Integrative Biology

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Master's Defense by Emily Sunnucks

Event Type
Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences
Forbes 1005
Jun 26, 2023   10:00 am  
Originating Calendar
NRES Events

eDNA Detection and Overwintering Habitat Modeling for the Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake in a Southwestern Mesic Prairie.

As global biodiversity continues to decline, long-term and complete datasets become increasingly important. Collecting sufficient data can be difficult, though, especially rare or cryptic species, and may require new strategies to address deficiencies. I studied Eastern Massasauga Rattlesnake (Sistrurus catenatus) overwintering sites in Carlyle, Clinton County, Illinois to assess new survey methods. First, I optimized an eDNA assay to detect Eastern Massasaugas in sediment and water samples collected from crayfish burrows. Due to low detections, I found that eDNA is not an effective form of surveying for the species. Second, I developed a habitat niche model to identify vital overwintering sites at the Carlyle Lake region. I described important environmental characteristics and identified suitable habitat for surveys, protection, and restoration. My results provide information on the effectiveness of non-traditional survey methods and guide future conservation efforts for this species.

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