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Welcome to the technical sessions schedule for the 2015 SEAFWA Annual Meeting.

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Tuesday, November 3 • 8:20am - 8:40am
Using Seasonal Abundance Patterns to Improve Monitoring Programs and Conservation Decision-Making: An American Alligator Example

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Abigail J. Lawson, Clemson University; Patrick G.R. Jodice, U.S. Geological Survey, South Carolina Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, Clemson, University; Clinton T. Moore, U.S. Geological Survey, Georgia Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, University of Georgia

Robust species monitoring programs are a cornerstone of successful wildlife management. Abundance, occupancy, and other demographic data derived from monitoring efforts are frequently used to inform management decisions (e.g., harvest rates). However, reliability of monitoring data is heavily influenced by study design components, such as seasonal timing and replication. For example, seasonal variation in a species’ habitat use in surveyed areas may violate assumptions of geographic closure (i.e., temporary emigration) resulting in inaccurate population estimates. Alternatively, environmental conditions that influence detectability may further reduce estimate precision. Here we estimated seasonal abundance of adult American alligators (Alligator mississippiensis) in rivers within South Carolina. Alligator use of riverine habitat varies among sexes, and with the seasonal timing of reproductive activities. Therefore, we sub-divided the alligator’s active period (approximately March – October) into three reproductive seasons in which to estimate abundance: breeding; nesting; and post-nesting. We annually conducted two replicate nightlight surveys per season on 4 survey routes (N = 6 surveys/route/year). The surveyed areas encompass a large portion of the alligator’s South Carolina distribution, yet also capture smaller-scale habitat variation (e.g., salinity). Here we present preliminary analysis results from two years of data collection, each spanning three reproductive seasons. We further examine whether the existing monitoring design is appropriate given the assumptions needed for population estimation (e.g., N-mixture models). The approaches described here can be readily extended to other wildlife species or sampling issues in which monitoring programs are used to make management recommendations, particularly for harvested species.

Tuesday November 3, 2015 8:20am - 8:40am EST
Ballroom Salon B

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