Assess

1. Assess and Monitor Existing Biodiversity

Vegetation Surveys

Vegetation surveys will be conducted in order to monitor the diversity of native vegetation, as well as identify invasive species that could be problematic.

Activity

In order to consistently provide accurate data and results, a vegetation survey should be conducted every year. These surveys will be conducted using Daubenmire Cover Class Method and Point-Quarter Method.

Outcome

The initial survey provides a base record of the vegetative species found. Vegetation surveys that are repeated in following years will provide insight to changes in vegetative species. This information will show changes in the vegetative community after implementing other management practices.

Bird Surveys

Songbird point counts

Songbird point counts provide insight to the various avian species found. These surveys will allow us to keep a detailed record of songbird species found on the property.

Activity

Songbird surveys will be conducted every season using the point-count method. These surveys will monitor and record avian residents and migrants in each season of every year.

Outcome

These surveys will help us understand and monitor avian species on the property. This information will provide insight to local population trends and identify impacts of our management activities.

Owl counts

Owl counts (surveys) are important to understand the various owl and other nocturnal avian species found. These surveys will allow us to keep a detailed record of nocturnal species found on the property.

Activity

Owl surveys will be conducted each season, alongside songbird point counts. These surveys will use playback protocol to determine the presence or absence of owl species.

Outcome

Owl surveys will allow us to understand and have a record of the owl and nocturnal avian species present. By continuing these surveys each year, we be able to compare each years’ data to the data collected years prior.

Fish Surveys

Electrofishing will be used to survey fish species present. We plan to survey along the Bosque River, which runs along the border. This river is important to the native wildlife found on the property.

Activity

We will conduct electrofishing once every four years of representative shallow run, riffle, pool, and backwater sites along the Bosque River. The species identified in this survey are not likely to change each year, which allows this survey to be conducted less frequently than others.

Outcome

These surveys will provide information regarding the diversity of fish species found in the Bosque River along the ranch. Surveys conducted in different years can be used to determine if there has been any change in species since the initial survey.

Mammal Surveys

Small mammal trapping

Small mammal trapping will be a survey activity used to identify the presence of small mammals, such as rats and mice,.

Activity

Small mammal trapping should be conducted in early summer and late winter of each year. We use Sherman live traps for these surveys in a 6×6 grid formation in each vegetation zone on the ranch. Numerous trap nights will increase the success of this survey

Outcome

Small mammal trapping will allow us to determine the presence of small mammals. We will be able to monitor changes correlated with implemented management practices across years.

Camera trapping

Camera trapping will be an ongoing activity. This survey method is directed to large mammals on the property but will also capture incidental species.

Activity

At least one game cameras will be deployed in each vegetation zone on the property. The cameras should be maintained throughout the property during each season.

Outcome

Camera trapping will provide insight on the large mammal community. Over time, the data from this survey will allow us to maintain a record of the various large mammals and incidental species found. The ongoing data can be compared to previous years’ data.

Owl pellet examination

Owl pellet examination is an indirect survey method for small mammals. An owl’s diet consists largely of small mammals. By harvesting and dissecting owl pellets, we will be able to identify small mammal species found on the ranch.

Activity

We will continuously attempt to identify owl roost(s). Owl boxes placed on the ranch can be used for this practice. We will collect owl pellets from identified roost sites, then dissect and identify the species consumed by the owls.

Outcome

By locating an owl roost, we will have a source of owl pellets to dissect in future years to determine what small mammal species are present. Continuously conducting this practice will allow us to collect data on what mammal species are present.

Incidental Vertebrate Observations

Incidental observations are important when assessing existing biodiversity. Every management practice and survey could potentially detect various wildlife species. We will maintain a log of all incidental vertebrate and invertebrate species observed on the ranch.

Activity

We always record incidental species observed during any management activity or survey conducted.

Outcome

By recording incidental observations, we will provide a more accurate record of species incidentally encountered, that may not have been identified in other surveys.

Pollinator Surveys

Pollinator surveys should be conducted alongside vegetation surveys. Various methods are used to identify pollinator species present.

Activity

Pollinator surveys should be conducted in the spring of every year, alongside a vegetation survey.

Outcome

Pollinator surveys will provide a record of pollinator species diversity and composition. These surveys may also show correlation between pollinators and vegetation. These surveys may provide insight to management practices that would benefit native pollinators.

Harvester Ant Surveys

Harvester Ant Surveys can be accomplished with various methods. We map and monitor all harvester ant colonies every year.

Activity

We record GPS locations of all existing Harvester Ant colonies. We will compare GPS locations to years prior and determine if the number of colonies is changing over time.

Outcome

These surveys provide the number of Harvester Ant colonies, as well as the location of each. By continuously monitoring existing colonies, we can determine if any were lost or gained, and why.

Species Account

We have created a Species Account of the existing biodiversity and provided the information on our website.

Activity

An ongoing account of all species found will be constantly maintained. This species account will constantly be updated and made available on our website.

Outcome

Our species account will provide accessible information of species present.

Soil Microbiology

A Soil Health Management Plan will be developed for the ranch. This plan will outline soil management goals, create a plan for surveying various soil properties, and ultimately implement practices to meet the desired goals.

Activity

Coming Soon

Outcome

Coming Soon

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2 Responses

  1. I’m a Soil Scientist with the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, and I was wondering if you are using Soil Survey information or Ecological Site Descriptions as part of the monitoring?
    Also, it’s exciting to see Soil Microbiology on the list! It will be interesting to see the correlation between microbial communities and plant communities for the different soil types.

    1. Hi Mr. Sackett,
      Thank you for your interest in our work! NRCS Web Soil Survey, and Ecological Site Descriptions, were key in the management decisions we made. We utilized these resources to help us determine specific seed mixes used to reseed areas on the ranch. We look forward to developing a “Soil Health Plan” as a more detailed component of the overall management plan. “Soil Microbiology” will play a key roll in that plan, and we are very excited for that work to begin. We hope you’ll stay in touch, and look forward to hearing your thoughts!

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Daubenmire Cover Class Method

The Daubenmire cover class method is used to study the grassland areas, both in the upland prairies and the bottomlands on the ranch. This method is conducted by placing a 100-meter transect across the landscape and sampling at every 10 meters. At each 10-meter mark, researchers place a frame flush with the measuring tape line and estimate percent composition of each vegetative species noted.

Point-Quarter Method

The Point-Quarter Method is used to gather data on the study site’s trees. During this survey, a 100-meter transect is placed amidst the trees in the bottomland hardwood vegetation zone. At each 20-meter mark, we divide the area into four quadrants and record the tree species nearest to the transect. In addition, we record the distance that species occurred from the transect. These measurements are then averaged and used to calculate overall tree density. DBH, or diameter at breast height, is also recorded at each of these trees. This provides us with information regarding the carbon storage within the trees.

Point-count Method

The point-count method is the primary survey method for documenting avian species on the ranch. This method requires researchers to stand at specified points and record all bird species that they see or hear. We selected random points within each vegetation type with 50–100 meter spacing between each point. We have a total of 15 survey points across the ranch. Point-count surveys are conducted in the morning. Our surveys last 2-3 hours, with each beginning approximately 15 minutes before sunrise. We repeat surveys at each point four times per season, and we conduct each season’s survey for a minimum of 8 days.

Avian Species

In order to study and document the avian community on the ranch, our team conducts surveys to document the presence of species. Determining presence is more obtainable than determining abundance, while still reaching our overall goal of determining what management practices influence the bird species found in the area.

Our team uses playback protocol and the point-count method to survey and document avian species on the ranch.

Click here to explore the avian species we have documented so far!

Playback Protocol

We use playback protocol to detect inconspicuous nocturnal avian species on the ranch. These surveys are conducted at 10 different points throughout the property. Researchers spend 15 minutes at each point, beginning with a 30 second period of silence. The period of silence is followed by a focal species call with a 1-minute break between each call. Surveyors listen for avian species to call back and record any species that are detected. Our focal species on the ranch are barred owls, great-horned owls and Eastern screech owls.

Run, Riffle, Pool, and Backwater Sites

Riffle, run, pool, and backwater are terms related to stream or river ecology. Our project site has a river that runs along the property edge, which makes this terminology important to the management of the riparian area. A riffle is an area of stream or river where the flowing water surface is visibly broken by small rocks, boulders, or gravel. A run is an area with no water turbulence, but the water flows at a rapid pace. Runs are commonly found downstream from riffles and are deeper than riffles. A pool is an area of deeper water and slower currents. Backwater areas are out of the main current flow of the river and are usually stagnant.

Sherman live traps

Our research team uses Sherman live traps to conduct small mammal surveys. Our ultimate goal of small mammal trapping is to determine the presence of small mammal species on the property. We created grid plots in each vegetation zone of the property, for a total of 5 trap sites: Upland, slope, Texas wintergrass, and two Bermudagrass sites. Each grid consists of 36 traps, placed 10-meters apart in a 6×6 design. Traps are set with oatmeal during the evening and checked the following morning. All species trapped are released on the ranch after they are identified, and the data recorded.

For more information on Sherman live traps, follow this link:  H.B. Sherman Traps

game cameras

We use Moultrie A-300 game cameras to study the large mammal community on the ranch. We have a total of 10 game cameras that we utilize across the vegetation zones on the ranch. In addition to capturing various mammals, our game cameras also detect various bird species!

benefit native pollinators

Native pollinators benefit from native forb species. We recently planted a mix of Purple Prairie Clover, Sweet Clover (Silver River), Sweet Clover (Yellow Blossom), Maximilian Sunflower, Illinois Bundleflower, Indiangrass (Lometa), Partridge Pea, and Engelmann Daisy. Stay tuned for updates on how these forbs are benefitting native pollinators on the ranch!

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