, there will be a total of 64 long-term monitoring plots (56 grassland, three blackbrush, and five pinyon-juniper/blackbrush) in the Needles district of Canyonlands National Park. Field crews measure soil stability, hydrologic function, biological soil crusts, and characteristics of plant communities.  The network’s survey design selects randomized, spatially balanced sampling plots. Each plot is visited for one or two consecutive years, followed by a relatively long interval between revisits (3–6 years), which minimizes the chances of damage by repeated visits and is also a cost-effective way to estimate the health of upland ecosystems across large areas. NCPN uplands monitoring is intended to increase fundamental understanding of these systems and provide managers with early warning of undesirable change. Initial analysis of monitoring data occurred in 2015 – 2016.

Schupp, Eugene: Utah State University

Project: Beef Basin and Dark Canyon Plateau Sagebrush Restoration Monitoring

Research: BLM-Monticello proposed landscape-scale restoration implementation using fire, herbicide, manual cutting, and mechanical reseeding targeting sagebrush-grassland ecosystems in Beef Basin and Dark Canyon Plateau. Pinyon-juniper was targeted to reduce encroachment, fuel loads, invasive species, and to promote native vegetation. The purpose of the study was to provide baseline measurements to measure success of project objectives.

Stegner, Allison: University of California – Berkeley

Project: Paleoecology of Small Mammals

Research: Focus is on local pre-industrial and pre-human fluctuations in species diversity, and how they compare to changes resulting from current impacts, like climate change and land-use pressures. Small mammals are important indicators of climate and environment.  Pairing plant and animal data in both the fossil and modern record allows for ground truthing assumptions about mammalian habitat fidelity and comparisons of local environmental change recorded in pollen to regional and global environmental change. Field work involves excavation of these fossil deposits, identification of the fossil vertebrates and pollen, modern plant surveys, and catch-and-release surveys of small mammals. Knowing the history of plants and animals in this region over the long term can help land managers prioritize conservation efforts by establishing whether modern ecosystems are significantly altered from pre-industrial baselines, which in turn clarifies the processes underlying ecological shifts through time. 

Suski, Kaitlyn, Paul DeMott, Tom Hill, Yutaka Tobo and Jan Uetake: Colorado State University

Project: Analysis of Naturally Occurring Ice-Nucleating Aerosols 

Research: Colorado State University’s Department of Atmospheric Science, led by Drs. Paul DeMott and Tom Hill helped facilitate Ph.D. candidate Kaitlyn Suski’s project analyzing ice-nucleating particles from a wide range of ecological sites across the U.S. The CRC lands were analyzed as an important land-use category – actively grazed rangelands – as part of a larger study across the country. Ice formation in clouds is a poorly understood process that can have large impacts on precipitation processes. A small subset of atmospheric aerosols, known as ice-nucleating particles, which are primarily bacterial in origin, can catalyze the formation of ice in clouds. The development and behavior of thunderstorms is linked to the initial stages of storm cloud development and can set off a series of events that act as a catalyst to intensify these storm events. Perturbation of natural ecosystems, like cattle grazing, can enhance the emission of particles and is critical to understanding changes in climate processes across ecosystems undergoing active anthropogenic use. The immediate results of this sampling period concluded with relatively low levels of ice-nucleating particles; however, seasonality and level of grazing can play a factor in total production of these particles.

Urban, Frank et al.: USGS – Denver

Project: Climate Monitoring and Dust Production Utilizing Total Suspended Particulate Collections

Research: Seeking to improve the measurement and understanding of fugitive dust emissions and deposition effects on snow pack. Dust source areas in American drylands have generated unprecedented amounts of dust since the early 2000’s. Driven by climatic variations and land-use changes, dust emission from dryland regions affects many critical issues, including water-resource management of major river basins in the drought-afflicted western United States. Dust emitted from dryland settings has far-reaching effects on water resources as dust is transported hundreds of kilometers and deposited onto mountain snow cover. 

Van Scoyoc, Matthew and Eugene Schupp: Utah State University

Project: USFS Ecosystem Assessment (Master’s Thesis)

Research: One hundred and forty-eight plots were sampled during the field seasons of 2011 and 2012. Sampling procedures were largely based on the Monitoring Manual for Grassland, Shrubland, and Savanna Ecosystems (Herrick et al. 2009) and the National Park Service’s Fire Monitoring Handbook (National Park Service 2003). Data and thesis were given to the USFS-Moab office.

Veblen, Kari et al.: Utah State University

Project: Deer, Elk, and Cattle Effects on Rangeland Plant Communities

Research: Focused on the effects on rangeland plant communities by the use of three dominant herbivores. The study used a multi-site approach to investigate the relationship between herbivory use and related ecological interactions.

Vogel, John and Geoff DeBenedetto: U.S. Geological Survey

Project: High Resolution Imagery Using Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS)

Research: In this demonstration project, the U.S. Geological Survey’s UAS collaborated with Dr. Duniway of the USGS’s Moab field office to provide a demonstration of high-resolution orthoimagery on previously field-monitored plots within the CRC lands led by Duniway and Miller (see Duniway, et al in Continuing Projects section above). The primary goal is to use this technology to characterize vegetation and biological soil crust cover using specific bandwidths of light. Using this technology, analysis of landscape-level changes can be better interpreted by geographers and ecologists.

Weiland, Brooke: California State University – Monterey Bay

Project: Scientific Illustration Internship

Status: The CRC developed a collaborative internship using current research at the CRC as a template for scientific illustration. The six-week internship occurred in August and September 2015 and resulted in the design of three interpretive panels.

Yokum, Hannah: Brigham Young University

Project: Investigation of Ephedra viridis Expansion on the Colorado Plateau

Research: Past research indicates that Ephedra viridis is expanding its range in grassland ecosystems. This study is focused on which specific traits – eco-physiological traits such as gas exchange, peak photosynthesis periods, stomatal conductance under water stress, carbon assimilation, respiration and transpiration – may be advantageous for this species’ expansion. A portion of this work is in conjunction with the USGS’s EDGE experiment (see Duniway and Hoover in Continuing Projects section above) on Ephedra adjacent to Canyonlands National Park. CRC funded this project at $2K level in 2016 as part of the Research Fellowships Grant.