Delta Waterfowl Renews Strong Commitment to Research in 2016
Posted on 04/14/2016
Throughout the organization’s history, Delta Waterfowl has conducted innovative, cutting-edge waterfowl research that has helped shape the direction of waterfowl management and programs across North America.
In 2016, Delta Waterfowl’s slate of research projects — many in collaboration with leading university waterfowl scientists and conservation partners — seeks solutions to a diverse set of waterfowl management issues. While much of the work is focused on breeding ducks during the three-month nesting season, researchers will also delve into wetland protection questions and attempt to better understand hunter recruitment and retention.
“We are involved in an array of research projects this year,” said Dr. Frank Rohwer, Delta Waterfowl president and chief scientist. “We continue to study duck predation on the prairies, and we’re evaluating Delta’s Working Wetlands habitat program, as well as looking at wintering ducks and hunter issues. All of Delta’s research is aimed to guide and advance waterfowl science.”
Here’s a summary of Delta’s 2016 research:
Predator Reduction for Over-water Nesting Ducks
Master’s degree candidate Mike Johnson and Dr. Todd Arnold (University of Minnesota) will assess the effectiveness of reducing predators on three trapped blocks in Manitoba to increase nest success of canvasbacks, ring-necked ducks, redheads, bluebills and ruddy ducks. A secondary goal is to evaluate the accuracy of multiple brood counts to determine diving duck production.
Effects of Oil Production Activities on Nesting Ducks
Master’s degree candidate Cassandra Skaggs and Dr. Kevin Ringelman (Louisiana State University) continue a three-year study aimed at understanding how oil production activities in the Bakken Region of North Dakota affect nesting ducks. Their work is part of a larger assessment about how oil development influences where and how many ducks settle in an area, as well as the number and distribution of broods. Partners include North Dakota Game and Fish, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Ducks Unlimited.
Testing Predator Reduction and Hen Houses in Alberta Parklands
Predator Management has consistently improved nest success in the eastern prairie pothole region, but hasn’t been well tested in Alberta’s parkland region. Master’s candidate Emily Blythe and Dr. Mark Boyce (University of Alberta) will evaluate nest success on tracts where a trapper targets hotspots of nesting cover found in intensely farmed areas of the parkland. The study will simultaneously look at nest success from 200 Hen Houses in similar cover.
Vetch Cover for Mallards in California
Dr. John Eadie (University of California—Davis) will evaluate mallard nest success in temporary vetch cover habitat that has been established on idled rice fields in central California. The project is a joint effort with the California Rice Commission, the California Department of Water Resources and the California Waterfowl Association.
Hen Houses for Nesting Mottled Ducks in South Carolina
Dr. Rick Kaminski (Clemson University) will oversee students who will install and monitor 30 Hen House nests structures near cord grass islands in South Carolina coastal marshes. Nest success for mottled ducks in the area is less than 10 percent, so the three-year study aims to see if mottled ducks will use Hen Houses and if they can boost nest success.
Drones and Thermal Imaging as Duck Research Tools
Dr. Frank Rohwer of Delta Waterfowl will work with Jason Douglas, a regional events director, to test a drone-mounted thermal imaging unit to see if it can detect nesting ducks in North Dakota and Manitoba. The technology could revolutionize duck nest searching.
Counting Diving Ducks Using Drones
Master’s degree candidate Luke Fara and Dr. Mike Eichholz (University of Southern Illinois) will evaluate thermal and high-resolution imaging technology for counting diving ducks on Lake Michigan during late winter and spring to see if waterfowl managers can more accurately and safely perform duck censuses.
Managing Invasive Phragmites
Dr. Karin Kettenring (Utah State University) leads a team of graduate students focused on identifying the treatments to best manage phragmites and assessing techniques for reestablishing native species such as bulrush so managers can delay having to re-treat for phragmites. Revegetation increases waterfowl and other habitat qualities, and robust stands of native vegetation should stave off future phragmites colonization.
Hotspot Trapping in North Dakota
Delta Waterfowl staff, led by Dr. Frank Rohwer, will test whether focusing Predator Management trapping on only the best fields of nesting cover can improve nest success on individual fields. Hotspot trapping might prove to be particularly cost-effective for producing ducks and a wise use of duck management dollars in the eastern Dakotas.
Hunter Recruitment and Retention in Prairie Canada
Dr. Farhad Moghimehfar, Dr. Howie Harshaw and Dr. Lee Foote (University of Alberta) are working to understand how to most effectively recruit and retain waterfowl hunters in Alberta, Manitoba and Saskatchewan. They are interviewing prior participants in First Hunt and other mentored hunt programs, such as Waterfowl Heritage Days and similar agency or non-government organization programs to promote hunting.
Banding Canvasbacks at Delta Marsh
Frank Baldwin (Manitoba Conservation and Water Stewardship), Dr. Jim Leafloor (Canadian Wildlife Service) and Delta Waterfowl staff will band staging canvasbacks in late summer for the next six years at the Delta Marsh in southern Manitoba. The work will help determine annual harvest rates and annual survival rates, which will help set harvest regulations in the United States and Canada.
Farmer Feedback on Delta’s Working Wetlands Pilot
Dr. Cheryl Wachenheim, Dr. David Roberts (North Dakota State University) and graduate students will survey Working Wetlands program ag producers to determine how the program can better serve their operations. The goal is to determine a best course to expand Working Wetlands across the prairie pothole region.
Hunting Impacts on Mallard Survival and Reproduction
Doctoral candidate Jerad Henderson and Dr. Stephan Schoech (University of Memphis) are studying how mallards alter their physiology and behavior during hunting season. Particularly, the research will examine how the stress of hunting season affects the body condition of hens and egg production.