Hope this finds you well. As we enter into the fall season, we thought we’d share some highlights from an active summer. This issue of our newsletter will focus on research activities from our water program, highlight our most recent education and outreach activities, and give updates from our conservation program on our prescribed fire season and an upcoming bumper crop of longleaf cones on Ichauway. We hope you enjoy catching up on some of the things that have been going on at the Jones Center!
Water doesn’t just come from rainfall, or does it?
Earlier studies at Jones Center have highlighted the importance of “hydraulic lift” as a source of water for longleaf pine and the groundcover plants that inhabit these woodlands. Hydraulic lift is a process where tree roots move water upward from deep, wet soil and release it into dry, shallow soil. In some cases, hydraulically lifted water can make up most of the water used by plants. This water addition can reduce plant water stress and might be important for keeping groundcover productive and diverse. Or at least that was the assumption. But we had never directly shown that hydraulic lift improved plant physiology and growth. Enter UGA Ecology student Phoebe Judge. With help from Clayton Cook and the Ecohydrology Lab, Phoebe dug trenches and cut tree roots around small plots next to longleaf pine trees. This isolated groundcover plants from any possible benefit of hydraulic lift. She then measured how soil moisture, plant water stress, photosynthesis, and growth reacted to the absence of tree roots.
We predicted that plots without tree roots would have lower soil moisture than plots with intact tree roots. As a result, plants in the trenched plots would be more stressed, absorb less carbon, and grow less than plants where tree roots weren’t cut. But we found the opposite. Soil moisture was the same or higher and plants performed the same or slightly better in the plots without tree roots. Phoebe’s study suggested that competition with tree roots for water and nutrients was more important for groundcover plants than the water released by roots. Why the conflicting results? The one thing that stood out to us was that the study period was abnormally wet with about 50% more rainfall than a normal growing season. Hydraulic lift is probably important during dry or normal years, but much less important during wet years when shallow soil is wetter and competition from tree roots increases. While our results weren’t what we expected, they do set the stage for new studies about hydraulic lift, what drives it, and its importance for groundcover plants under different weather conditions. 
Shoal Bass in the Lower Flint River
Shoal Bass (Micropterus cataractae) is a species of black bass whose native range is limited to the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River Basin. It was recently named Georgia’s Riverine Sport Fish by the Georgia Legislature. It is a popular game species, and an enthusiastic recreational fishery is developing on the Flint River, where populations appear abundant. Adult fish live in and along swift-water rocky shoals typically found in the middle and lower Flint. Beyond this, little is known about the fish’s life history and habitat requirements. Populations have declined in the Apalachicola and Chattahoochee Rivers due to dams and regulated flows.

We are working to learn more about ‘Shoalies’ by joining a group of researchers, including Steve Sammons of Auburn Fisheries, Shannon Brewer of USGS Fisheries Coop at Auburn, Steve Golladay of the Jones Center, and Travis Ingram of GA DNR. Jamie Rogers, a Jones Center MS student at Auburn, is leading the field research. In February, we tagged 30 mature bass with radio transmitters and have determined their locations weekly using radio telemetry. During breeding season, we found that fish moved long distances to certain preferred shoals (50+ miles in some cases). Once breeding was complete, they returned to their home shoals on the river. Since tagging, many of these fish have been caught by anglers, suggesting that fishing pressure is very high. Newly hatched shoal bass proved very challenging to find, and we had to use a variety of techniques to do so. Finally, during the first week of July 2022, a snorkeling team led by Rogers and Golladay located young Shoalies in Ichawaynochaway Creek and the mainstem Flint. This cooperative project is providing critical information on the habitat needs of shoal bass essential for properly managing the fishery. 
Visiting Scientist
Steve Golladay hosted Sally Entrekin, Associate Professor of Entomology at Virginia Tech in June. During Sally’s residence, they worked on a collaborative project on burrowing mayfly mass emergence in the lower Flint River. These mayflies live in river sediments and, when mature, emerge in such numbers that the winged adults are detectable with weather radar. Sally and Steve are collaborating on a continental scale study of mass emergence and how it is affected by changing climate. Weather radar archives make it possible to detect past emergence events that occurred a decade ago or more. Our work on this project will provide calibration for radar detected emergence and help quantify the transfer of biologically important materials from rivers to adjacent forests and wildlife. While in residence, Sally also began a collaboration with Kier Klepzig of the Entomology and Microbiology Lab on insect biodiversity in geographically isolated wetlands at Ichauway.
Longleaf Pine Maymester Course
We were pleased to once again be able to teach our Longleaf Pine Ecology, Management, and Restoration Maymester course. This course, offered jointly through faculty sponsors Dan Markewitz at the University of Georgia and Eric Jokela at the University of Florida, began with two days of classroom instruction and field tours on Ichauway. We then loaded up the vans and took a whirlwind tour of longleaf pine sites throughout the region. Our itinerary included old-growth stands near Thomasville, dry sites on the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge, flatwoods and wet savannas on the Apalachicola National Forest, and the longleaf/wiregrass restoration program on the xeric sandhills of The Nature Conservancy’s Apalachicola Bluffs and Ravines Preserve. A highlight of the trip was an overnight stay at the Shell Island Fish Camp with a seafood dinner at Posey’s in Panacea, both a slice of Old Florida. Our final two days at Ichauway tied together everything the students had seen and experienced. Many thanks to our offsite hosts on the field trip and to our colleagues here at the Jones Center who contributed to the course in many different ways.
Wildlife Society Field Techniques Course 
The Jones Center’s Mike Conner served as the Southeastern Section of The Wildlife Society’s representative to Council from 2015-2021. During his tenure in that position, he and Dan Greene (Wildlife Scientist, Weyerhaueser Co.) began working on the development of a field techniques course for student members of The Wildlife Society. After two years of postponed courses, we were finally able to offer this class in 2022, and it was worth the wait! Sixteen students from universities across the Southeast came to the Jones Center for a two-week immersion in wildlife field methods. Over 40 Jones Center staff and nine faculty members from regional universities contributed to teaching this course. Students gained experience in animal capture, prescribed fire, radio telemetry, vegetation sampling, operation of heavy machinery including tractors and chain saws, gopher tortoise ecology, and much more. This was the inaugural offering of this course, and we plan to host this again next year. From there, the course will rotate among different field sites in the region and eventually make its way back to us for a future iteration. We were very proud to get this course started and are excited about its continued development.
Institute for Georgia Environmental Leadership
We hosted our annual visit from the Institute for Georgia Environmental Leadership in mid-July. This program consists of five four-day sessions around Georgia in which participants experience the unique social, economic, and ecological context of our diverse state. The goal of the program is to provide these leaders the knowledge, advanced skills, and network necessary to help resolve Georgia’s environmental challenges now and in the future. Despite thunderstorms and threatening weather all around us, the 33 IGEL participants and our Jones Center staff had a wonderful day out on the property. We always look forward to hosting this group of leaders from across the state during their visit to southwest Georgia.
Freshwater Mussel Workshop
Steve Golladay and Caitlin Sweeney hosted the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint (ACF) Freshwater Mussel Workshop at Ichauway along with Matt Rowe, GA DNR and Andy Hartzog, USFWS. The workshop familiarizes participants with the mussel fauna of the ACF Basin, which is diverse and includes several listed species. The workshop lasts three days and includes both field and classroom activities. This year’s class included biologists from GA DOT, Georgia and Florida agencies, and engineering firms. Three hundred hours of experience with mussels are required prior to obtaining state and/or federal permits in the ACF Basin. This workshop counts toward that total. The workshop has been held almost every year since 2005. 
Prescribed Fire Update
Conservation staff has completed most of the burn activities for 2022 with 11,204 acres burned to date. We still have a few remaining areas that may be burned in anticipation of a good longleaf pine mast event this fall. To germinate, longleaf seed must fall on bare soil. Burning in the late summer through early fall is one way to facilitate the capture of longleaf pine regeneration. Additionally, some of our late spring burning should also provide areas of bare soil for longleaf pine germinants.
Longleaf Pine Cone Counts
The United States Forest Service (USFS) has conducted regional longleaf pine cone counts since the 1960s including the Jones Center (beginning in 1997). The protocol consists of one observer counting the number of green cones and conelets with binoculars from one side of larger diameter trees. The number of green cones observed are then doubled to estimate the total number of cones for each tree. The number of green cones is a good predictor of seed fall within the year surveyed.

The USFS survey at Ichauway consists of counting ten trees in the Turkey Woods. The same trees are surveyed each year. Our Wildlife Lab also conducted longleaf cone surveys from 2009-2018 using the same protocol. Between 2009 and 2013, we counted cones on ~100 trees located at long-term forest monitoring plots. We reduced sampling from 2014-2018 to 18 trees from our ecological forestry research plots.

We initiated a new property-wide longleaf cone survey for Ichauway in 2022. While the USFS survey will continue to be conducted, we wanted a spatially broader estimate of cone production to better understand longleaf pine seed production across the property. The USFS survey is valuable for the regional cone estimates but does not provide enough information for site-specific management actions that encourage natural longleaf recruitment. We selected 70 previously established long-term forest monitoring plots distributed across Ichauway that occurred in longleaf pine stands for monitoring. Within each of these plots, we randomly chose two mature longleaf pine trees to be surveyed for cones using USFS protocol. In addition, at each plot we recorded a visual estimate of cones for ten additional mature longleaf pine trees surrounding the observation point. 
2022 Longleaf Cone Survey Results
The 2022 longleaf cone survey indicates a bumper crop for Ichauway this fall with an average of 186 cones per tree. This is the highest estimate recorded for Ichauway to date, with a previous high of 149 cones per tree in 2017 (USFS survey). While these results suggest that Ichauway will experience a very large longleaf pine mast event this fall, there are still some environmental variables that could negatively impact seed fall and recruitment of longleaf regeneration. Our Conservation program is in the process of identifying areas to facilitate the capture of seed fall through late summer burning or mechanical site preparation where appropriate.