We hope you all had a great holiday season. Despite many challenges, 2021 was a successful year for our programs here at the Jones Center at Ichauway. See some of the highlights of the fourth quarter below. We’re all looking forward to an active and productive 2022 and wish you all a very Happy New Year!
Using Ecological Forestry to Increase Habitat
A new study led by our Landscape Ecology Lab published in Forest Ecology and Management sheds light on ecological approaches to forestry in longleaf pine. One goal of ecological forestry approaches is to maintain high levels of complexity like tree patches and openings which support many wildlife species. For longleaf pine, a second goal is to encourage a consistent enough supply of falling pine needles to carry prescribed fire and prevent hardwood encroachment. In a long-term study comparing harvesting by group selection, individual tree selection, and a hybrid approach, our scientists found that individual tree selection may simplify forest structure upon first entry harvests but is superior for hardwood control. Group selection treatments enhances forest complexity but leaves stands more vulnerable to the establishment of hardwoods. A hybrid approach that creates gaps but retains some residual trees may better balance these objectives and be more closely aligned with the effects of a natural windstorm. This attention to spatial pattern and complexity may enhance the ecology and sustainability of longleaf pine ecosystems.
Prey Animals Respond to the Threat of Predators
When we hear the term “predator-prey interaction,” most of us envision a carnivore consuming an individual prey animal. By capturing and consuming this one organism, the predator has directly affected abundance of that prey population. Historically, this has been the focus of predator-prey research. However, the mere presence of predators can elicit prey responses to the possibility of being eaten. If prey knew where predators were, we would expect the intensity of antipredator behavior to match the true risk of encountering a predator. Of course, predators do not wear bells to announce their presence, so prey must constantly assess risk and behave in ways that maximize feeding while minimizing predation risk. This results in behavioral tradeoffs which can reduce prey population growth rates and even affect local plant communities when wary prey feed less and engage in antipredator behaviors more. Prey species have more freedom to move about where they feel safe, and prey have been shown to alter their movement based on ambient predation risk. However, it is difficult to experimentally control predation risk for large herbivores over large areas. This limits our ability to form rigorous conclusions about the relationship between predation risk and large herbivore movement, space use, and habitat selection. Our postdoctoral associate Dr. Daniel Crawford experimentally addressed this relationship while working on his PhD at Ichauway.  
The long-term predator exclusion plots on Ichauway provided a truly unique opportunity to experimentally test the effects of coyote predation risk on white-tailed deer movement rates, home range size, and resource selection. These sites create areas where risk of predation by coyotes, the primary non-human predator of deer in Georgia, is effectively nonexistent, while in areas outside predator exclosures, deer are exposed to high predation risk. We experimentally assessed how risk of predation by coyotes affected deer behavior by capturing 18 adult female deer in and around our predator exclosures and fitting them with GPS collars. Because coyotes generally impact deer populations by preying on fawns, we focused our study on the fawn rearing season between July and September, when maternal instincts should make does most responsive to predation risk. 

Daniel compared doe movement rates inside and outside of predator exclusion plots and found that deer reduced movement when exposed to risk outside of the exclosures (where they were more threatened by predators). Deer are a “hider” species meaning that fawns don’t move very much during the first 2-3 weeks of life when their mother essentially acts like a satellite to her offspring. Inside the predator exclosures (i.e., in the absence of predation risk), females are free to move further from fawns or the fawns actually move more often with their moms, resulting in increased movement rates when predation risk is low. Daniel also found that home-range size decreased the more deer used the predator exclosure. Lastly, predation risk decreased deer use of hardwood habitat and increased use of pine-dominated areas. This is the first study to examine spatial behaviors of a large herbivore that was free to move across areas with and without predators. Our results indicate that predation risk substantially affects deer movement and should be considered an important component of habitat quality. 
We Continue to Convert Slash Pine Stands to Longleaf Pine Forests
We have made more progress in the phased conversion of the planted slash pine to longleaf pine located around the Center’s entrance. Planting areas were site-prepped following the timber harvest in early 2021. In late summer and fall, gaps that needed it were treated with herbicide and all gaps were mowed to reduce competition. We are currently underplanting almost 40,000 improved longleaf pine seedlings on 65 acres within these slash pine stands. We are using 3 different approaches in the under-plantings which will hopefully provide some interesting opportunities for demonstration and restoration in the future. The stand in front of the Ichauway Store continues the small-gap approach that was started in the late 90s. There we planted 62 gaps totaling 18.3 acres and ranging in size from 0.1-2.5 acres (with an average gap size of 0.3 acres). Behind Hoggard’s Mill courthouse, we planted 8 larger gaps ranging in size from 1.8-4.1 acres with an average size of 2.5 acres. Finally, in the stand located southwest of Cross Road, we planted one large gap of 22.9 acres. We planted all seedlings on a 6x12 12-foot spacing at 605 trees per acre. Assuming good survival of the planted seedlings, longleaf pine will be established on 33% of the planted slash pine stands when this phase of the project is complete.
Ichauway Conservation Fellowship
Kurt Sigler has joined Ty Paul in our Ichauway Conservation Fellowship program. Kurt has been at the Jones Center since February of 2020 working for Gail Morris in the Wildlife Ecology lab and for Zach Henshaw as part of the conservation monitoring program. He graduated from West Virginia University in August of 2019 with a BS in Wildlife and Fisheries Resources with a minor in Conservation Ecology. He was also the President and Treasurer of the WVU Student Chapter of the Wildlife Society. Kurt will begin classes online with the University of Florida this month. Please join us in welcoming Kurt as our newest fellow.
Preparations for New Construction
Preparations for the construction of the new Jones Center facilities have begun. We have closed several roads and are converting them to walking and bike trails. In addition, our conservation grounds crew recently planted wiregrass and longleaf seedlings to restore former roads and other areas. With buildings and new roads staked out, it won’t be long before we break ground on building new guest and student-tech cabins, and a new dining hall.
Explore Ichauway and the Jones Center Virtually
We know that many of you have attended our biennial Open House. This past year Covid forced us to cancel the event. We pivoted and developed an all-new Virtual E-vent – a week of new exclusive content including fascinating never-before-seen videos, Facebook Live sessions, an Instagram Story Q&A, an ArcGis StoryMap, and more. If you missed it, it’s not too late!

We look forward to seeing you here for our in-person Open House spring 2023!
Hosting the Turner Foundation
In November, the Center hosted a small group from the Turner Foundation Board. The mission of the Turner Foundation is to protect and restore the natural systems – air, land, and water – on which all life depends. They accomplish this mission through efforts such as the Turner Endangered Species Fund and their programs to support conservation on private lands. We enjoyed the opportunity to share some of the ways that our science informs management and restoration of longleaf pine ecosystems and the unique wildlife communities associated with them.
Learning with the UGA Mammalogy Class
We also hosted a small group from the University of Georgia’s Warnell School of Forestry and Natural Resources Mammalogy Class in November. Students spent their time in the field checking small mammal traps and learning about our research on predator-prey relationships as well as our collaborative project on feral swine ecology and management.
A Virtual Field Tour for a Virtual Fire Ecology Conference
The Association for Fire Ecology is an international organization dedicated to improving the knowledge and use of fire in land management. The Association meets biennially and had planned to hold its 9th International Fire Ecology and Management Congress in Destin, Florida this fall. Ichauway was originally slated to host an in-person field tour for this meeting, but after the conference moved to an online format, so did our field tour! We adapted fire-related videos from our E-vent to create a virtual field tour, followed by a live Question and Answer session for attendees.
The Jones Center Book on Longleaf Pine is Now in Paperback
In late 2017, we at the Jones Center published a landmark book that synthesized much of our work on longleaf pine. Ecological Restoration and Management of Longleaf Pine Forests was initially available only in hardback from CRC Press. A paperback version is now available, at an affordable price!