Jennifer Elwood Grant Past Recipients

Past Recipients for the CIG Jennifer Elwood Grant (2009 to 2017):


Jennifer Elwood Grant Recipient 2017:

 Project Title:  “Release of captive-raised Eastern Hellbenders (Cryptobranchus alleganiensis alleganiensis) to test the success of a chytrid vaccine and new cage design.” Megan Kocher, SUNY Buffalo State.  Awarded $1000.


Jennifer Elwood Grant Recipient 2016

Project Title: “Bioavailability of herbicides and heavy-metals and potential impacts on past and current hellbender salamander (Cryptobranchus alleganiensis) habitat in Tennessee, U.S.A.”, Jeronimo Silva, Tennessee State University. $1,000.00 Awarded


Jennifer Elwood Grant Recipient 2015:

 Project Title: “Ground-Truthing of eDNA Survey Results in Ohio and West Virginia.” Joe Greathouse, The Wilds, OH. Awarded $956.76


Jennifer Elwood Grant Recipient 2014

 Project Title: A Historical Approach to Hellbender Conservation in New York State”. Robin Foster, SUNY Buffalo State, NY. Awarded $1,000.

Project Summary:

One of the major challenges faced by conservation practitioners is setting realistic goals for populations under management. An understanding of historical distribution and abundance is important for determining when and where conservation actions are needed, and developing metrics to assess their success. This challenge is compounded when the species in question is particularly elusive or difficult to study. The Eastern Hellbender (Cryptobranchus alleganiensis) has declined across its range over the past several decades.

However, little is known about the status of hellbender populations prior to the 1970s. Detection rates for hellbenders in field surveys are low, and early scientific records of their occurrence are sparse. The goals of this study are to 1) develop a framework for using historical sources to estimate baseline distribution and relative abundance in New York State, 2) use these sources to identify new areas to survey for hellbender presence, and 3) identify changes in environmental factors that may correlate to the loss of historic sites.

Historical information will be obtained from a variety of sources, including museum collections, newspaper archives, and naturalist journals dating as far back as the 1700s. Records determined to be credible will be used to model historic distribution and develop a measure of relative abundance. Historic and current distributions will be compared, and hellbender surveys will be conducted to assess the presence of habitat and hellbenders in sites not previously known. The results of this study will assist managers in more clearly defining goals for conservation programs, such as head-starting.


Jennifer Elwood Grant Recipient 2013

Project Title: Comparison of Movement and Habitat Use of Eastern Hellbender (Cryptobranchus alleganiensis alleganiensis) Using Three Captive-Release Methods.” Julie Boerner, SUNY Buffalo State, NY. Awarded $1,000

Project Summary:

The Eastern hellbender (Cryptobranchus alleganiensis alleganiensis) has declined throughout much of its range. Previous captive-release programs have achieved minimal success, presumably due to movement of translocated animals. This study aims to increase the success of future head-starting programs by implementing three different release methods (hard-release and two types of soft-release) and gauging the effectiveness of each method. It also will serve to increase knowledge of hellbender movement and use of habitat resources. Each of three release sites will receive the three study treatments as follows: 1) Two salamanders will be placed in cages (one animal per cage; soft-release), 2) Two salamanders will be placed in nest boxes (one animal per box; soft-release) with the entrance blocked over with screen, and 3) Two salamanders per site will be released directly under cover rocks in the stream (hard-release). Study animals will be monitored using radio telemetry, which will allow for accurate tracking. Results from this study will be compared to work that has been done with captive-released hellbenders in Ohio, West Virginia, and Missouri. The information received from this study also could aid further captive-rearing projects, as well as inform monitoring and survey efforts.


Jennifer Elwood Grant Recipient 2012

Project Title: Quantifying environmental DNA of hellbenders along a river system to estimate population density and reproductive status. Dr. Stephen Spear, Orianne Society, Clayton, GA. $1,000 Awarded in 2012

Project Summary:

The major goal of this project is to use eDNA to estimate density of hellbender populations and develop a simple model to calculate population abundance from amount of DNA. A secondary objective is to identify reproductive activity by collecting samples during the spring/early summer when populations are nonreproductive and a second sample during the breeding season of late summer/early fall. To accomplish these goals, a quantitative PCR protocol is being developed for hellbenders that will allow us to quantify the amount of DNA in a water sample.


Jennifer Elwood Grant Recipient 2011

 Project Title: Efficacy of Vitellogenin (VTG) assays for sex determination in eastern hellbenders.” Dr. Rod Williams, Purdue University. $1,000 Awarded in 2011

Project Summary:

To determine during what portion of the calendar year vitellogenin (VTG) assays can be used to accurately assess the sex of hellbenders. VTG production is specific to females, and its function in the reproductive cycle is to facilitate the formation and maturation of eggs. Because of this function, VTG is produced by females with some cyclicity. In previous trials we have conducted, VTG was detectable in the blood serum of female hellbenders at least two months prior to the breeding season in Indiana. However, the production of VTG during other portions of the year has not been studied. Consequently, the utility of these VTG assays to distinguish males from females during other portions of the year remains unknown.


Jennifer Elwood Grant Recipient 2010

Project Title: A historical assessment of the eastern hellbender (Cryptobranchus a. alleganiensis) in a Pennsylvania stream. Matt Kaunert, Allegheny College, Meadville, PA. $1,000 Awarded in 2010

Project Summary:

To assess a historically dense and widely neglected area in northwest Pennsylvania, compare population data with an original study from 1968, and, if funding allows, to determine the presence or absence of the chytrid fungus.

The specific outcomes of the study will be comparing the size and structure of the population to the original data. There will undoubtedly be changes within the population, which could allow for inferences to be made regarding the environmental alteration since that time and their impact on the population. If chytrid is tested for and is indeed located, it will be another step towards understanding the fungus and its distribution.


Jennifer Elwood Grant Recipient 2009

 Project Title: Movement, diet, and microhabitat of larval Cryptobranchus alleganiensis (Daudin) in the Great Smoky Mountains. Kirsten Hecht, Graduate Assistant, University of Florida $1,000 Awarded in 2009

Project Summary:

Although recent declines have sparked an increase in studies on C. alleganiensis, most research has focused on adults. This is probably partially due to microhabitat differences between adults and larvae as well as survey method bias. While C. alleganiensis can live 3-6 years before reaching sexual maturity, little data has been collected on the habits and habitat of larvae and juveniles of the species. Therefore, this study aims to expand knowledge of the life history of larval hellbenders.

This project aims to; 1) Determine microhabitat preference of larval and juvenile hellbenders in two streams in the Great Smoky Mountain region of Tennessee 2) Determine the diet preference of larval and juvenile hellbenders in two streams in the Great Smoky Mountain region of Tennessee 3) Determine movement of larval and juvenile hellbenders in two streams in the Great Smoky Mountain region of Tennessee 4) Provide assistance with population estimates and age class ratios of C. alleganiensis in two streams in the Great Smoky Mountain region of Tennessee using mark-recapture techniques 5) Assist with continued monitoring of populations within two streams in the Great Smoky Mountains 6) Assess the effectiveness of a new larval trap for success in the field.