Josh Vest

Science Coordinator Intermountain West Joint Venture Program

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service-Migratory Bird Program, Montana


Josh Vest Josh is a biologist with the US Fish & Wildlife Service-Migratory Bird Program where he serves as Science Coordinator for the Intermountain West Joint Venture (IWJV).  Josh works with regional and national partners to strengthen the biological foundation for avian habitat conservation in the Intermountain West to support national avian conservation initiatives such as the North American Waterfowl Management Plan and U.S. Shorebird Conservation Plan.  Josh received his B.S. and M.S. degrees in Wildlife Science from Mississippi State University and Ph.D. in Wildlife Biology from Utah State University where he studied aspects of avian ecology on the Great Salt Lake.  Josh is based out of the IWJV office in Missoula, MT.

Title: Common Goldeneye Bioherms, and Brine Fly Larvae During Winter on the Great Salt Lake

1:20pm - Wednesday, May 11th

Josh Vest, Michael R. Conover, John Luft, and John Neill

Abstract: Common Goldeneye (Bucephala clangula), a species of sea duck (subfamily Merginae ,  are abundant on the Great Salt Lake (GSL) during winter.  However, until recently it was unknown whether these ducks forage extensively on the abundant halophile invertebrates during winter or rely on freshwater food. Goldeneye were collected from the GSL during winters 2004-05 and 2005-06 to evaluate their food habits and nutrient reserve dynamics.  Goldeneyes consumed mainly brine fly larvae (68% based on dry weight biomass), which live primarily along the substrate and attach to bioherms (i.e., stromatolites).  Abundant brine fly larvae found on bioherms provide a novel food resource which common goldeneye are uniquely adapted to exploit during a time of high energetic  demand.  Lipid reserves of common goldeneye were 17% lower in winter 2004-05 when aquatic habitats were reduced due to persistent drought and indices of brine fly larvae in GSL were lower.

Title: Water Issues for the Great Salt Lake: Implications to Wetlands and Waterfowl

3:10pm - Friday, May 13th

Josh L. Vest1*, Mark J. Petrie2, Bruce D. Dugger3, Jeffrey. M. Warren4, W. Dave Smith1

1Intermountain West Joint Venture, Missoula, MT 59801, USA,

2 Ducks Unlimited, Inc., Pacific Northwest Office, Vancouver, WA 98683, USA

3 Department Fisheries & Wildlife, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR 97331, USA

4U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Refuge, Lima, Montana, USA

Abstract: The Great Salt Lake landscape (GSL) is among the largest and most diverse wetland complexes in the western US and recognized internationally for its importance to wetland dependent migratory birds.  Several million waterfowl use the GSL as a primary migration hub in the Pacific Flyway as they move between key breeding (e.g., prairie Canada) and wintering (e.g., Central Valley of California) areas on the continent.  The GSL is a terminal lake basin in a xeric environment yet is surrounded by ≥ 470,000 acres of wetlands maintained by three primary river systems which are dependent on annual snowpack accumulations.  More than 160,000 acres of these wetlands are actively managed for waterfowl and other wetland birds. However, development of water resources for agriculture, energy, industrial, and municipal use has reduced the amount and quality of fresh water reaching the lake and its marshes.  Over the past decade, hydrologic inputs to GSL were 44% lower than the long-term (1955–2010) average due to both climatic inputs and water resource developments.  Rapid human population growth in the region will place increasing demands on scarce water resources and result in more water use conflicts.  This pattern is likely to be exacerbated if current climatic trends persist.  We will discuss potential impacts to GSL waterfowl populations from a suite of hydrologic scenarios and energetic carrying capacity evaluations.  Preliminary estimates suggest available waterfowl habitat could be reduced by 40–60% within the next several decades as a result of climatic and water-use trends.  Potential implications to waterfowl populations in the Pacific Flyway from reductions in GSL habitats will also be discussed.