Monitoring Vegetation for Deer Impacts: Methods and a Citizen Science Proposal

Abstract (150 words max): 
Hundreds of studies in eastern North America over the past 25 years have shown that overabundant deer are reducing forest regeneration and diversity, and altering habitat for numerous other species (including songbirds, butterflies, and native bees). But while impacts on vegetation have been documented across many regions, they can vary considerably within and across sites depending on land-use history and landscape context. Management relies on local, site-specific information. How are deer affecting your site? And can a Citizen Science network and education project help provide education and information for management? This workshop will provide a brief overview of methods for assessing deer impacts, including methods for estimating browse damage severity, then will focus on several new monitoring techniques that have been developed recently to help private land-owners and public land managers assess deer browse damage. We will go out into the field for hands-on practice in setting up permanent monitoring plots that can be quickly surveyed and analyzed using the “Ten Tallest” (Rawinski 2017) and the “Twig Age” (Waller 2017) methods to allow for tracking trends over time. While methods are focused on forest tree and shrub regeneration, they can also be used to track spring flora, invasive species, and other species of interest or concern. We will discuss how the method can be tweaked to focus on different aspects of vegetation. Workshop participants will receive materials for setting up their first vegetation plot, and should leave with a clear understanding of how to go forth and monitor. Basic plant identification skills are helpful but all that’s required is a willingness to learn a few key plants and counting/measuring techniques. After some hands-on practice, we will return indoors to hear about a proposal from University of Wisconsin, where collaborators are working on expanded monitoring of deer habitat conditions, both to ensure that deer have enough sufficient food available and to ensure that browsing does not threaten tree regeneration and forest diversity. We have identified a great opportunity to work with School Forests and HS teachers and students across the Wisconsin to build a Citizen Science network that would generate data to help guide deer and forest management while engaging and educating citizens across the state in key resource issues. Our project is scalable and generates synergies between field science, education, and citizen engagement in a high visibility conservation issue.
Presenter 1 Name: 
Jacqueline Courteau
Presenter 1 Organization: 
NatureWrite LLC
Presenter 1 Biography: 
Jacqueline Courteau, Ph.D., is an ecological researcher and natural resources consultant (NatureWrite LLC). Before starting her own company, she worked for Michigan Natural Features Inventory and lectured at University of Michigan and Eastern Michigan University (favorite classes were Restoration Ecology, Field Ecology, Woody Plants, and Home Place). Her research and consulting work includes ecological assessment and monitoring, assessing forest regeneration and deer impacts on vegetation and other plant-animal interactions, and surveying invasive species in a range of Michigan ecosystems. Clients have included Huron River Watershed Council, Huron-Clinton Metroparks, Washtenaw County Parks, and Ann Arbor Natural Areas Program, and other municipalities. She has also worked as a writer and editor, contributing more than 100 species overviews to the Smithsonian Institution’s Encyclopedia of Life ( Before earning a Ph.D. in ecology at the University of Michigan, she worked as a science and environmental policy analyst in Washington, D.C., for organizations including the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment, where she contributed to a 1993 report to Congress on how global warming could affect natural resources and how Federal agencies could plan for an uncertain climate.
Presenter 2 Name: 
Timothy R. Van Deelen
Presenter 2 Organization: 
University of Wisconsin- Madison
Presenter 2 Biography: 
Timothy R. Van Deelen (Ph.D. Michigan State University) is a Professor of Wildlife Ecology in the Department of Forest and Wildlife Ecology and the Beers-Bascom Professor in Conservation in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at UW-Madison. Professor Van Deelen was worked extensively with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources on deer management and monitoring and is a co-PI on a state-wide citizen science project known as SnapShot Wisconsin. Tim’s professional interests include population dynamics and the applied conservation of large mammals in the Great Lakes region. Prior to becoming a professor at UW-Madison, Tim help wildlife research positions with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and the Illinois Natural History Survey.