Marissa Ahlering

Marissa Ahlering
The Nature Conservancy · Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota

Ph.D. Biology

About

43
Publications
7,279
Reads
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906
Citations
Citations since 2016
17 Research Items
546 Citations
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2016201720182019202020212022020406080100
Introduction
I am an Ecologist with a passion for grasslands. Within that context my interests are diverse. I have worked on projects spanning the range of birds, butterflies, elephants, plants and carbon.
Additional affiliations
January 2010 - January 2017
The Nature Conservancy
Position
  • Lead Prairie Ecologist
October 2008 - December 2009
Smithsonian Institution
Position
  • PostDoc Position
August 2007 - December 2007
University of Missouri
Position
  • Instructor
Education
August 2000 - December 2005
University of Missouri
Field of study
  • Avian Ecology
August 1996 - May 2000
Creighton University
Field of study
  • Environmental Science

Publications

Publications (43)
Article
Full-text available
To help avoid the most catastrophic effects of climate change, society needs to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by mid-century. Wind energy provides a clean, renewable source of electricity; however, improperly sited wind facilities pose known threats to wildlife populations and contribute to degradation of natural habitats. To support a...
Preprint
Full-text available
Premise of the Study Understanding how environment influences the distribution of trait variation across a species’ range has important implications for seed transfer during restoration. Heritable genetic differences associated with environment could impact fitness when transferred into new environments. Here, we test the degree to which the enviro...
Preprint
Full-text available
Restoration often advocates for the use of local seed in restoration, however increasingly new strategies have been proposed to incorporate diverse sources to maintain evolutionary potential within seed mixes. Increasing seed sources per species within a seed mix should increase genetic variation, however, few empirical studies have evaluated how s...
Article
Full-text available
While increasing numbers of ranchers are striving to demonstrate sustainable ranching operations geared toward a healthy landscape, companies are seeking to advance sustainability along beef supply chains and consumers are making more environmentally oriented purchasing choices. Yet there is a need for greater clarity on which indicators are most e...
Technical Report
Full-text available
Summary of the opportunity for natural climate solutions--nature-based carbon sequestration mechanisms--to contribute to Minnesota's state climate goals, as well as opportunities for nature to contribute to local adaptation efforts. Includes policy considerations and requisite next steps for success.
Article
Full-text available
The long‐term well‐being of both people and nature is achievable, assuming major changes in resource distribution and consumption at a global level. This optimistic outlook for the world requires rapid identification of major knowledge gaps that would undermine our ability to achieve a sustainable future if left unaddressed locally and regionally....
Article
Full-text available
Adaptive management (AM) is widely used as an approach for learning to improve resource management, but successful AM projects remain relatively uncommon, with few documented examples applied by natural resource management agencies. We used AM to provide insights into actions that would be most beneficial for the management of native tallgrass prai...
Preprint
Full-text available
To help avoid the most catastrophic effects of climate change, society needs to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by mid-century. Wind energy provides a clean, renewable source of electricity; however, improperly sited wind facilities pose known threats to wildlife populations and contribute to degradation of natural habitats. To support a...
Chapter
Elephants, which are among the most high-profile of the charismatic megafauna, are increasingly found in the human-dominated landscapes outside protected areas, creating the potential for serious economic impacts and tragic consequences for both humans and elephants. Managing elephants and other wide-ranging species requires information about popul...
Article
The grasslands of the northern Great Plains region of North America are considered endangered ecosystems and priority conservation areas yet have great ecological and economic importance. Grasslands in the northern Great Plains (NGP) are no longer self‐regulating adaptive systems. The challenges to these grasslands are widespread and serious (e.g.,...
Article
Populations of grassland songbirds continue to decline, and grasslands devoted to conservation are rare across the Great Plains. To gain the most value from grasslands for grassland birds, we must understand what types of management benefit these species. We evaluated the relative abundance of grassland birds on ownership types and the association...
Article
The thousands of hectares of prairie reconstructed each year in the tallgrass prairie biome can provide a valuable resource for evaluation of seed mixes, planting methods, and post-planting management if methods used and resulting characteristics of the prairies are recorded and compiled in a publicly accessible database. The objective of this stud...
Article
In the prairies of North America, remnant native grasslands are threatened by continuing agricultural ex-tensification. Fragmentation of the remaining grassland isolates patches and limits the potential for dispersal of native species. We explored these impacts by analyzing the spatial pattern of native grassland habitats in the Prairie Coteau regi...
Article
Full-text available
Protection of lands threatened with conversion to agriculture can reduce carbon emissions. Until recently, most climate change mitigation incentive programs for avoided conversion have focused on forested ecosystems. We applied the Avoided Conversion of Grasslands and Shrublands v.1.0 (ACoGS) methodology now available through the American Carbon Re...
Article
Full-text available
Interseeding is a common method used to increase species richness within established reconstructed grasslands. This process depends upon the ability of the practitioner to produce resource conditions that facilitate seedling emergence in systems where such emergence is often limited. We tested effects of a mowing disturbance on interseeding success...
Article
With the loss of over 70% of North America's grasslands (Samson et al. 2004), grassland birds increasingly rely on habitat that is privately owned and managed for livestock production. Therefore, it is critical to understand how livestock grazing influences grassland bird abundance and community structure. We evaluated the response of 4 obligate gr...
Article
Full-text available
Grassland bird habitat has declined substantially in the United States. Remaining grasslands are increasingly fragmented, mostly privately owned, and vary greatly in terms of habitat quality and protection status. A coordinated strategic response for grassland bird conservation is difficult, largely due to the scope and complexity of the problem, f...
Article
Litter-removing disturbances such as fire in grasslands temporarily increase available resources for plants, opening a window of opportunity for new establishment as communities recover. At this time, new individuals or species could be added to the community as a result of germination from the local seed bank. In reconstructed grasslands this may...
Conference Paper
Background/Question/Methods Grassland songbird populations are in decline across the tallgrass prairie. Loss of habitat is considered the primary cause, and much of the remaining grassland is in private ownership, where cattle grazing is common. The objective of this study was to evaluate the influence of grazing intensity on songbird occupancy o...
Article
Biodiversity conservation strategies are increasingly focused on regions outside national protected areas, where animals face numerous anthropogenic threats and must coexist with human settlements, livestock, and agriculture. The effects of these potential threats are not always clear, but they could have profound implications for population viabil...
Article
Full-text available
Non-invasive DNA-based capture–mark–recapture (CMR) methods have been developed to estimate population size and other parameters and have the advantage that samples can be collected without the need to see or disturb the animals. There are, however, few comparisons of DNA-based CMR estimates of animal population size with estimates from non-genetic...
Article
Full-text available
We investigated the genetic metapopulation structure of elephants across the trans Rift Valley region of Kenya and Tanzania, one of the remaining strongholds for savannah elephants (Loxodonata africana) in East Africa, using microsatellite and mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) markers. We then examined this population structure to determine the source popu...
Data
Map of the sample locations and groupings in Serengeti National Park, Tanzania for testing within park FST structure using mtDNA haplotypes; names correspond to the southern (SSE), central (CSE), western (WSE) and northern (NSE) groupings. (TIF)
Data
Number of each haplotype detected in each of the five sampled populations in southern Kenya and northern Tanzania in 2007 and 2008. (DOCX)
Data
Allele size ranges in bp for each of 12 loci across five populations in southern Kenya and northern Tanzania; all loci except those marked are dinucleotide repeats. (DOCX)
Data
Plot of Delta K from STRUCTURE outputs run from K = 1 to K = 9 using locprior option; output obtained from STRUCTURE Harvester. (TIF)
Data
Barplots from STRUCTURE using LOCPRIOR depicting population assignment for individuals mapped and sorted by sampling location for K = 2 though K = 5: Amboseli (AM), Community Conservation Area (CCA), Maasai Mara (MM), Serengeti (SE) and Tarangire (TA); the Rift Valley splits the study area, Maasai Mara and Serengeti are on the west side of the vall...
Article
Full-text available
Large tracts (>1000 ha) of prairie are essential to the sustainability of grassland ecosystem services, yet in many ecoregions only small fragments remain. Glacial Ridge is among the largest prairie-wetland restorations ever attempted. Started in 2000, the 9000 ha project in northwest Minnesota, USA, was initiated to reconnect 14 small tallgrass pr...
Article
Aim Dispersal is a critical component of animal ecology that is poorly understood for most species. In particular, savanna elephants (Loxodonta africana) have been studied for decades in national parks across Africa, but little is known about their dispersal into new or unused habitats or their population dynamics in human-dominated landscapes. We...
Conference Paper
Background/Question/Methods The recovery after a disturbance in tallgrass prairies can be driven by either seed or vegetative regeneration. At remnant tallgrass prairies, recovery is dominated by vegetative regrowth. At established reconstructed prairies, seeds may or may not play a role in recovery. Disturbance is expected to increase the resour...
Article
Full-text available
The Lao People’s Democratic Republic (PDR) may have the largest Asian elephant population in Indochina. However, elephants on Lao PDR’s Nakai Plateau are potentially threatened by the construction of a hydropower dam that will flood important habitat. We conducted a non-invasive genetic study of elephants in this region to provide baseline data on...
Article
We report the development of a reliable and efficient method for molecular sexing of all extant elephant taxa. We developed primers that amplify two short Y-specific fragments (SRY1 and AMELY2) and one longer X-specific fragment (PLP1), developed from elephant sequences in one multiplex PCR. All fragments were designed to be short (< 200 basepairs)...
Article
Crop raiding is one of the most common forms of human–elephant conflict. Deterring elephants from raiding crops requires an understanding of the factors influencing the behavior of the individuals involved. We collected fecal samples from five group ranches in southern Kenya where crop-raiding incidents had occurred (n=10) and two protected areas,...
Article
Full-text available
Se ha confirmado mediante numerosos estudios que las aves pueden utilizar información social adquirida mediante la observación de otros individuos al seleccionar el hábitat y muchos aspectos de esta información social pueden emplearse para manejar las poblaciones de aves. Las implicaciones de la atracción entre individuos coespecificos para la cons...
Conference Paper
Adapting Conservation Strategies for Future Climate Change in the Tallgrass Aspen Parkland. (Poster). P. Gerla, C. Hamel, R. Reisz, M. Cornett, M. Ahlering & J. Eerkes. Page 116 in Danyluk, D. 2011. Proceedings of the 9th Prairie Conservation & Endangered Species Conference. Critical Wildlife Habitat Program, Winnipeg, MB. 212 pp.
Article
Although critical to habitat and population management, the proximate cues that birds use to establish territories are largely unknown. Understanding these cues is important for birds, such as many grassland birds, that exhibit high annual variability in population density and make new habitat-selection decisions annually. Identifying the actual cu...
Article
Territorial songbirds generally use song to defend territories and attract mates, but conspecific song may also serve as a cue to attract other male songbirds to a breeding site. Although known to occur in some colonial and forest-associated species, only recently have investigators examined conspecific attraction in grassland species. We used a pl...
Article
Typescript. Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Missouri-Columbia, 2005. Vita. Includes bibliographical references.
Article
Full-text available
A recent review of published studies revealed that predators generally have lower population densities than non-predators in a variety of communities. We report here similar results for a highly replicated study of macroinvertebrates that colonized very uniform detrital microcosms in an old field. This pattern persisted even though predators usuall...

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Projects

Projects (4)
Project
This goal of this project is to apply adaptive management to the uncertainty natural resource managers face regarding how to improve or maintain the condition of native tallgrass prairie plant communities in western Minnesota and eastern North and South Dakota, USA. Fragmented tallgrass prairie remnants face numerous threats, including loss of diversity and resilience from invasive species. In 2007, we initiated an interagency adaptive management project that focused on maintaining diverse native plant communities.
Project
Although recommendations to diversify seed mixes in restoration projects to enhance genetic diversity and adaptability are pervasive in the literature, common practice and sometimes local laws dictate the use of exclusively local ecotype seed for restoration or reconstruction. The goal of this project is to synthesize the state of the science and policy regarding seed sources for restorations and develop concrete recommendations for how to implement climate-smart restoration practices.
Project
Identify a network of "Resilient Sites for Terrestrial Conservation in the Great Lakes and Tallgrass Prairie Region,” in the first study of its kind in the Midwest. This work will provide an invaluable road map for protecting biodiversity in an uncertain future. For more info go to nature.org/midweststrongholds