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South Africa is unique in that the majority of its wildlife is managed in privately owned game reserves. One major challenge for reserves is maintaining healthy stable populations, particularly large species, such as the big five (white rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum), African elephant (Loxodonta africana), Cape buffalo (Syncerus caffer), African leopard (Panthera pardus), and lion (Panthera leo)). Nevertheless, there has been very little research on management of these charismatic species in such size restricted reserves. To address this need, we are studying the impacts of megaherbivores on the structure and spatial distribution of vegetation in Amakhala Game Reserve. The reserve was created in 1999 from 7,500 ha of agricultural land. Since the formation of the reserve, succession of vegetation has been encouraged to create a more natural environment. However, the introduction of large herbivores, such as elephants and rhinos, may have altered or slowed down this succession. To explore this hypothesis, we conducted a GIS analysis using Landsat imagery and megaherbivore GPS tacking data. Vegetation type was classified to quantify historic changes, and we performed kernel densities and an emerging hotspot analysis with the tracking data (2011-2018) to determine megaherbivore distribution. We determined that the megaherbivores hindered the natural succession of vegetation by maintaining grasslands and preventing woodland encroachment. These findings will facilitate game reserve management by identifying Amakhala’s limitations for increasing browsing herbivores as well as the potential for the addition of grazing herbivores.
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Large numbers of migratory tree bats are killed at wind turbines globally. Recent studies have predicted potential population-level impacts as a result, highlighting the need for strategies alleviating bat-wind turbine collisions. Research has shown bats active in close proximity to turbines, approaching and interacting with tower surfaces as if they provided resources, such as water sources and foraging opportunities. Evidence indicates that the smooth surface of the towers can be misperceived by bats as water, and it can also create an acoustic mirror that can enhance foraging success. We hypothesized that a textured coating would disrupt the smooth tower surfaces. Thus, the focus of our study was to determine if texture application would result in decreased bat activity in proximity to tower surfaces, which in turn would reduce collision risk. From May to September 2017, we used thermal cameras, night vision technology, and ultrasonic acoustic bat detectors to assess bat activity at two pairs of wind turbines in north central Texas. Each pair comprised a texture-treated turbine and a control, and bat proximity and behavior at towers were compared. In this first year of testing, we conducted 76 survey nights, observed 1030 confirmed bats on video, and recorded 1215 acoustic calls from 7 bat species. To fully assess the effectiveness of the texture coating, we will be repeating surveys from June to September 2018.
This project will map 2,000-4,000 rare plant species found in Texas. Most of these species have geocoordinates, with some only down to the county-level. These georeferenced plants will be overlaid on to soil type, precipitation, and land development, topography, and ecosystem type maps. This analysis will explain why these habitats are ideal for the rare plants in Texas. Understanding the habitats of these rare plants is important in preserving endangered botanical species. This could lead to a better understanding of this rare biota.
On average, Americans generate about 11.4 million kilograms of spent coffee grounds per day. That is an equivalent weight of a thousand full-size school buses, every day. Most of this coffee is discard, where it eventually ends up in a landfill. However, if recycled or reused this commonly discarded material has many potential uses including as a pest repellent or garden fertilizer. Another use is as a sorbent to remove water contaminants. This means that coffee grounds have the potential to be used as a key component in carbon-based water filters. Evidence from recent research conducted in our laboratory at Texas Christian University shows that charred coffee grounds can effectively remove lead contamination from water. My research will further this work by identifying 1) the specific properties of charred coffee grounds that allows for the removal of lead from water and 2) the optimal temperature for producing charred coffee grounds for water filtration. With the use of infrared spectroscopy and other materials characterization techniques, I will study the properties of charred coffee grounds produced from regular Folgers coffee and an Ethiopian-blend at 250 ℃, 350 ℃, and 450 ℃.
BTEX compounds (benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, and xylene), and specifically benzene, have been linked to cancer in humans. This project will allow me to develop a map to quantify risk of cancer based the amount of BTEX compounds that have been determined to be in the air. Air pollutant data was gathered by TCEQ using automated gas chromatographs. I collected this data for different monitoring stations in the DFW area in order to compare the differences with Houston. This data was then used to create a map in ArcGIS in order to visualize higher pollution areas. The contaminant levels will then be used with the recommended health exposure levels in order to create a map of risk corridors. This is useful information as it allows individuals to be aware of their personal exposure to these compounds based on the time spent in an area.
Nitrate contamination of groundwater in the Seymour Aquifer is a well-known issue that has been documented since the 1960's. Concentrations as high as 35 ppm NO3-N have been reported, which is a startling 3.5 times the EPA allowable standard for drinking water. While most water from the Seymour Aquifer is used for agricultural irrigation, a portion is still used for domestic purposes and therefore poses a risk to human health. While this problem may have been recognized, the specific source of this contamination remains unknown. Three potential sources of nitrate within the aquifer are being considered in this study—the geological makeup of the aquifer, the agricultural contribution of nitrate from fertilizers, and the historical land use change of the area above the aquifer. My research will combine various analytical and geospatial technologies in order to 1) assess the evolution of groundwater in the Seymour Aquifer since the 1960's, and 2) to determine the source of the high concentrations of nitrate in domestic wells situated on the aquifer. Readily available groundwater quality data from the Texas Water Development Board will be used in conjunction with geospatial analysis and chemical analysis to identify changes in the aquifer's water quality over time. Nitrogen and Oxygen stable isotopic analysis will be used to determine the source of the contaminant. After a thorough analysis of the site area via the aforementioned methods and technologies, a thorough portrait that depicts the source of nitrate contamination in Texas's Seymour Aquifer ought to be painted.
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Bats are critical to their surrounding environment, providing numerous beneficial ecosystem services. For instance, they are natural pest controllers, and in urban environments they can control the mosquitoes that cause West Nile Virus. Nevertheless, loss and degradation of habitat, along with disease, have led to declining bat numbers. Restoring and creating suitable habitat will certainly help encourage bats, but first we need to know what resources bats need to survive, such as water. Many available water resources in urban areas, such as streams, ponds, and drainage ditches are ephemeral and dry up during the hot Texas summers. We believe that bats are able to utilize swimming pools in Texas urban areas, thus we explored this by radio-tracking bats in a local park, Foster Park in Fort Worth. We caught bats in this park using a technique called mist netting. Upon capture, we attached a radio-transmitter which emits a signal that can be picked up by a hand-held receiver. We then followed the bats using the transmitter’s signal and triangulated their position every minute to map their nightly routine. From March to September 2017, we tracked a total of 10 evening bats (Nycticeius humeralis). Using ArcGIS, we mapped the bats flight paths and determined home range sizes. From March to May, and September, we found that bats tracked tended to restrict their movement and remained within or near to the park, however from June to August the bats expanded their home ranges and moving longer distances into local neighborhood. This expansion coincided with drying up of water sources within the park, and included areas with swimming pools. Our finding supports the hypothesis that urban habitats have the potential to maintain healthy bat populations, which in turn can aid bat conservation.
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Intermittent power outages at Texas and New Mexico border stations has caused significant delays in customs services and information losses through computer shutdowns. The U.S. General Services Administration approached us to address these power quality problems at the border stations through a review of potential distributed generation sources through microgrids to “combat or support” these frequent power outages. The overall aim aside from solving power outages and brown outs at stations is potentially addressing the implementation of renewable energy sources as a power generation for microgrids and coming closer in compliance with Executive Order 13693, “Planning for Federal Sustainability in the Next Decade”. Our approach includes analyzing background information through analysis of GSA documentation and current studies on implementing microgrids in a variety of locations. Current data suggests proposing wind power, solar power, and battery storage based on size and locations of border stations. However, results are pending data collection and GSA input.