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Christopher Moorman


Jordan Hall Addition 3225


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Date: 08/01/21 - 12/31/25
Amount: $1,481,715.00
Funding Agencies: US Fish & Wildlife Service

Urban/suburban areas continue to spread into rural areas, increasing the need to understand deer ecology and assess the cultural impacts of deer and deer hunting across the urban-rural continuum. The North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission (NCWRC) is faced with an increased number of interactions between humans and deer in areas of high human and/or deer density, and these interactions often have negative outcomes (e.g., vehicle collisions). There is limited understanding across this continuum of public perceptions and desires of deer and deer hunting, along with little data on deer movements, density, recruitment, survival, and causes of mortality, or how hunting (the primary herd management tool) affects deer populations. Additionally, harvest and survey trends used to monitor herds across county or management zones are confounded by unknown hunter effort and success in these expanding urban/suburban areas. This project aims to increase understanding of spatial and temporal variation in white-tailed deer ecology across an urban-rural continuum in North Carolina and how harvest regulations affect white-tailed deer herds across these landscapes. Results will be available to help evaluate current NCWRC programs (Urban Archery Season, Community DMAP, depredation permits) and adjust or create new programs. Information can also be used to provide technical guidance to municipalities, landowners, and hunters. Results will be applicable to areas across the state and will have implications for other urban-rural areas across the state and country.

Date: 08/01/19 - 12/31/24
Amount: $382,056.00
Funding Agencies: US Dept. of the Interior (DOI)

As planned this will be a 4 year project costing $428,000. There will be 3 NCSU faculty involved. Two graduate students and one undergraduate studying forest management planning. Both will become highly familiar with the land management model. The final result is a sustainable strategic forest plan, that can be used by WRC to get better results. The NC WRC controls 541,000 acres of forest and habitat in North Carolina. The primary focus of management on these lands is wildlife habitat management, conservation and restoration. However, it is recognized that forest management and wildlife habitat management goes hand-in-hand. The final deliverable of this project will be a large scale mathematical program for optimization of the WRC land base.

Date: 07/01/21 - 6/30/24
Amount: $294,171.00
Funding Agencies: US Dept. of the Interior (DOI)

Climate-change vulnerability assessments (CCVA) provide a framework for evaluating how a species will respond to a changing climate, which can be especially critical for hunted species because of the additional stress on population dynamics. Integrating the use of CCVAs with a process that ensures the coproduction of knowledge will yield an inclusive, iterative approach between research and management to create new information. Using our wellestablished network with managers and other stakeholders, we propose a process of coproduction to assess the climate-change vulnerability of a wide-spread and economically important game species, wild turkey (Meleagris gallopavo), across the southeastern U.S. where it is exhibiting long-term declines in abundance. We will use >10 years of reproduction data for wild turkeys from six states to explore the multiplicative effects of climate and hunter harvest on wild turkeys to help guide localized harvest regimes (e.g., timing of the hunting season) across the region. We will assess the relative importance of short-term weather events, longer-term weather shifts, and extreme weather events on reproductive timing and output. Combining information on the relative contributions of weather and climate with variation in reproduction due to phenological cues will allow us to make projections about the overall influence of climate on reproduction in wild turkeys. Stakeholders in the process will include agency biologists, especially members of the Southeast Wild Turkey Technical Committee, National Wild Turkey Federation staff, and the general public with an interest in wild turkey conservation and hunting opportunities.

Date: 08/15/19 - 6/30/24
Amount: $644,410.00
Funding Agencies: US Fish & Wildlife Service

This 4-year study will provide a comprehensive understanding of wild turkey demography at 3 regions in North Carolina and will quantify spatial and temporal variation in underlying vital rates. The results and recommendations stemming from the study will serve as a solid foundation on which future turkey management actions can be based

Date: 05/04/18 - 8/01/22
Amount: $32,122.00
Funding Agencies: US Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) Forest Service

Populations of many disturbance-dependent breeding bird species are in decline, in part because availability of open-canopied, young forest has decreased. Earlier research indicated that breeding bird abundance and species richness in the southern Appalachian region increases dramatically after high-severity burns due to an influx of species associated with the increase in open-canopied forest. In western montane forests, bird response to mixed-severity fire is a complex interaction between pre-fire conditions, burn severity, and time since fire, yet less is known about these relationships in eastern US forests. Unprecedented wildfires throughout the southern Appalachians during fall, 2016 provide a unique opportunity to study breeding bird response across a range of fire severities in upland hardwood forest. Our research will test the hypothesis that disturbance-dependent bird species occurrence, and overall breeding bird abundance will increase with burn severity. This research has important, applied implications for breeding bird conservation and forest management.

Date: 08/14/17 - 9/15/21
Amount: $3,000.00
Funding Agencies: US Forest Service

Prescribed burning is a commonly used land management tool in upland hardwood forests, with fuel reduction, ecosystem restoration, oak regeneration, and wildlife habitat improvement often cited as primary goals. Prescribed burns are usually conducted in the dormant season, and under restrictive fuel and weather conditions that generally result in low-intensity burns to minimize safety risks and potential damage to timber. Accordingly, changes to forest structure and associated light ?????????????????? primary drivers of hardwood regeneration and wildlife community composition (Moorman et al. 2011) - are often limited to transitory reductions in shrub and leaf litter cover, with little overstory mortality (Waldrop et al. 2016).

Date: 01/01/21 - 8/31/21
Amount: $15,599.00
Funding Agencies: NC Wildlife Resources Commission

We propose a data gap analysis focused on data needed to determine the value of wildlife management areas (e.g., game lands, wildlife refuges) in SEAFWA states and territories (hereafter study area). This analysis will provide critical baseline information for future efforts of the Southeast Conservation Adaptation Strategy (SECAS) to assess the value of wildlife management areas.

Date: 08/15/15 - 8/16/20
Amount: $277,510.00
Funding Agencies: US Geological Survey (USGS)

Since the 1960??????????????????s, northern bobwhite have declined range wide, but most dramatically in the southeastern United States. Declines occurred in large part because of fire suppression, so application of prescribed fire has been used as a restoration too. Historically, prescribed fire primarily was conducted during the winter; however, natural fires occurred most often during late spring and summer, coinciding with the season of lightning storms. Frequent, growing-season fires reduce woody cover and increase dense herbaceous ground cover, which provides nesting and brooding cover for bobwhite. Nevertheless, recent shifts to burning during the growing season to restore historical conditions maintained by frequent fires have raised concerns that ground-nesting birds, such as northern bobwhite, may be threatened by nest destruction during prescribed fires. Additionally, burning large blocks of habitat during the spring and early summer (i.e., growing-season burn) could temporarily reduce bobwhite nest cover, destroy active bobwhite nests, or kill young chicks. We propose a study of northern bobwhite ecology in a longleaf pine ecosystem managed with frequent growing-season prescribed fire. We will capture and attach radio-transmitters to individuals during the late winter months and track birds to quantify habitat use and to locate nests. Our specific objectives are to: 1) determine home range size and movement ecology during late winter and during the breeding season; 2) describe habitat selection as it is related to prescribed fire history and identify environmental predictors (e.g., basal area, ground cover conditions, proximity to drainage) of habitat selection; and 3) describe nest-site selection, overall nest success, and sources of individual nest mortality, including prescribed fire.

Date: 04/20/15 - 3/02/20
Amount: $199,848.00
Funding Agencies: US Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) Forest Service

Critical habitat designation (CHD) is central to conservation and management of threatened and endangered species. Relating species?????????????????? vital rates to vegetation structure provides decision support for management of endangered species and CHDs. Optimum habitat conditions are assumed to exist when both population densities and demographic rates are high or above a target value, conditions that are the management goals at the Savannah River Site (SRS) and regionally. Recovery of the federally endangered red-cockaded woodpecker (Picoides borealis; RCW) is complicated by current uncertainty in the relationships between RCW demographics and designation of critical foraging habitat according to USFWS guidelines. Forty percent of all SRS clusters have less than the required minimum foraging conditions, but have acceptable vital rates. We observed in our study that standard U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) partitions used to allocate foraging habitat resulted in much fewer than 49 ha of foraging habitat (the minimum recommended in the RCW Recovery Plan) for five active RCW groups at the Savannah River Site where budding resulted in high neighboring group densities. Yet, historical demographic data indicate these groups have been reproductively successful since 2007, suggesting the USFWS standard foraging partitions do not accurately represent the foraging area or habitat requirements actually used or needed by groups where neighboring group density is high. Thus, we conclude that either the USFWS recommended method for creating foraging partitions appears inadequate when group densities are high or the guideline itself may not accurately reflect requirements for RCW population viability and recovery. This proposal describes a research plan to improve designation of RCW foraging habitat at high densities and the implications for species' recovery. Specifically, we will examine relationships between spatial organization, standard and non-standard foraging partitions, and vital rates of RCW groups to identify social and vegetation conditions that contribute most to variability in RCW vital rates under high neighboring group densities. We will discuss our results in the context of: 1) using alternative approaches such as MSPA coupled to predictive regression models to identify processes and key variables that affect RCW vital rates under high neighboring group densities; and 2) potential alternatives to management of RCW foraging habitat that promote conditions that maximize RCW vital rates.

Date: 08/22/14 - 8/21/19
Amount: $316,038.00
Funding Agencies: US Dept. of the Interior (DOI)

Forest ecosystems in the southeastern United States evolved with frequent lightning-ignited fires, a natural process generally mimicked with prescribed fire today. Native Americans and early European settlers recognized the importance of fire and used burning to clear undergrowth and improve habitat for important grazing species. Although managers now universally recognize the importance of prescribed fire, the way in which burning should be conducted is debated and target habitat conditions can be ambiguous depending on focal floral or faunal species. Management actions in the longleaf pine (Pinus palustris) ecosystem are driven largely by policies focused on recovery of the federally endangered red-cockaded woodpecker (Picoides borealis), and sometimes other threatened or endangered species. However, management paradigms driven by single species like the red-cockaded woodpecker may encourage homogeneity when focal species require a narrow suite of vegetation conditions, particularly when competing vegetation types are not linked to other ecological indicators. Land managers frequently require site-specific information on species occurrence to predict potential impacts of proposed management. Because it is cost-prohibitive to conduct comprehensive surveys at every proposed site, predictive models of species response to management are needed. Additionally, management to maintain heterogeneous habitat conditions is complex and requires large-scale habitat planning that should considers multi-species response to a variety of alternative management scenarios. Accordingly, habitat planning models can be constructed using spatial data and known habitat relationships for target wildlife species. These twin components ?????????????????? that managers can differentially affect vital rates, and vital rates can differentially affect population growth and persistence ?????????????????? are well understood, but have not been merged in a user-friendly way that can help guide on-the-ground management in the absence of intensive demographic data for target species. Therefore, our objectives are to connect management actions to population dynamic outcome.

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