St Catherines Island Foundation

Midway, GA, United States

St Catherines Island Foundation

Midway, GA, United States
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Johnson A.J.,University of Florida | Wendland L.,University of Florida | Norton T.M.,St Catherines Island Foundation | Norton T.M.,Georgia Sea Turtle Center | And 2 more authors.
Veterinary Microbiology | Year: 2010

Iridoviruses, pathogens typically associated with fish and amphibians, have recently been shown to cause acute respiratory disease in chelonians including box turtles, red-eared sliders, gopher tortoises, and Burmese star tortoises. Case reports of natural infections in several chelonian species in the United States have been reported, however the prevalence remains unknown in susceptible populations of free-ranging chelonians. To determine the prevalence of iridovirus exposure in free-ranging gopher tortoises (Gopherus polyphemus) in the southeast United States, an indirect enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) was developed and used to evaluate plasma samples from wild gopher tortoises (G. polyphemus) from: Alabama (n=9); Florida (n=658); Georgia (n=225); Louisiana (n=12); Mississippi (n=28); and unknown locations (68) collected between 2001 and 2006. Eight (1.2%) seropositive tortoises were identified from Florida and seven (3.1%) from Georgia for an overall prevalence of 1.5%. Additionally, a population of eastern box turtles was sampled from a private nature sanctuary in Pennsylvania that experienced an outbreak of iridovirus the previous year, which killed 16 turtles. Only 1 turtle out of 55 survivors tested positive (1.8%). Results suggest a low exposure rate in chelonians to this pathogen; however, it is suspected that this is an underestimate of the true prevalence. Since experimental transmission studies and past outbreaks have shown a high rate of mortality in infected turtles, turtles may die before they develop an antibody response. Further, the duration of the antibody response is unknown and may also cause an underestimate of the true prevalence. © 2009 Elsevier B.V.

Carlson-Bremer D.,University of California at Davis | Carlson-Bremer D.,Vanderbilt Institute for Global Health | Norton T.M.,St Catherines Island Foundation | Norton T.M.,Georgia Sea Turtle Center | And 8 more authors.
Journal of Avian Medicine and Surgery | Year: 2014

The American oystercatcher (Haematopus palliatus palliatus) is currently listed as a species of high concern by the United States Shorebird Conservation Plan. Because nutritional status directly impacts overall health and reproduction of individuals and populations, adequate management of a wildlife population requires intimate knowledge of a species' diet and nutrient requirements. Fat-soluble vitamin concentrations in blood plasma obtained from American oystercatchers and proximate, vitamin, and mineral composition of various oystercatcher prey species were determined as baseline data to assess nutritional status and nutrient supply. Bird and prey species samples were collected from the Cape Romain region, South Carolina, USA, and the Altamaha River delta islands, Georgia, USA, where breeding populations appear relatively stable in recent years. Vitamin A levels in blood samples were higher than ranges reported as normal for domestic avian species, and vitamin D concentrations were lower than anticipated based on values observed in poultry. Vitamin E levels were within ranges previously reported for avian groups with broadly similar feeding niches such as herons, gulls, and terns (eg, aquatic/estuarine/marine). Prey species (oysters, mussels, clams, blood arks [Anadara ovalis], whelks [Busycon carica], false angel wings [Petricola pholadiformis]) were similar in water content to vertebrate prey, moderate to high in protein, and moderate to low in crude fat. Ash and macronutrient concentrations in prey species were high compared with requirements of carnivores or avian species. Prey items analyzed appear to meet nutritional requirements for oystercatchers, as estimated by extrapolation from domestic carnivores and poultry species; excesses, imbalances, and toxicities-particularly of minerals and fat-soluble vitamins-may warrant further investigation. © 2014 by the Association of Avian Veterinarians.

Stevenson D.J.,Project Orianne Ltd. | Bolt M.R.,Code Corporation | Smith D.J.,University of Central Florida | Enge K.M.,Florida Fish And Wildlife Conservation Commission | And 5 more authors.
Southeastern Naturalist | Year: 2010

Prey items for the federally protected Eastern Indigo Snake (Drymarchon couperi) were compiled from published and gray literature, field observations, necropsies, dissection of museum specimens, and personal communications from reliable sources. One hundred and eighty-six records were obtained for 48 different prey species. Anurans, Gopher Tortoises, snakes, and rodents comprised ca. 85% of the prey items. Most records (n = 143) that mentioned size were from adult indigos; 17 were from juveniles. Prey records were collected from 1940-2008 and were available for all months of the year. These data confirm that Eastern Indigo Snakes eat a wide assortment of prey of varying sizes. This strategy allows D. couperi to potentially forage successfully in many different types of habitats and under fluctuating environmental conditions, a valuable trait for a top-level predator that requires a large home range.

Carlson-Bremer D.,University of California at Davis | Norton T.M.,St Catherines Island Foundation | Norton T.M.,Georgia Sea Turtle Center | Gilardi K.V.,University of California at Davis | And 10 more authors.
Journal of Wildlife Diseases | Year: 2010

The American Oystercatcher (Haematopus palliatus palliatus) is the only species of oystercatcher native to the Atlantic coast of North America and is restricted in distribution to intertidal shellfish beds in coastal areas. Currently, the American Oystercatcher population in South Carolina and Georgia is threatened by widespread habitat loss, resulting in low reproductive success and small population size. Oystercatchers could be an important indicator of ecosystem health because they depend on quality coastal breeding habitat and prey on bivalves, which can accumulate toxins and pathogens from the local environment. Data were collected from American Oystercatchers (n = 171) captured at five sites in South Carolina and Georgia between 2001 and 2006. Iridial depigmentation was frequently noted during physical examination and was more prevalent in female birds. Female birds were larger than males on average, but ranges for weight and morphometry measurements had considerable overlap. Mean values were calculated for hematology, plasma biochemistry, and hormone levels, and prevalence of exposure to select pathogens was determined. Mercury was the only trace metal detected in blood samples. These data provide baseline health information needed for longitudinal monitoring and conservation efforts for American Oystercatchers. In addition, this study illustrates the potential use of this species as an indicator for the health of the southeastern US coastal nearshore ecosystem. © Wildlife Disease Association 2010.

Ferguson L.M.,Clemson University | Ferguson L.M.,Wetlands Institute | Norton T.M.,Jekyll Island Authoritys Georgia Sea Turtle Center | Norton T.M.,St Catherines Island Foundation | And 3 more authors.
Journal of Zoo and Wildlife Medicine | Year: 2014

Health evaluations of brown pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis) nestlings from three colonies along the Atlantic coast of the southeastern United States were performed in 2005, 2007, and 2008. The primary objective of this study was to establish baseline data for hematologic, biochemical, and serologic values from a relatively healthy population of free-living pelicans during early chick development. Relationships among health variables and colony site, ectoparasite infestation, sex, and body condition index were also evaluated. Reference intervals are presented for health variables, including novel analytes for the species, as well as a comparison of these results with previously published values for wild pelicans. No significant relationships were found between health variables and nestling sex or body condition; however, differences between colony sites and the presence of ectoparasites were detected. The inclusion of health assessments as a regular component of management programs for seabirds can provide data to better understand the effect to species of concern when drastic changes occur to the population and its environment. © Copyright 2014 by American Association of Zoo Veterinarians.

Tuberville T.D.,Savannah River Ecology Laboratory | Norton T.M.,St Catherines Island Foundation | Norton T.M.,Georgia Sea Turtle Center | Buhlmann K.A.,Savannah River Ecology Laboratory | Greco V.,St Catherines Island Foundation
Herpetological Conservation and Biology | Year: 2015

Viability models of turtle populations have shown that after adult survivorship, juvenile survivorship is the most influential parameter affecting population persistence. This suggests that increasing juvenile survivorship, such as through head-starting, might be a useful management strategy. Little is known about survivorship and ecology of juveniles of most turtle species, including even wellstudied species such as the Gopher Tortoise (Gopherus polyphemus). Limited data on the fate of headstarted tortoises further constrains attempts to evaluate head-starting as a management tool. We summarize our experiences head-starting Gopher Tortoise hatchlings as part of reintroduction efforts at Savannah River Site (SRS), South Carolina, USA, and St. Catherines Island (SCI), Georgia, USA, and compare survivorship of head-started hatchlings with juveniles manipulated using other techniques. Hatchlings exhibited nearly 100% survivorship during the captive head-start period, but survivorship during the first year post-release varied among cohorts: 17 of 32 (53.1%) 2001 SRS hatchlings, seven of seven (100%) 2005 SCI hatchlings, and one of 32 (3.1%) 2006 SCI hatchlings. For two cohorts, head-started hatchlings performed as well as older non-head-started juvenile tortoises. At least 20.0% of St. Catherines Island neonates that we released into temporary predator-proof cages shortly after hatching (i.e., without head-starting) were known to have survived through their first winter dormancy. Survivorship for all manipulated hatchlings (regardless of treatment) was lowest during the first year post-release. The potential role of head-starting as a management tool merits further investigation. We recommend that future studies include an experimental component to allow critical evaluation of the techniques implemented. © 2015. Tracey D. Tuberville. All Rights Reserved.

Haman K.H.,University of Georgia | Haman K.H.,Tufts University | Norton T.M.,Georgia Sea Turtle Center | Norton T.M.,St Catherines Island Foundation | And 3 more authors.
Journal of Wildlife Diseases | Year: 2012

Sharks are of commercial, research, conservation, and exhibition importance but we know little regarding health parameters and population status for many species. Here we present health indicators and species comparisons for adults of three common wild-caught species: 30 Atlantic sharpnose sharks (Rhizoprionodon terraenovae) and 31 bonnethead sharks (Sphyrna tiburo) from the western Atlantic, and 30 spiny dogfish sharks (Squalus acanthias) from the eastern Pacific. All animals were captured during June-July 2009 and 2010. Median values and preliminary reference intervals were calculated for hematology, plasma biochemistry, trace nutrients, and vitamin A, E, and D concentrations. Significant differences, attributable to physiologic differences among the species, were found in the basic hematologic and plasma biochemistry variables. Significant species differences in arsenic and selenium plasma concentrations were found and appear to coincide with diet and habitat variability among these three species. Vitamin E was significantly higher in the bonnethead shark, again related to the foraging ecology and ingestion of plant material by this species. The Atlantic sharpnose had significantly higher vitamin A concentrations, supported by the higher proportion of teleosts in the diet. Vitamin D was below the limit of quantification in all three species. These preliminary reference intervals for health variables can be used to assess and monitor the population health and serve as indicators of nutritional status in these populations of wild elasmobranchs. © Wildlife Disease Association 2012.

McGuire J.L.,University of Georgia | McGuire J.L.,Joseph W. Jones Ecological Research Center | Miller E.A.,University of Georgia | Norton T.M.,Georgia Sea Turtle Center | And 4 more authors.
Parasitology Research | Year: 2013

The gopher tortoise (Gopherus polyphemus), one of five tortoise species endemic in the USA, was recently classified as a candidate for federal listing as a threatened species. Fecal samples collected from 117 tortoises from eight sites in Georgia were examined for endoparasites using a combination of sedimentation and flotation. Samples from an island population were examined for parasitic oocysts and ova only by flotation, protozoan cysts by trichrome-stained direct smear, and Cryptosporidium by direct immunofluorescence assay and ProSpecT rapid assay. A total of 99 tortoises (85, range 0-100 %) was infected with pinworms (Alaeuris spp.), 47 (40, 0-86 %) with cestodes (Oochorstica sp.), 34 (41, 0-74 %) with Chapiniella spp., 2 (3, 0-33 %) with Eimeria paynei, and a single tortoise each with a capillarid and ascarid (1 %). On the island, Entamoeba was detected in one tortoise (2 %) while Cryptosporidium oocysts were detected in eight (17 %). In conclusion, at least eight species of parasites were detected including Cryptosporidium, a possible pathogen of tortoises. Interestingly, we detected spatial variation in the distribution of several parasites among populations suggesting additional work should be conducted across a gradient of tortoise densities, land use, and habitat characteristics. © 2013 Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg.

Harris B.B.,Savannah River Ecology Laboratory | Harris B.B.,University of Georgia | Harris B.B.,Florida Fish And Wildlife Conservation Commission | Norton T.M.,Jekyll Island Authoritys Georgia Sea Turtle Center | And 3 more authors.
Herpetological Conservation and Biology | Year: 2015

The Gopher Tortoise (Gopherus polyphemus) is a large terrestrial turtle that excavates and occupies extensive burrows, which protect individuals from predators and temperature extremes. Individuals can thermoregulate behaviorally by adjusting their position inside the burrow and through surface activity, even in winter when they are thought to be relatively inactive. Much of what is known about the overwintering behavior of Gopher Tortoises is based on adults; however, the ecology of juveniles may differ due to their smaller body size and higher surface area to volume ratio. We investigated the overwintering ecology of 11 juvenile Gopher Tortoises on St. Catherines Island, Georgia using externally attached temperature loggers. Temperatures experienced by tortoises were compared to burrow and surface air temperatures collected at the same site, allowing us to infer surface activity of individuals. We examined the onset, termination, and duration of overwintering and occurrences of juvenile surface activity during the overwinter period. Tortoises initiated overwintering over a 48-d period (median date of 14 November) and terminated overwintering over a 32-d period (median date of 8 April). Mean overwintering duration was 130 ± 7 d (1 SE). Individuals emerged on 2–22 d during the 2012–2013 winter. Mean temperature experienced by overwintering tortoises was 17.9 ± 0.02° C (range 11.5–38.5 °C) and the minimum surface air temperature when a juvenile tortoise emerged from its burrow to bask was 15.8 °C. Timing of overwintering in juvenile Gopher Tortoises is similar to that reported for adult tortoises from similar latitudes. However, juveniles are active more frequently on the surface during the winter and emerge from burrows at lower air temperatures than has been reported for adults. © 2015. Bess B. Harris All Rights Reserved.

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