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projects > an integrated plan for invasive reptile research and management in everglades national park, big cypress national preserve, and biscayne national park > work plan

Project Work Plan

Department of Interior USGS GE PES
Fiscal Year 2014 Study Work Plan

Study Title: An integrated plan for invasive reptile research and management in Everglades National Park, Big Cypress National Preserve, and Biscayne National Park
Current Study Start Date: Oct 1, 2013 Current Study End Date: Sep 30, 2018
Location (Subregions, Counties, Park, or Refuge): Everglades National Park, Big Cypress National Preserve, and Biscayne National Park
Funding Sources: USGS GEPES, NPS, USGS Invasive Species Program
Funding History: FY13 GEPES and NPS
FY14 USGS Funding: Request GEPES
Principal Investigator: Robert N Reed, Fort Collins Science Center
USGS Project Officer: Lea' R Bonewell, Fort Collins Science Center
USGS Technical Officer: Sheri Bishop-Cotner, Fort Collins Science Center
Supporting Organizations: National Park Service, USGS Southeast Ecological Science Center in Davie, Florida, Endangered Species and National Wildlife Refuges branches of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, South Florida Water Management District, Florida Department of Environmental Protection, University of Florida, Florida Wildlife Commission, Denison University, Dickinson College, Conservancy of Southwest Florida, and others.

Overview & Objective(s):
The Department of Interior (DOI) lands of southern Florida are threatened by a number of exotic herpetofaunal species present on DOI lands, on adjacent lands, and in adjacent waters. Invasive reptiles have proven to be a burgeoning problem for south Florida National Park units, and can have serious impacts on native species. The Burmese python is implicated in declines (via direct predation) of native species in Everglades National Park, and recently USGS and cooperators have documented the presence and spread of invasive Argentine tegu lizards. In their native range these lizards known predators of crocodilian nests and in Florida they are documented to have depredated nests of the American Alligator. It is highly likely that additional species of exotic reptiles, currently established outside park boundaries, will invade south Florida National Parks in coming years (e.g., Nile monitors; chameleons; additional constrictor snake species).

Overall, the National Park Service units in south Florida need an integrated approach to additional research and management of different reptile species present in and around the Parks, including those species which are not yet found in the wild but are present in the pet trade in the urban areas of south Florida. This approach should use existing networks for invasive species detection and reporting (for example the Everglades Cooperative Invasive Species Management Area - ECISMA), and should build on the numerous interagency efforts and projects that have been developed in south Florida over the last decade. Successfully completing the terms of this agreement are dependent on receiving matching funds from the USGS Greater Everglades Priority Ecosystem Science program in amounts listed in the Budget.

Our overall objectives are threefold. 1) To maintain and improve upon the current invasive reptile science and management program that is based out of Everglades National Park, by bringing the expertise of the USGS Invasive Species Branch to the south Florida National Park units. We expect that the expertise of the USGS, particularly with invasive snakes, will improve NPS potential to reach the overarching goals of prevention, containment and control of invasive reptile species in and around south Florida National Park Service units. 2) To work closely with the agencies and individuals affiliated with the Everglades Cooperative Invasive Species Management area, building on existing ECISMA frameworks for communications, training, early detection and rapid response. 3) To develop and refine scientifically based methods to control invasive species and assess the impacts of these invasive species on native flora and fauna within South Florida parks.

Specific Relevance to Major Unanswered Questions and Information Needs Identified: See above

Planned Products for FY14: See below

Work Plan

Task Leaders: Robert N. Reed, Bryan G. Falk
Phone: 970-226-9464
FAX: 970-226-9230
Task priority: 1
Task Personnel: Michelle A McEachern, Everglades National Park; Page E Klug, Fort Collins Science Center; Amy A. Yackel Adams, Fort Collins Science Center; Kristen M. Hart, USGS-Davie; Lea' R. Bonewell, Fort Collins Science Center

Task Summary and Objective(s):

Objective A: Maintain, develop and expand the current exotic invasive reptile program oriented toward the south Florida National Park units.

Task A1: The PI will hire and place USGS staff at the Daniel Beard Center in Everglades National Park. Staff will include a GS-9 biologist and a GS-6 biologist.

Task A2: The PI's and staff will participate in DOI and interagency meetings regarding invasive reptiles, collection of data, rapid response to emerging invasive reptile threats, etc.

Task A3: The PI (at a minimum) is expected to participate in a DOI Large Constrictor Science Workshop in FY14.

Objective B: Design and conduct basic research to understand the biology and current and potential future distributions of invasive species in park units.

Task B: The PI will design and conduct research studies that advance our understanding of the biology and current and potential future distributions of invasive species in south Florida park units. Priorities for research will be developed in conjunction primarily with NPS, FWS and USGS personnel located in south Florida; however, additional coordination with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and other members of ECISMA is needed to assure that the highest priority projects are funded and advanced. A specific research topic that will be addressed is the investigation and development of genetics-based methods to identify prey of pythons.

Objective C: Develop methods to produce and refine species-specific control tools.

Task C1: The PI will design, test and validate at least 1 method for control of invasive exotic reptile species in the first calendar year after this agreement is finalized. At the time of writing of this SOW, the species of interest are the large constrictors and members of the tegu group of lizards (esp. black and white tegu). Work should focus first on species in these groups.

Task C2: If changes to the exotic invasive reptile picture in south Florida warrant consideration of other species, the PI will coordinate with the NPS before placing project personnel on methods development tasks that are unrelated to the large constrictors and the tegus.

Objective D: Maintain rapid response capacity in the south Florida parks for timely reactions to new species; improve the rapid response capacity of ECISMA.

Task D1: The PI will examine existing EDRR protocols developed by ECISMA within the first 3 months of the project. It is likely that development of species-specific protocols is needed; the PI and staff will work with ECISMA to develop these for priority species.

Task D2: Personnel funded by this proposal will be trained to quickly mobilize in response to credible sightings in NPS units, and in peripheral areas if/when labor is available. These trainings will take into account currently available training courses provided by local entities (ex: TNC Python Patrol course).

Task D3: USGS personnel will assist NPS with media inquiries related to invasive reptiles.

Objective E: Manage specimens and associated data in a timely manner.

Task E1: Project personnel and/or their agents will pick up specimens captured by others, including at drop boxes that will be established at various locations. Project personnel will coordinate with USGS-Davie and University of Florida colleagues to streamline all aspects of specimen management. Specimen management protocols, including acceptable methods of euthanasia, will be written and distributed to all individuals working with invasive reptile specimens.

Task E2: All field data associated with incoming specimens will be entered in an electronic database within 48 hours, and all entered data will be proofed within the ensuing 48 hours.

Task E3: All incoming specimens will be necropsied by USGS personnel and/or cooperators within 15 working days of collection, with necropsy data entered and proofed following the same schedule as above. Specimen data will be transferred to NPS and FLMNH museum personnel for accessioning.

Task E4: Diet items will be characterized, with a focus on samples removed from python GI tracts. The annual work plan negotiated with NPS will include specification of which diet items are highest priority for identification (based on snake size, location, etc.) Incoming invasive reptile diet items in need of identification will be analyzed within six months of collection, regardless of whether USGS or a cooperator is doing the identification. Summaries of all specimen-related information will be provided to park units as part of annual reporting requirements.

Objective F: Oversee the authorized agent program.

Task F1: The GS-9 biologist will work with NPS project personnel to improve upon the current "Letters of Authorization" that authorize the agents to capture Burmese pythons within Everglades National Park.

Task F2: As much as possible, communications between authorized agents and project staff will be streamlined by employing tools such as cloud-based data entry and online scheduling.

Task F3: The GS-9 biologist will also be tasked with increasing citizen participation in the authorized agent program.

Task F4: Authorized agent searches and captures shall be recorded and analyzed to determine the effectiveness of the program with respect to the purposes mentioned above.

Work to be undertaken during the proposal year and a description of the methods and procedures:

Objective A: Maintain, develop and expand the current exotic invasive reptile program oriented toward the south Florida National Park units.

The PI hired a GS-9 biologist and a GS-6 biologist whom are staffed at the Daniel Beard Center in Everglades National Park. These staff members actively attend DOI and interagency meetings (e.g., ECISMA meetings, Invasive Exotic Species Action Framework meetings). The PI (Robert Reed) and post-doc (Page Klug) participated in the DOI Large constrictor workshop in Fall 2013. We are also collaborating with staff from Loxahatchee NWR to plan for, control, and mitigate invasions of exotic reptiles, including consultations on monitoring frameworks and participation in structured decision-making exercises at NCTC.

Objective B: Design and conduct basic research to understand the biology and current and potential future distributions of invasive species in park units.

Several research projects are already underway for FY2014, including:

Objective C: Develop methods to produce and refine species-specific control tools.

We have an intensive tegu-trapping project located east of Everglades National Park that will allow us to estimate the location and spread of the invasive black and white tegu population into Everglades National Park. Developed in coordination with NPS and FWC, our array consists of 50 live traps (checked daily) and 21 camera traps (checked as needed) that are spread over 87 square kilometers. As of the end of April, 2014, we have captured 33 tegus.

We are evaluating the results of a preliminary trial of thermal refugia for Burmese pythons in EVER, and hope to apply the lessons learned from this trial to installing refugia at Loxahatchee NWR for early detection of pythons.

Objective D: Maintain rapid response capacity in the south Florida parks for timely reactions to new species; improve the rapid response capacity of ECISMA.

We are using ECISMA's EDRR plan, and have responded to reports of a white-throated monitor lizard in BICY, black and white tegus in EVER, and veiled chameleons in EVER. We have also participated in interagency EDRR efforts to eradicate an invasive population of oustalet's chameleons in southern Florida. Florida staff have also represented USGS and NPS during an interview about invasive reptiles with NBC, and discussed invasive reptiles with Congressman Peter DeFazio.

Objective E: Manage specimens and associated data in a timely manner.

We have processed and entered data for all invasive reptiles collected since the start of the project (56 animals as of 30 April 2014), and have made significant progress on the backlog of specimens and material stored at the Daniel Beard Center and elsewhere in EVER. This includes the necropsy, specimen processing, and data entry for 24 Burmese pythons collected between 2007 and 2013. It also includes accessioning hundreds of items stored at the Daniel Beard Center into the NPS museum.

Objective F: Oversee the authorized agent program.

As of the end of April 2014, we have expanded the authorized agent program in several ways. First, the "Letters of Authorization" (LOAs) now allow removal of any non-native reptile or amphibian from EVER - and not just Burmese pythons - which has increased our EDRR capability. Second, we have recruited six new agents for a total of 26, and the number of recent captures are up (e.g., the captures for April 2014 in EVER are 80% above average). Third, a LOA that includes authorization for BICY has been drafted and awaits BICY approval. Fourth, a drop box has been installed at the Chekika ranger station, so now boxes are available at the Beard Center, Shark Valley, and Chekika.

Specific Task Products:

Biology and control of invasive Burmese pythons in Florida - why is it so hard to detect a giant snake? (Invited oral presentation at international symposium on invasive reptiles, Gran Canaria)
Delivery Date: May 10, 2014
Task Leaders: Robert N Reed
Phone: 970-226-9464
FAX: 970-226-9230
Task priority: Medium

Assessing risks to humans from invasive Burmese pythons in Everglades National Park, Florida, USA. Wildlife Society Bulletin, published online ahead of print
Delivery Date: Feb 2014
Task Leaders: Robert N Reed
FAX: 970-226-9230
Task priority: High

Invasive tegu lizards as nest predators of crocodilians and turtles in Florida, USA. Manuscript submitted to Biological Invasions
Delivery Date: Submitted Jan 2014
Task Leaders: Robert N Reed, Frank Mazzotti
Phone: 970-226-9464
FAX: 970-226-9230
Task priority: High

Invasive and introduced reptiles and amphibians. Book chapter published in Current therapy in reptile medicine and surgery
Delivery Date: Published Jan 2014
Task Leaders: Robert N Reed, Kenney Krysko
Phone: 970-226-9464
FAX: 970-226-9230
Task priority: Medium

Environmental DNA (eDNA) detection of invasive giant constrictor snakes in Florida. Manuscript submitted to Biological Conservation
Delivery Date: Feb 2014
Task Leaders: Margaret Hunter, Kristen Hart, Sara Oyler-McCance, Jennifer Fike, Brian Smith, Robert N Reed
Phone: 970-226-9464
FAX: 970-226-9230
Task priority: High

Three oral presentations by R.N. Reed at the Nov 2013 DOI meeting on Giant Constrictor Science (topics: Human Risks, Detection Issues, Trap Development)
Delivery Date: Nov 2013
Task Leaders: Robert N Reed
Phone: 970-226-9464
FAX: 970-226-9230
Task priority: High

Invasive reptiles in southern Florida - Oral presentation, IES Strategic Action Framework Meeting
Delivery Date: April 9, 2014
Task Leaders: Michelle A. McEachern
Phone: 305-242-7834
FAX: 305-242-7836
Task priority: Medium

Invasive reptiles in southern Florida and the USGS - Oral presentation, USGS Reston
Delivery Date: May 6, 2014
Task Leaders: Michelle A. McEachern
Phone: 305-242-7834
FAX: 305-242-7836
Task priority: Medium

Invasive reptiles in southern Florida and the USGS - Oral presentation, NISC Headquarters
Delivery Date: May 7, 2014
Task Leaders: Michelle A. McEachern
Phone: 305-242-7834
FAX: 305-242-7836
Task priority: Medium

Brumation of introduced Tupinambis merianae (Squamata:Teiidae) in southern Florida. - Manuscript in preparation
Delivery Date: Estimated submission date - June 2014
Task Leaders: Michelle A. McEachern
Phone: 305-242-7834
FAX: 305-242-7836
Task priority: Medium

Structured Decision Making Workshop. Hosted by US Fish and Wildlife Service and USOptimizing Early Detection and Rapid Response for Burmese Pythons at Arthur R. Marshall Loxahatchee Wildlife Refuge.
Delivery Date: Workshop date - June 2014
Task Leaders: Page E. Klug and Amy A. Yackel Adams (team experts)
Phone: 970-226-9471 and 970-226-9489
FAX: 970-226-9230
Task priority: Medium

The influence of disturbed habitat on the spatial ecology of Argentine tegu (Tupinambis merianae), a recent invader in the Everglades ecosystem (Florida, U.S.A.) Manuscript in review
Delivery Date: Submission date - February 2014
Task Leaders: Page E. Klug et al.
Phone: 970-226-9471
FAX: 970-226-9230
Task priority: Medium

Spatial ecology and habitat use of the Argentine Tegu (Tupinambis merianae), a recent invader in the Everglades Ecosystem (Florida, USA). Colorado Partners in Reptile and Amphibian Conservation 2014 Annual Meeting, Denver CO.
Delivery Date: Meeting date - January 2014
Task Leaders: Page E. Klug et al.
Phone: 970-226-9471
FAX: 970-226-9230
Task priority: Medium

Spatial ecology and habitat use of the Argentine Tegu (Tupinambis merianae), a recent invader in the Everglades Ecosystem (Florida, USA). Joint Meeting of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists 2014 Annual Meeting, Chattanooga TN.
Delivery Date: Meeting date - July 2014
Task Leaders: Page E. Klug, Robert N. Reed, et al.
Phone: 970-226-9471
FAX: 970-226-9230
Task priority: Medium


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