Kristin Highberg Berry

Kristin Highberg Berry
United States Geological Survey | USGS · Western Ecological Research Center

PhD

About

94
Publications
27,317
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2,717
Citations
Additional affiliations
January 1997 - present
United States Geological Survey
Position
  • Principal Investigator

Publications

Publications (94)
Article
Herpesviruses are found in free-living and captive chelonian populations, often in association with morbidity and mortality. To date, all known chelonian herpesviruses fall within the subfamily Alphaherpesvirinae. We detected a novel herpesvirus in 3 species of chelonians: a captive leopard tortoise (Stigmochelys pardalis) in western TX, USA; a ste...
Article
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Feral Burros and Other Influences on Desert Tortoise Presence in the Western Sonoran Desert KRISTIN H. BERRY1,4, JULIE L. YEE2, AND LISA M. LYREN3,5 1 U.S. Geological Survey, Western Ecological Research Center, 3621 Pinot Grigio Way, Reno, NV 89509, USA 2 U.S. Geological Survey, Western Ecological Research Center, 2885 Mission Street, Santa Cruz, C...
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Understanding the influence of geographic features on the evolutionary history and population structure of a species can assist wildlife managers in delimiting genetic units (GUs) for conservation and management. Landscape features including mountains, low elevation depressions, and even roads can influence connectivity and gene flow among Agassiz’...
Article
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Agassiz’s desert tortoise (Gopherus agassizii), a threatened species of the southwestern United States, has severely declined to the point where 76% of populations in critical habitat (Tortoise Conservation Areas) are below viability. The potential for rapid recovery of wild populations is low because females require 12–20 years to reach reproducti...
Article
Turtles and tortoises (chelonians) have been integral components of global ecosystems for about 220 million years and have played important roles in human culture for at least 400,000 years. The chelonian shell is a remarkable evolutionary adaptation, facilitating success in terrestrial, freshwater and marine ecosystems. Today, more than half of th...
Article
We evaluated the status of a population of Mojave Desert Tortoises (Gopherus agassizii), a threatened species, in the El Paso Mountains of the northwestern Mojave Desert in California, USA. The study area lies north of and adjacent to a designated critical habitat unit for the species, is adjacent to a state park, and is a short distance from the D...
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The Mojave Desert Tortoise, Gopherus agassizii (Family Testudinidae), is a large terrestrial species that can reach >370 mm in straight midline carapace length (CL) but most individuals are smaller. Both sexes reach adulthood at 12 to 21 years and ca. 180 mm CL. The species is sexually dimorphic, with males typically larger than females; sexual cha...
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We present a review and analysis of the conservation status and International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) threat categories of all 360 currently recognized species of extant and recently extinct turtles and tortoises (Order Testudines). Our analysis is based on the 2018 IUCN Red List status of 251 listed species, augmented by provisiona...
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Distance, environmental heterogeneity and local adaptation can strongly influence population structure and connectivity. Understanding how these factors shape the genomic landscape of threatened species is a major goal in conservation genomics and wildlife management. Herein, we use thousands (6,859) of single nucleotide polymorphism markers and sp...
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Worldwide, scientists have headstarted threatened and endangered reptiles to augment depleted populations. Not all efforts have been successful. For the threatened Agassiz's desert tortoise (Gopherus agassizii), one challenge to recovery is poor recruitment of juveniles into adult populations, and this is being addressed through headstart programs....
Article
Habitat has changed unfavorably during the past 150 y for the desert tortoise Gopherus agassizii, a federally threatened species with declining populations in the Mojave Desert and western Sonoran Desert. To support recovery efforts, we synthesized published information on relationships of desert tortoises with three habitat features (cover sites,...
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Agassiz’s desert tortoise, Gopherus agassizii, was considered a single species for 150 years after its discovery by James Cooper (1861), with a geographic range extending from southeastern California, southern Nevada, and southwestern Utah southward into northern Sinaloa, Mexico (Murphy and others, 2011). What was once G. agassizii is now recognize...
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Agassiz's Desert Tortoises (Gopherus agassizii) spend >95% of their lives underground in cover sites that serve as thermal buffers from temperatures, which can fluctuate >40°C on a daily and seasonal basis. We monitored temperatures at 30 active tortoise cover sites within the Soda Mountains, San Bernardino County, California, from February 2004 to...
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We examined a secondary contact zone between two species of desert tortoise, Gopherus agassizii and G. morafkai. The taxa were isolated from a common ancestor during the formation of the Colorado River (4–8 mya) and are a classic example of allopatric speciation. However, an anomalous population of G. agassizii comes into secondary contact with G....
Conference Paper
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Patterns of genetic structure are fundamental to inform conservation management of threatened and endangered species. Reliable evaluations of spatial genetic structure and genetic boundaries require sound sampling strategies because inappropriate sampling can misidentify barriers to gene flow and distinctive genetic groups. Most population genetic...
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Previous studies of desert tortoise foraging ecology in the western Mojave Desert suggest that these animals are selective herbivores, which alter their diet according to the temporal availability of preferred food plants. These studies, however, did not estimate availability of potential food plants by taking into account the spatial and temporal...
Article
We explored variables likely to affect health of Agassiz's desert tortoises (Gopherus agassizii) in a 1,183-km2 study area in the central Mojave Desert of California between 2005 and 2008. We evaluated 1,004 tortoises for prevalence and spatial distribution of 2 pathogens, Mycoplasma agassizii and M. testudineum, that cause upper respiratory tract...
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We surveyed an area of ∼260 km2 in the western Mojave Desert to evaluate relationships between condition of Agassiz's Desert Tortoise populations (Gopherus agassizii) and habitat on lands that have experienced three different levels of management and protection. We established 240 1-ha plots using random sampling, with 80 plots on each of the three...
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Introduced exotic plants can drive ecosystem change. We studied invasion and establishment of Brassica tournefortii (African mustard), a noxious weed, in the Chemehuevi Valley, western Sonoran Desert, California. We used long-term data sets of photographs, transects for biomass of annual plants, and densities of African mustard collected at irregul...
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Abstract We conducted health evaluations of 69 wild and 22 captive Morafka's desert tortoises (Gopherus morafkai) in Mexico between 2005 and 2008. The wild tortoises were from 11 sites in the states of Sonora and Sinaloa, and the captive tortoises were from the state-managed Centro Ecológico de Sonora Zoo in Hermosillo and a private residence in th...
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Tortoise mycoplasmosis is one of the most extensively characterized infectious diseases of chelonians. A 1989 outbreak of upper respiratory tract disease (URTD) in free-ranging Agassiz's desert tortoises (Gopherus agassizii) brought together an investigative team of researchers, diagnosticians, pathologists, immunologists and clinicians from multip...
Article
Numerous factors have contributed to declines in populations of the federally threatened Agassiz's Desert Tortoise (Gopherus agassizii) and continue to limit recovery. In 2010, we surveyed a low-density population on a military test facility in the northwestern Mojave Desert of California, USA, to evaluate population status and identify potential f...
Chapter
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The enduring processes of time, climate, and adaptation have sculpted the distribution of organisms we observe in the Sonoran Desert. One such organism is Morafka's desert tortoise, Gopherus morafkai. We apply a genomic approach to identify the evolutionary processes driving diversity in this species and present preliminary findings and emerging hy...
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The conservation of tortoises poses a unique situation because several threatened species are commonly kept as pets within their native ranges. Thus, there is potential for captive populations to be a reservoir for repatriation efforts. We assess the utility of captive populations of the threatened Agassiz’s desert tortoise (Gopherus agassizii) for...
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We performed clinico-pathological evaluations of 11 wild Agassiz's desert tortoises (Gopherus agassizii) from a translocation project in the central Mojave Desert, California, USA. Group 1 consisted of nine tortoises that were selected primarily due to serologic status, indicating exposure to Mycoplasma testudineum (seven) or both M. agassizii and...
Article
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Following field observations of wild Agassiz's desert tortoises (Gopherus agassizii) with oral lesions similar to those seen in captive tortoises with herpesvirus infection, we measured the prevalence of antibodies to Testudinid herpesvirus (TeHV) 3 in wild populations of desert tortoises in California. The survey revealed 30.9% antibody prevalence...
Article
Full-text available
Following field observations of wild Agassiz's desert tortoises (Gopherus agassizii) with oral lesions similar to those seen in captive tortoises with herpesvirus infection, we measured the prevalence of antibodies to Testudinid herpesvirus (TeHV) 3 in wild populations of desert tortoises in California. The survey revealed 30.9% antibody prevalence...
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We investigate a cornucopia of problems associated with the identity of the desert tortoise, Gopherus agassizii (Cooper). The date of publication is found to be 1861, rather than 1863. Only one of the three original cotypes exists, and it is designated as the lectotype of the species. Another cotype is found to have been destroyed in the 1906 San F...
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Understanding predator-prey relationships can be pivotal in the conservation of species. For 2 decades, desert tortoise Gopherus agassizii populations have declined, yet quantitative evidence regarding the causes of declines is scarce. In 2005, Ft. Irwin National Training Center, California, USA, implemented a translocation project including 2 yr o...
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The desert tortoise (Gopherus agassizii) is federally listed as a threatened species, and its numbers have been in decline for at least two decades. Portions of protected desert tortoise habitats coincide with anthropogenic features such as historic mines and military bases that are potential sources of ingested or inhaled arsenic. Previous studies...
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We necropsied a moribund, wild adult male desert tortoise (Gopherus agassizii) with clinical signs of respiratory disease and elevated plasma biochemical analytes indicative of renal disease (blood urea nitrogen [415 mg/dl], uric acid [11.8 mg/dl], sodium [>180 mmol/l] and chloride [139 mmol/l]). Moderate numbers of birefringent oxalate crystals, b...
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In the 1994 Recovery Plan for the Mojave population of the desert tortoise, Gopheras agassizii, the US Fish and Wildlife Service established 6 recovery units by using the best available data on habitat use, behavior, morphology, and genetics. To further assess the validity of the recovery units, we analyzed genetic data by using mitochondrial deoxy...
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Relocation is an increasingly prominent conservation tool for a variety of wildlife, but the technique also is controversial, even among conservation practitioners. An organized framework for addressing the moral dilemmas often accompanying conservation actions such as relocation has been lacking. Ecological ethics may provide such a framework and...
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We developed and tested a new protocol for sampling populations of the desert tortoise, Gopherus agassizii, a state- and federally listed species, in areas where population densities are very low, historical data are sparse, and anthropogenic uses may threaten the well-being of tortoise populations and habitat. We conducted a 3-year (2002-2004) sur...
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We surveyed for desert tortoises, Gopherus agassizii, in the western part of Red Rock Canyon State Parkand watershed in eastern Kern County, California, between 2002 and 2004. We used two techniques: a single demographic plot (∼4 km 2) and 37 landscape plots (1-ha each). We estimated population densities of tortoises to be between 2.7 and 3.57/km 2...
Article
We sampled 21 study plots for desert tortoises (Gopherus agassizii) at the National Training Center, Fort Irwin, California. Each plot was sampled once between 1997 and 2003 to obtain a snapshot of population attributes, status, and relationships between tortoise densities and human activities. Densities ranged from <1 to 28 tortoises km−2; overall...
Article
Land managers are concerned about the negative effects of alien annual plants on native plants, threatened and endangered species such as the desert tortoise (Gopherus agassizii), and ecosystem integrity in the Mojave Desert. Management of alien plants is hampered by a lack of information regarding the dominance and environmental correlates of thes...
Article
A baseline and background chemical survey was conducted in southeastern California, USA, to identify potential sources of toxicants in natural and anthropogenically-altered habitats of the threatened desert tortoise (Gopherus agassizii). Soil, stream sediment, and plant samples were collected from six tortoise habitat study areas in the Mojave and...
Article
Increased livestock densities near artificial watering sites create disturbance gradients called piospheres. We studied responses of alien and native annual plants and native perennial plants within 9 piospheres in the Mojave Desert of North America. Absolute and proportional cover of alien annual plants increased with proximity to watering sites,...
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Desert tortoise (Gopherus agassizii) populations have experienced precipitous declines resulting from the cumulative impact of habitat loss and human and disease-related mortality. Diagnosis of disease in live, free-ranging tortoises is facilitated by evaluation of clinical signs and laboratory test results but may be complicated by seasonal and en...
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Growth rings of costal scutes were counted using 35 mm photographic slides of 192 desert tortoises (Gopherus agassizii) from 11 study sites in the Mojave and Colorado deserts of California. From 0 to ≥ 3 rings were formed yearly, but subannular rings could not be distinguished visually from annular rings. Growth ring counts from photographic record...
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Many populations of tortoises within the Gopherus agassizii - G. berlandieri complex could be designated as species, subspecies, Distinct Population Segments (DPSs), Evolutionarily Significant Units (ESUs), or Management Units (MUs). However, the appropriate designations for populations remain incompletely resolved. Ambiguities regarding the phylog...
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The desert tortoise (Gopherus agassizii) has traditionally been viewed as an archetypal desert-adapted vertebrate. However, evidence from his