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DAB174 Monitoring and habitat analysis of an allochthonous viper population in Lower Austria

Job/Projektdetails - DAB174 Monitoring and habitat analysis of an allochthonous viper population in Lower Austria
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  Name der FH/Universität Universität Wien  
  Studienrichtung Zoologie  
  Kurztitel des Vorhabens DAB174 Monitoring and habitat analysis of an allochthonous viper population in Lower Austria
  (gesuchte) Partner aus dem Bereich Naturhistorisches Museum  
  Projektart Masterthesis  
  Hauptfragestellung(en) Formulierung der Themenstellung, die erarbeitet werden soll The mapping and habitat analysis of the nose-horned viper population takes place in a selected area in Winzendorf.
By means of a habitat analysis, the habitat require-ments of the allochthonous viper population in Lower Austria will be investigated and a data entry form will be prepared for the detailed analysis (see https://www.hausdernatur.at/files/ARGES/herpetologie/Down-loads/Kartierung/Kyek_Cabela_2006_Kartierungsanleitung.pdf, retrieved on 25.02.2021.).

The data for this study will be collected from March to October 2021. The animals hibernate from October to March, depending on the location. Mating takes place at special mating sites and usually occurs in April/May. They then migrate to their summer habitats and return to the wintering habitats in the fall (Glandt 2015).
The capture-recapture method was primarily developed to estimate the size of a closed population. The method consists of capturing, tagging, and releasing as many snakes as possible in an area at one time - the so-called "capture" phase. Later, this is repeated - the so-called "recapture" phase. The number of specimens in each sample and the number common to both are used to estimate the number in the total population (assuming that capture and recapture are independent). If capture and recapture are both independent, then the estimated probability of being captured on both oc-casions is equal to the product of the likelihoods of being captured on each occasion. Then the num-ber of missing animals can be estimated (Tilling 2001).
Data collection occurs 1-3 times per week, although this is weather dependent as viper activity is influenced by temperature. The following data will be collected: Coordinates (GeoWGS84), habitat parameters (e.g. biotope structures, vegetation types), weather, temperature, altitude, the size, sex and weight of the individuals. Furthermore, a photo is taken of each habitat and animal. These data are then transformed into QGIS, which can be used to create a map book (atlas) and to calculate statistics. Population size is calculated by using the Cormack-Jolly-Seber Model (CJS). This model fo-cuses on apparent survival and capture rate estimation of marked animals (Pledger et al. 2003).
During each visit, the animals will be caught with gloved hands or with a snake hook, respectively, and placed in a white bucket with a plexiglass lid and photographed dorsally. Additionally, we will use Wild-ID, a flexible open-source software application used for pattern extraction and image matching of wildlife populations (Bolger et al. 2012).
To examine V. ammodytes for the snake fungus (Ophidiomyces ophiodiicola), the vipers will be sam-pled with swabs on the upper and lower sides of the body. If skin lesions would be visible, they will be documented photographically and sampled separately. After each sampling, our hands will get disinfected. The samples will then be collected, frozen and later evaluated in an American laboratory. The vipers will then be released on site.
  Ergebnisse, die von der Arbeit erwartet werden The aim of this study is to record the population status of Vipera ammodytes within a selected area in Winzendorf (Lower Austria). The animals will be caught, weighed, photographed and sexed. Furthermore, the accompanying fauna (herpetofauna) will be documented and habitat analyses will be performed. In addition, the captured snakes are examined for the snake fungus (Ophidiomyces ophiodiicola). Hereby we support the "snake fungus project" of Gaelle Blanvillain (Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University) in the context of her dissertation.  
  Motivation und Beweggründe für die Themenwahl In the Red List of Endangered Species of Austria, Vipera ammodytes is listed as “Critically Endangered (CR)” (Gollmann 2007) and is also listed in the Flora-Fauna-Habitat Directive (FFH-Directive) in Annex IV “Animal and plant species of community interest requiring strict protection” (https://www.umweltbundesamt.at/fileadmin/site/themen/naturschutz/arten_der_an-haenge_ii_iv_v_oesterreich.pdf, retrieved on 20.02.2021.). This species shows massive population declines. The main problems are loss of suitable habitats due to afforestation as well as decimation due to illegal capture for terrarium keeping. Action is needed to preserve the remaining habitats and to enforce legal protection (Gollmann 2007). Active monitoring and measures are needed to pre-serve them (see Lisičić et al. 2013).
In the area of Winzendorf (Lower Austria) there has been an introduced nose-horned viper popula-tion suspected for a long time. A private person reported an observation to the Natural History Mu-seum Vienna. In 2020 the scientific staff of the museum took a closer look at the area and found several individuals. The findings indicate an introduced population (Schweiger 2020, personal com-munication).
  Dauer April 2021 – May 2022 Field work; June 2022 – January 2023 Data analysis and thesis writing  
  Ansprechperson Gesellschaft für Forschungsförderung Niederösterreich m.b.H. - Themenbörse (vormals Diplomarbeitsbörse): Karin Peter, Mobil: 0664/12 44 585, k.peter@gff-noe.at  
  Projektstatus vermittelt  
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