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1.  Incorporating Cold-Air Pooling into Downscaled Climate Models Increases Potential Refugia for Snow-Dependent Species within the Sierra Nevada Ecoregion, CA 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(9):e106984.
We present a unique water-balance approach for modeling snowpack under historic, current and future climates throughout the Sierra Nevada Ecoregion. Our methodology uses a finer scale (270 m) than previous regional studies and incorporates cold-air pooling, an atmospheric process that sustains cooler temperatures in topographic depressions thereby mitigating snowmelt. Our results are intended to support management and conservation of snow-dependent species, which requires characterization of suitable habitat under current and future climates. We use the wolverine (Gulo gulo) as an example species and investigate potential habitat based on the depth and extent of spring snowpack within four National Park units with proposed wolverine reintroduction programs. Our estimates of change in spring snowpack conditions under current and future climates are consistent with recent studies that generally predict declining snowpack. However, model development at a finer scale and incorporation of cold-air pooling increased the persistence of April 1st snowpack. More specifically, incorporation of cold-air pooling into future climate projections increased April 1st snowpack by 6.5% when spatially averaged over the study region and the trajectory of declining April 1st snowpack reverses at mid-elevations where snow pack losses are mitigated by topographic shading and cold-air pooling. Under future climates with sustained or increased precipitation, our results indicate a high likelihood for the persistence of late spring snowpack at elevations above approximately 2,800 m and identify potential climate refugia sites for snow-dependent species at mid-elevations, where significant topographic shading and cold-air pooling potential exist.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0106984
PMCID: PMC4154771  PMID: 25188379
2.  Production of Hybrids between Western Gray Wolves and Western Coyotes 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(2):e88861.
Using artificial insemination we attempted to produce hybrids between captive, male, western, gray wolves (Canis lupus) and female, western coyotes (Canis latrans) to determine whether their gametes would be compatible and the coyotes could produce and nurture offspring. The results contribute new information to an ongoing controversy over whether the eastern wolf (Canis lycaon) is a valid unique species that could be subject to the U. S. Endangered Species Act. Attempts with transcervically deposited wolf semen into nine coyotes over two breeding seasons yielded three coyote pregnancies. One coyote ate her pups, another produced a resorbed fetus and a dead fetus by C-section, and the third produced seven hybrids, six of which survived. These results show that, although it might be unlikely for male western wolves to successfully produce offspring with female western coyotes under natural conditions, western-gray-wolf sperm are compatible with western-coyote ova and that at least one coyote could produce and nurture hybrid offspring. This finding in turn demonstrates that gamete incompatibility would not have prevented western, gray wolves from inseminating western coyotes and thus producing hybrids with coyote mtDNA, a claim that counters the view that the eastern wolf is a separate species. However, some of the difficulties experienced by the other inseminated coyotes tend to temper that finding and suggest that more experimentation is needed, including determining the behavioral and physical compatibility of western gray wolves copulating with western coyotes. Thus although our study adds new information to the controversy, it does not settle it. Further study is needed to determine whether the putative Canis lycaon is indeed a unique species.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0088861
PMCID: PMC3934856  PMID: 24586418
3.  Correction: Weak Polygyny in California Sea Lions and the Potential for Alternative Mating Tactics 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(4):10.1371/annotation/03fdf5e5-b986-49c7-aa43-202bdedd3a36.
doi:10.1371/annotation/03fdf5e5-b986-49c7-aa43-202bdedd3a36
PMCID: PMC3342333
4.  Weak Polygyny in California Sea Lions and the Potential for Alternative Mating Tactics 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(3):e33654.
Female aggregation and male territoriality are considered to be hallmarks of polygynous mating systems. The development of genetic parentage assignment has called into question the accuracy of behavioral traits in predicting true mating systems. In this study we use 14 microsatellite markers to explore the mating system of one of the most behaviorally polygynous species, the California sea lion (Zalophus californianus). We sampled a total of 158 female-pup pairs and 99 territorial males across two breeding rookeries (San Jorge and Los Islotes) in the Gulf of California, Mexico. Fathers could be identified for 30% of pups sampled at San Jorge across three breeding seasons and 15% of sampled pups at Los Islotes across two breeding seasons. Analysis of paternal relatedness between the pups for which no fathers were identified (sampled over four breeding seasons at San Jorge and two at Los Islotes) revealed that few pups were likely to share a father. Thirty-one percent of the sampled males on San Jorge and 15% of the sampled males on Los Islotes were assigned at least one paternity. With one exception, no male was identified as the father of more than two pups. Furthermore, at Los Islotes rookery there were significantly fewer pups assigned paternity than expected given the pool of sampled males (p<0.0001). Overall, we found considerably lower variation in male reproductive success than expected in a species that exhibits behavior associated with strongly polygynous mating. Low variation in male reproductive success may result from heightened mobility among receptive females in the Gulf of California, which reduces the ability of males to monopolize groups of females. Our results raise important questions regarding the adaptive role of territoriality and the potential for alternative mating tactics in this species.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0033654
PMCID: PMC3303858  PMID: 22432039
5.  Human Disturbance Influences Reproductive Success and Growth Rate in California Sea Lions (Zalophus californianus) 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(3):e17686.
The environment is currently undergoing changes at both global (e.g., climate change) and local (e.g., tourism, pollution, habitat modification) scales that have the capacity to affect the viability of animal and plant populations. Many of these changes, such as human disturbance, have an anthropogenic origin and therefore may be mitigated by management action. To do so requires an understanding of the impact of human activities and changing environmental conditions on population dynamics. We investigated the influence of human activity on important life history parameters (reproductive rate, and body condition, and growth rate of neonate pups) for California sea lions (Zalophus californianus) in the Gulf of California, Mexico. Increased human presence was associated with lower reproductive rates, which translated into reduced long-term population growth rates and suggested that human activities are a disturbance that could lead to population declines. We also observed higher body growth rates in pups with increased exposure to humans. Increased growth rates in pups may reflect a density dependent response to declining reproductive rates (e.g., decreased competition for resources). Our results highlight the potentially complex changes in life history parameters that may result from human disturbance, and their implication for population dynamics. We recommend careful monitoring of human activities in the Gulf of California and emphasize the importance of management strategies that explicitly consider the potential impact of human activities such as ecotourism on vertebrate populations.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0017686
PMCID: PMC3059216  PMID: 21436887
6.  The Cost of Male Aggression and Polygyny in California Sea Lions (Zalophus californianus) 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(8):e12230.
In polygynous mating systems, males often increase their fecundity via aggressive defense of mates and/or resources necessary for successful mating. Here we show that both male and female reproductive behavior during the breeding season (June–August) affect female fecundity, a vital rate that is an important determinant of population growth rate and viability. By using 4 years of data on behavior and demography of California sea lions (Zalophus californianus), we found that male behavior and spatial dynamics—aggression and territory size—are significantly related to female fecundity. Higher rates of male aggression and larger territory sizes were associated with lower estimates of female fecundity within the same year. Female aggression was significantly and positively related to fecundity both within the same year as the behavior was measured and in the following year. These results indicate that while male aggression and defense of territories may increase male fecundity, such interactions may cause a reduction in the overall population growth rate by lowering female fecundity. Females may attempt to offset male-related reductions in female fecundity by increasing their own aggression—perhaps to defend pups from incidental injury or mortality. Thus in polygynous mating systems, male aggression may increase male fitness at the cost of female fitness and overall population viability.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0012230
PMCID: PMC2923196  PMID: 20808931
7.  Protecting Migration Corridors: Challenges and Optimism for Mongolian Saiga 
PLoS Biology  2008;6(7):e165.
Hunting pressure and habitat loss place the endangered saiga, a type of antelope that was once abundant in central Asia, at high risk of extinction, and make the protection of the migratory routes of Mongolian populations even more critical for conserving the species.
doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.0060165
PMCID: PMC2486290  PMID: 18666827

Results 1-7 (7)