Press release: Sycamore Land Trust, a Bloomington-based conservation nonprofit, awarded a global conservation research grant from the Indianapolis Zoological Society, Inc

The following was sent to the Bloomingtonian:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

SYCAMORE LAND TRUST AWARDED CONSERVATION RESEARCH GRANT FROM THE INDIANAPOLIS ZOOLOGICAL SOCIETY, INC. TO STUDY ENDANGERED SPECIES AND RESTORE OVER 60 ACRES OF WETLAND HABITAT IN MONROE COUNTY

BLOOMINGTON, INDIANA  April 15, 2024 — Sycamore Land Trust, a Bloomington-based conservation nonprofit protecting 11,418 acres of land in southern Indiana, was awarded a global conservation research grant from the Indianapolis Zoological Society, Inc., to advance knowledge and protection of the state endangered Kirtland’s Snake (Clonophis kirtlandii) and threatened cypress firefly (Photuris walldoxeyi) in Monroe County, Indiana, and across their range. This project aims to advance research techniques and management efforts of these imperiled species by improving monitoring and habitat management at Sycamore’s nature preserves in its Beanblossom Creek Conservation Area (BCCA).

Sycamore is a local leader in the conservation of vulnerable, threatened, and endangered species in southern Indiana through the restoration and management of natural habitats, particularly wetlands. The 2,000 acres that Sycamore manages in the BCCA in Monroe and Brown Counties provides a refuge of exceptional wetland habitat for several rare and endangered species, including two of Indiana’s most remarkable but lesser-known species: the state endangered Kirtland’s snake and threatened cypress firefly. Both have been found in Sycamore’s 733-acre Beanblossom Bottoms Nature Preserve within this conservation area, and filling in information gaps regarding these species and the populations at the preserve will assist effective conservation action to benefit them. Successful protection requires understanding habitat needs and limitations as well as current population trends.

This project will pair multiple monitoring survey methods with habitat assessments to develop an adaptive conservation plan for Sycamore’s protected properties. By the end of 2024, Sycamore will restore and “rewild” at least 60 acres of suitable, constructed wetlands in the BCCA using native plants grown in Sycamore’s Native Plant Nursery, a volunteer-powered project that grows vegetation for habitat restoration from local seeds collected from native plants growing on Sycamore nature preserves. The landscape will contain restored wetland areas as measured by sustained shallow pools, the water table level, and the amount of seasonal and permanent flooded areas. From the restored wetlands, a corridor network of suitable habitat for the Kirtland’s snake and cypress firefly will be developed. Improving habitat quality on Sycamore’s nature preserves will sustain stable populations that are resilient in the face of disturbances, disease, and climate change.

Sycamore will collaborate with the Indiana Department of Natural Resources and other research experts to conduct two species survey and habitat assessment projects within the BCCA during the spring and summer of 2024, and publish a final summary report comparing various research techniques to determine which survey method per species was the most effective monitoring tool. This report will be shared with the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, the Global Center for Species Survival, Indianapolis Zoo, Xerces Society, and conservation departments that manage these species or their habitats within their ranges. This will increase conduction or planning of surveys to study these two vulnerable species.

Sycamore will also increase public investment in conserving these species by hosting guided hikes within the BCCA, sharing educational information, and inviting BCCA neighbors and the public to a species informational talk. Community education about the cypress firefly and Kirtland’s snake will integrate discussion and consideration of these species in current local action to tackle the threats impacting these species, such as expanding light pollution initiatives for birds to include fireflies.

“This grant will help us conduct research on two rare species that depend on wetlands and inhabit the preserves we are protecting,” said Chris Fox, Sycamore’s Land Stewardship Director. “We focus a lot of our work in the Beanblossom Creek area and wetlands in general and know that these species occur on our preserves, and in the case of the cypress firefly only occur on our preserve in this area. The information we gather will be very helpful for us to be able to learn more about their populations and the habitats they tend to be associated with. 

“This research will not only help guide our future restoration projects and current stewardship activities, but it could also help fill some informational gaps to a broader scientific/conservation community. For example, the Kirtland’s snake was up for consideration for federal listing under the Endangered Species Act but was not accepted due largely to a lack of research.  This grant will also allow us to try different survey methods to find which methods work best so our future surveys can be more productive.  This is the first grant we received primarily for research purposes which is also extremely exciting especially since I believe science should help guide our stewardship.

“I am excited to build this partnership with the Indianapolis Zoological Society, Inc.  They are a wonderful organization, and I am hoping this will be just the beginning of a long term partnership.”

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Sycamore Land Trust is a nonprofit conservation organization founded in 1990 to preserve the beauty, health, and diversity of southern Indiana’s natural landscape through strategic land conservation, habitat restoration, and environmental education. Sycamore preserves and cares for 11,418 acres of forests, wetlands, wildflower meadows, and other wild lands on 141 protected properties in southern Indiana. The organization maintains over 30 miles of hiking trails on 13 of its nature preserves for free public access. Sycamore’s Environmental Education Program connects thousands of people of all ages and abilities to nature through guided hikes and free education programs for local schools and community organizations. Learn more at sycamorelandtrust.org.

The Indianapolis Zoological Society, Inc. is committed to conservation efforts across the globe. One of the keystones of the Indianapolis Zoo’s commitment to conservation is to support efforts around the world to save wildlife and wild places that are in danger. The Zoo’s support reaches far and wide through its involvement and monetary assistance with many different organizations, researchers and scientists in the field whose hard work is helping to preserve unique animals and their habitats for future generations. Learn more about Indianapolis Zoo’s global conservation initiatives at https://www.indianapoliszoo.com/conservation/field-support.

Courtesy photos

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