Rangeland Scientist - Wildlife
Range Cattle Research & Education Center
3401 Experiment Station
Ona, FL 33865
Telephone: (863) 735-1314 ext. 216
Facsimile: (863) 735-1930
Electronic Mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Florida ranches are commonly a mixture of improved pasture, semi-native pastures and native rangelands including pockets of woodlands/hammocks and numerous seasonal wetlands. Threats to Florida rangelands are many, including; conversion to other uses (intensive agricultural practices, urbanization); reduced connectivity through fragmentation of the landscape; intrusion, establishment and persistence of invasive species (animals and plants); altered disturbances, especially fire upon and drainage upon the land leading to alternative communities and succession to more woody habitats. As human pressure for space and food continues conversion of rangeland to other uses increases, and how rangelands are managed influenced.
The sustainable rangeland ecosystem program asks “What are the best ways to integrate grazing habitat management in rangelands so that ecosystem services are maintained indefinitely and ecosystem “stressors” are minimized?” These services include forage for cattle, habitat for wildlife and game, balanced soil nutrient cycling and carbon sequestration for global climate mitigation, maintenance of cultural heritage, and water capture, storage and aquifer recharge.
The program specifically conducts directed research and extension into rangeland habitat management techniques, wildlife demography and disease, cattle health and resource availability on rangelands, historic and current status of rangelands in Florida, their connectivity and restoration. The core focus of the program is promoting the conservation, maintenance and improvement of rangelands for diverse ecosystem functions, with special attention to wildlife.
Research Focus (40%)
- Grasslands worldwide have been declining for a variety of reasons, but two important factors that have influenced the decline in rangelands in Florida have likely been hydrological changes through drainage and reduction in fire.
- Using aerial imagery since the 1940’s we are investigating the increase in canopy encroachment into Florida rangelands. Has the amount of oak forest increased? Is their more palmetto than there used to be? If yes, what can be done to shift this 100 year legacy effect back to a rangeland mosaic?
- At the RCREC we are implementing a research and demonstration project of high frequency growing season burns compared to winter burns to understand if this change in management can promote gap establishment and increased forage abundance, reduce woody species/palmetto and improve habitat for rangeland wildlife?
- Improved management of range and pasture may also be assisted by the use of remote sensing tools for increased temporal and spatial monitoring. Satellite and aerial derived imagery can assist in understanding habitat health, weed occurrence, seasonal primary productivity and growth curves, and with ground-truthing estimates of forage biomass calculated.
- Since the year 2000 the NASA EOS TERRA satellite has collected global reflectance imagery at a resolution of every 250 meters, every 16 days. In combination with ground-truthing we are using this data to calculate yearly biomass growth curves and show the loss of forage due to early growing season freezes and droughts. This data for example can then be used to;
- Calculating the number of forage days lost due to inclement weather and comparing what the Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees and Farm-Raised Fish Program and the Livestock Forage Disaster Program actually paid out for.
- Understanding overall environmental conditions and what drives good and bad forage years in Florida, and how cattle production relates.
- The advancement of Unmanned Aviation Vehicles (UAVs) or drones coupled with imagery capture and software has allowed rapid repeatable flyovers of landscapes. Using this technology we will;
- Monitor and measure gaps necessary for increased forage grasses that are produced by fire treatments in rangeland treatment plots
- Monitor the size and repeat visitation of feral swine rooting that impacts forage type and quantity
Invasive Species Impacts
Feral Swine are common and plentiful across much of the peninsular of Florida and their impacts upon the environment and economy of ranches many. Ongoing projects have been established to quantify the impacts feral swine have on ranchers and rangelands, and to develop the economic costs of feral swine to the ranching community. Some of the questions we are asking include;
- What are the movement patterns and habitat preference of feral swine?
- What is the consumption of cattle supplemental feed by feral swine?
- What impact does feral swine rooting have on forage production?
- What diseases are shared among feral swine, wildlife and livestock? What is the risk of disease transmission by feral swine?
- How persistent are plant community shifts caused by feral swine in wet prairies, in particular an overwhelming shift to dominance by Carolina red root (Lachnanthes caroliana).
- How often do feral swine depredate ground nesting birds, especially Turkey, Bob-white Quail and Sand-hill Cranes?
- Does wildlife prefer areas where feral swine have been controlled and excluded compared to absence of control?
Over the last 30 years coyotes have expanded their range into peninsular Florida and more recently the population seems to have increased. Coyotes can be defined as an apex predator (top of the food chain) and play important roles in shaping wildlife populations, both positive and negative. Unfortunately, they are also a species that can interfere with livestock production. In this developing study we want to answer the following question
- How often do coyote interact with cattle and cause calf loss?
- How does coyote behavior change during calving season?
- What is the occurrence of calf loss across Florida?
- What has been the coyote population increase?
Extension Focus (60%)
Promote environmental stewardship
- Develop a Sustainable Rangeland Stewardship Certificate which would provide an educational resource for stewards of rangeland to have an extensive background and exposure to best practices to sustain a diverse array of ecosystem services.
Educate ranchers and state land owners about the importance of their lands and landscape connectivity to the persistence of wildlife.
Supply information on how best to encourage wildlife and promote conservation efforts on Florida ranches. For example;
- Developing habitat mosaics for wildlife
- Enhancing habitat for game species
- Identification of Threatened, Endangered or Species of concern on ranches and why ranchers themselves are of special importance in these species continued survival
- Examples: Crested Caracara, Snail Kite, Gopher Tortoise, Florida Scrub-Jay, Eastern Indigo Snake, Roseate Spoonbills, Woodstork, Sandhill Cranes
- Offer planning for endangered and wildlife species management
- Develop Best Management Practices for wildlife on ranches
- Provide expertise in recovery planning of endangered species
- Provide expertise and analyses for Habitat Conservation Planning process ongoing in multiple counties
- Post-Doctoral Affiliate, Archbold Biological Station, Venus, FL, Morris Animal Foundation Fellow, Disease and Conservation Biology, 2009.
- Post-Doctoral Fellow, Archbold Biological Station, Venus, FL, Avian Ecology Program, Disease and Conservation Biology, 2007.
- Ph.D. University of Memphis, Memphis, TN, Department of Biology, Physiology, 2001.
- B. App. Science. Southern Cross University, Australia, Department of Biology, Environmental Resource Management, 1998.
- Assistant Professor
University of Florida, Range Cattle Research and Education Center, Ona, FL 33865,
2014 to Present.
Assistant Research Biologist and Program Director Disease Ecology Program
Archbold Biological Station, Venus, FL 33852,
Manager and Warden of the Barren Grounds Bird Observatory
Royal Australasian Ornithologists’ Union, Jamberoo, NSW, Australia,
Affiliations and Awards
- Research Affiliate, Archbold Biological Station 2014 - Present
- Graduate Faculty Scholar, University of Central Florida, 2013 - Present
- Recipient of Morris Animal Foundation Post-Doctoral Research Fellow, 2009 - 2011
- Recipient of Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant, National Science Foundation, 2004
Membership in Professional Societies
- Society for Range Management
- Ecological Society of America
- American Society of Parasitologists
- Society of Conservation Biology
- Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology
- Bankovich, B., E.H. Boughton, R.K. Boughton, M.L. Avery, S.M. Wisely. 2016. Plant community shifts caused by feral swine rooting devalue Florida rangeland. Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment 220:45-54.
- Boughton, E.H, R.K. Boughton, C. Griffith, J. Bernath-Plaisted. 2016. Reproductive traits of Lachnanthes caroliniana [(Lam.) Dandy] related to patch formation following feral swine rooting disturbance. The Journal of the Torrey Botanical Society 143:265-273.
- Fassbinder‐Orth, C.A., T.E. Wilcoxen, T. Tran, R.K. Boughton, J.M. Fair, E.K. Hofmeister, J.L. Grindstaff, J.C. Owen. 2016. Immunoglobulin detection in wild birds: effectiveness of three secondary anti‐avian IgY antibodies in direct ELISAs in 41 avian species. Methods in Ecology and Evolution 7:1173-1181.
- Pepin, K.M., A.J. Davis, J. Beasley, R. Boughton, T. Campbell, S.M. Cooper, W. Gaston, S. Hartley, J.C. Kilgo, S.M. Wisely, C. Wyckoff, and K.C. VerCauteren. 2016. Contact heterogeneities in feral swine: Implications for disease management and future research. Ecosphere 7(3):e01230. doi: 10.1002/ecs2.1230
- Aldredge, R. A., Boughton, R. K., Rensel, M. A., Schoech, S. J., & Bowman, R. (2014). Hatching asynchrony that maintains egg viability also reduces brood reduction in a subtropical bird. Oecologia, 174(1), 77-85.
- Boughton, E. H., & Boughton, R. K. (2014) Modification by an invasive ecosystem engineer shifts a wet prairie to a monotypic stand. Biological Invasions, 16, 2105-2114.
- Martin, L. B., Boughton, R. K., & Ardia, D. R. (2014). A New Division of Ecoimmunology and Disease Ecology. Integrative and comparative biology, 54(3), 338-339.
- Cohen, A.A., Bowman, R., Boughton, R.K., Bridge, A., Heiss, R.S., Schoech, S.J. and McGraw, K.J. (2013) Circulating carotenoid levels are negatively associated with previous reproductive success in Florida Scrub-Jays (Aphelocoma coerulescens). Canadian Journal of Zoology 91(2): 64-70, 10.1139/cjz-2012-0243
- Rohr, R.J., Boughton R.K., Halstead, N.T., Johnson, S., Martin, L.B., McMahon, T.A. and Raffel, T.R. (2013)Early-life exposure to an herbicide increases disease-induced mortality later in life. Proceedings Royal Society 280: 20131502
- Wilcoxen, T.A., E.S. Bridge., R.K. Boughton., T.P. Hahn., and S.J. Schoech. (2013) Physiology of Reproductive Senescence in Florida scrub-jays: Results from a Long-Term Study and GnRH Challenge. General and Comparative Endocrinology 194C: 789-794
- Wilcoxen, T.E., R.K. Boughton., G.M. Morgan., and S.J. Schoech (2013) Heritability of immunological characteristics in Florida scrub-jays (Aphelocoma coerulescens) Canadian Journal of Zoology 91: 789-794
- Boughton, R.K., Armitage, S. and Joop, G. (2011) Outdoor immunology: methodological considerations for ecologists. Functional Ecology 25, 81-100 (special feature).
- Boughton, R.K. and Bowman, R. (2011) State wide assessment of Florida Scrub-Jay on managed areas: A comparison of current populations to populations of the early 1990s. Report to United States Fish and Wildlife Service. Mar 2011.
- Heiss, R.S., Cohen, A.A., Bowman, R., Boughton, R.K., Bridge, E., McGraw, K.J. and Schoech, S.J. (2011) Circulating carotenoid concentrations are positively correlated with later clutch initiation in Florida Scrub-Jays (Aphelocoma coerulescens). Journal of Experimental Zoology Part A: Ecological Genetics and Physiology 315: 101-110
- McMahon, T., Hastead, N., Johnson, S., Raffel, T.R., Romansic, J.M., Crumrine, P.W., Boughton, R.K., Martin, L.B. and Rohr, J.R (2011) The Fungicide Chlorothalonil Is Nonlinearly Associated with Corticosterone Levels, Immunity, and Mortality in Amphibians. Environmental Health Perspectives 119: 1098-1103
- Wilcoxen, T.E., Boughton R.K., Bridge E.S., Rensel M.A., and Schoech, S.J. (2011) Baseline and stress-induced corticosterone among different-aged Florida Scrub-Jays. General and Comparative Endocrinology 173: 461-466
- Boughton, R.K. and Bowman, R. (2010) State wide assessment of Florida Scrub-Jay on managed areas: A comparison of current populations to the results of the 1992-93 survey. Report to Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission. 10 June.
- Morgan, G.M., Boughton, R.K. and Schoech, S.J. (2010) Road effects on food availability and energetic intake in Florida Scrub-Jays (Aphelocoma coerulescens). The Auk 127, 581-589
- Rensel, M.A., Boughton, R.K. and Schoech, S.J. (2010) Development of the adrenal stress response in the Florida scrub-jay (Aphelocoma coerulescens). General and Comparative Endocrinology 165 (2):255-261
- Wilcoxen, T.E., Bridge,E.S., Boughton, R.K., Rensel, M.A., Reynolds, S.J. and Schoech, S.J (in press) Parental, social and environmental factors associated with hatching failure in Florida Scrub-Jays Aphelocoma coerulescens. Ibis doi: 10.1111/j.1474-919X.2010.07078.x
- Wilcoxen, T.E., Boughton, R.K. and Schoech, S.J. (2010) Selective pressure on physiological traits throughout an epidemic. Biology Letters 6, 552-554
- Wilcoxen, T.E., Boughton, R.K. and Schoech, S.J. (2010) Older can be better: Physiological costs of paternal investment in the Florida scrub-jay. Behavioral Ecology and Sociobiology 64, 1527-1535
- Schoech, S. J., Rensel, M. A., Bridge, E. S., Boughton, R. K., and Wilcoxen, T. E. (2009) Environment, glucocorticoids, and the timing of reproduction. General and Comparative Endocrinology 163, 201-207
- Schoech, S. J., Bridge E. S., Boughton R. K., Reynolds S. J., Atwell J. W. and Bowman, R (2008) Food supplementation: a tool to increase reproductive output? A case study in the Threatened Florida Scrub-Jay. Biological Conservation 141, 162-173.
- Boughton, R.K (2007) A test of the resource allocation hypothesis. Doctoral Dissertation. University of Memphis, Memphis, U.S.A.
- Schoech, S. J., Bowman, R., Bridge, E. S., Morgan, G. M., Rensel, M. A., Wilcoxen, T. E., and Boughton R.K. (2007) Corticosterone administration does not affect timing of breeding in Florida Scrub-Jays (Aphelocoma coerulescens). Hormones and Behavior 52(2), 191-196
- Boughton, R.K and Bowman, R. (2007) Distribution and population patterns of Florida Scrub-Jays in the Lake Wales Ridge Wildlife and Environmental Area: Results of regional surveys conducted July, 2007. Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
- Schoech, S.J., Bowman, R., Bridge, E.S. and Boughton, R.K (2007) Baseline and acute levels of corticosterone in Florida Scrub-Jays (Aphelocoma coerulescens): Effects of food supplementation, suburban habitat, and year. General and Comparative Endocrinology 154, 150-160
- Boughton, R.K., Bridge, E.S. and Schoech, S.J. (2007) Energetic trade-offs between immunity and reproduction in male Japanese Quail (Coturnix coturnix). Journal of Experimental Biology 307A, 479-487
- Bridge, E.S, Boughton, R.K., Aldredge, R.A., Harrison, T, J, E., Bowman, R., and Schoech, S. J. (2007) Measuring egg size using digital photography: testing Hoyt’s method using Florida Scrub-Jay eggs. Journal of Field Ornithology. 78(1), 109-116.
- Boughton, R.K., Atwell, J.A., and Schoech, S.J. (2006) An introduced generalist parasite, the sticktight flea (Echidnophaga gallinacea), and its pathology in the threatened Florida Scrub-Jay (Aphelocoma coerulescens). Journal of Parasitology 92(5), 941-948
- Boughton, E.A., Quintana-Ascencio, P.F., Menges, E.S., and Boughton, R.K. (2006) Association of ecotones with relative elevation and fire in an upland Florida landscape. Journal of Vegetation Science. 17, 361-368
- Schoech, S. J., Reynolds, S.J. and Boughton R.K. (2004) Endocrinology. pp. 128-141, In: Ecology and Evolution of Cooperative Breeding in Birds, W. D. Koenig and J. Dickenson (eds.). Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, Great Britain.
- Boughton, R.K., B. Wight, and M.B. Main. 2016 (revised). Rancher Perceptions of the Coyote in Florida. http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/uw143
- Kreye, M.M., E. Pienaar, R.K. Boughton, and L. Wiggins. 2016. Using the Ecosystem Services Approach to Advance Conservation Efforts on Private Lands. http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/uw414.
- Kreye, M.M., E. Pienaar, R.K. Boughton, and L. Wiggins. 2016. Safe Harbor Agreement: Regulatory Assurance under the Endangered Species Act. http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/uw403.
- Kreye, M.M., E. Pienaar, and R.K. Boughton. 2016. Landowner Cost-Share Incentives and Payments for Ecosystem Services: A comparison of Key Program Features. http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/uw415.
- Vendramini, J., R.S. Kalmbacher, and R. Boughton. 2016 (revised). Managing South Florida Range for Cattle. http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/ag173
- Giuliano, W.M., H.K. Ober, L. Watine, E. Hellgren, R. Boughton, and D. Telesco. 2015. Managing Conflicts with Wildlife: Living with Bears. https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/uw396
- Giuliano, W.M., H. K. Ober, L. Watine, and R. Boughton. 2015. Managing Conflicts with Wildlife: Living with Deer. https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/uw398
- Giuliano, W.M., H. K. Ober, L. Watine, R. Boughton, E. Hellgren, D. Land, and M. Lotz. 2015. Managing Conflicts with Wildlife: Living with Panthers. https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/uw399
- Giuliano, W.M., H.K. Ober, L. Watine, R. Boughton, and D. Coyner. 2015. Managing Conflicts with Wildlife: Living with Wild Hogs https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/uw400
- Watine, L., W.M. Giuliano, H.K. Ober, R. Boughton, A. Gulde and A. Scotten. 2015. Managing Conflicts with Wildlife: Living with Coyotes. https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/uw397