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Current Graduate Students - Britt Cline

Brittany Cline, Ph.D. studentBritt Cline
Advisor: Malcolm Hunter, Department of Wildlife Ecology
Spring 2010 – Spring 2014
M.S. 2008, Dept. of Fisheries and Wildlife, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR
B.S. 2001, Biology & Environmental Studies with a minor in English literature, Bowdoin College, Brunswick, ME

Current Research: In the realm of animal movement ecology, I am studying the effects of different land-use and forest management practices on amphibian dispersal and migration, with the goal of understanding how these movement processes affect population dynamics and persistence. Using a variety of experimental and observational techniques, I am particularly interested in describing juvenile breeding dispersal – or the process of emigration from natal pool to eventual breeding pool – and using annual-cycle approaches to studies of individual movement in order to document the relative importance of upland environments for amphibian habitat-use.

For many amphibian species, the juvenile life stage represents the primary driver of gene flow and population connectivity; however, there is a paucity of data on juvenile movement and emigration because direct tracking of this life stage is hampered by (1) the relatively small size of juvenile metamorphs; and (2) uncertainty regarding upland habitat-use during periods of juvenile emigration. Thus, my research focuses primarily on juvenile life stages for wood frogs (Lithobates sylvaticus) and spotted salamanders (Ambystoma maculatum), with the possibility of expanding to adult stages or other species. Recent work on amphibian movement ecology in the Hunter lab has focused on experimental landscapes (comprised both of different aged forest stands, as well as experimental arrays of clear-cut/contiguous forest arrangements) – in the context of the experimental National Science Foundation ‘LEAP’ project (Land-use Effects on Amphibian Populations). My research will expand beyond these experimental landscapes, to include landscape settings associated with other types of forestry practices, land-uses, and urban environments (e.g., lawn, agricultural, urban settings).

In addition to my work in the Department of Wildlife Ecology, I am also a graduate research assistant with the Sustainability Solutions Initiative (SSI; a National Science Foundation EPSCoR initiative at UMaine). As a uniquely interdisciplinary research venture, the SSI endeavors to address a range of environmental issues related to land-use changes across the state of Maine (land-use drivers: climate change, urbanization, forest management), using a series of working partnerships between research institutions, state and federal agencies, non-profit groups, private and public landowners, and other research stakeholders (“knowledge-to-action”). As a SSI graduate student, I am a member of an interdisciplinary research group that investigates vernal pool fauna as a case study for protecting natural resources at municipal scales in Maine (“Protecting Natural Resources at the Community Scale: Using Population Persistence of Vernal Pool Fauna as a Model System to Study Urbanization, Climate Change and Forest Management”). Comprised of social scientists, ecologists, and economists, our team is particularly interested to assess the efficacy of Maine’s Significant Vernal Pool legislation, which regulates development activities within 250 feet of these wetlands (Natural Resource Protection Act; Chapter 335, Significant Wildlife Habitat Rules). My role as a SSI graduate student is to provide pertinent ecological information to this interdisciplinary research team, as we endeavor to find ways to guide management policies that consider the socio-economic needs of Maine citizens while still conserving amphibian populations.

Previous Research: Although my prior research experience focused on avian taxa, a central theme involves annual-cycle approaches to studies of animal movement ecology – with the goal of understanding how movement behaviors are driven by land-use patterns and ultimately affect population persistence. Much of this research also involved fostering conservation initiatives on unprotected lands through working partnerships and collaborations with both private and public landowners. Most recently, I worked as a wildlife biologist at USGS Forest and Rangeland Ecosystem Sciences Center in Oregon, employed as project coordinator for a Western Great Basin Wetlands and Climate Change project – under the supervision of Dr. Susan Haig (USGS) and World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Freshwater Climate Change Adaptation Specialist, Dr. John Matthews (“Predicting and Managing Climate Change Impacts on Semi-Arid Land Wetlands, Migratory Birds, and Their Prey: an Integration of Remote Sensing, Molecular Genetics, Hydrology, and Environmental Modeling”). During this work in these semi-arid wetland systems, I collected (1) water quality data for eventual construction of digital wetland models (DWMs); and (2) aquatic macroinvertebrates for genetic analyses of dispersal abilities in relation to a variety of climate change projections (downscaled GCMs for the western Great Basin).

From 2005 to 2008, I conducted my M.S. degree in avian movement and wetland ecology at Oregon State University (Department of Fisheries and Wildlife), under the advisorship of Dr. Susan Haig (USGS Forest and Rangeland Ecosystem Sciences Center). The central focus of my thesis involved spatiotemporal analyses of shorebird movement patterns – across broad seasonal and spatial scales in dynamic (often seasonal) wetland environments in western Oregon. Specifically, my thesis was entitled “Seasonal movement, residency and migratory patterns of Wilson’s Snipe (Gallinago delicata) across the annual cycle in the Willamette Valley, Oregon” Using ground and aerial radio telemetry, I investigated the seasonal movements of Wilson’s Snipe, a cryptic and understudied shorebird species, identifying significant differences in the scale, size, and extent of individual movements (e.g., home range) at sites that showed marked changes in wetland structure over seasonal periods. Prior to my graduate work at Oregon State University, I worked several years as intern, technician, and staff scientist on numerous wildlife and conservation projects, primarily focused on avian ecology. After obtaining a B.A. degree in biology and environmental studies from Bowdoin College in Brunswick (2001), I worked in the land stewardship department at Maine Coast Heritage Land Trust (MCHT), gaining familiarity with drafting baseline data for conservation easements and collaborating with diverse landowners. Other experience encompassed broad guilds of birds, research methods, and geography, including fall-migration passerine banding along the Maryland Coast (Assateague Island), avian disease research and endangered species’ restoration in Hawaii (Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea), and telemetry studies of White-crowned Pigeon movement ecology with the Avian Research and Conservation Institute, Inc (Florida), and nesting and telemetry studies of Black Oystercatchers in Alaska (Harriman Fjord).

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