During the 2004 and 2005 breeding seasons, I studied the nesting ecology of Black Skimmers and Least Terns in coastal Mississippi. With the assistance of Ali Leggett, Ryan Rupp, and Jenny Thompson, we located and monitored nests of both species at mainland and barrier island colonies to estimate nesting success. This work was supported by two grants from the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks.
I am currently working with L. Wes Burger, Jr. and Ross Conover to assess differential benefits of early-succession habitat in the row-crop, agricultural matrix of northwest Mississippi. This project is in collaboration with an effort by the USDA-NRCS to reverse non-crop habitat loss on private US farmlands and subsequently, enhance agricultural sustainability while simultaneously providing quality wildlife habitat. Results from this research will elucidate habitat-use patterns by farmland avian communities and mediate future decisions on wildlife habitat establishment and management in the Mississippi Alluvial Valley. Habitats of interest in this study are early-succession blocks (~120 acres), riparian buffers (RB), filter strips (FS), and field borders (FB). The overall study objectives are to assess benefits to: 1) avian reproductive success, 2) avian community response, 3) Northern Bobwhite habitat-use, and 4) Dickcissel post-fledging ecology.
In spring 2009 I initiated a 2-year project funded by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources to investigate the distribution and abundance of secretive marsh-birds in Iowa. Tyler Harms, a M.S. student in my lab, surveyed wetlands statewide using call playbacks and is also collecting data on wetland characteristics and associated bird species of interest. The study focused on eight species - Pied-billed Grebe, Least and American bitterns, King and Virginia rails, Sora, Common Moorhen, and American Coot.
In 2008 I began working with Dr. Michael Quist at Iowa State University, Michael Bower of the National Park Service, and other biologists to better understand population dynamics in the highly endangered Devils Hole Pupfish. Maria Dzul, a M.S. student I co-advise with Dr. Quist, has been analyzing historical count data to better understand their long-term decline. She has also been trying to understand sources of variation (e.g., time of day or different divers) that influence pupfish counts so that we can refine the monitoring protocol fot this species. Eventually, she will develop a population model for the pupfish that should be useful for informing future management decisions for this species.
In spring 2009 I began working on a collaborative project with North Carolina State University and the Puerto Rican Department of Natural and Environmental Resources to understand forest bird communities in southwestern Puerto Rico. Amber Wiewel, a M.S. student in my lab, is trying to understand their breeding biology and relate nest survival and movements to availability of fruit. The Puerto Rican Bullfinch is a frugivorous forest songbird endemic to the Puerto Rico archipelago.
n 2008 I began working on a collaborative project with the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to further understand the breeding biology of Long-billed Curlews in Nebraska. The Long-billed Curlew is a large, prairie-nesting shorebird of the dry grasslands and rangelands of western North America. Cory Gregory, a M.S. student in my lab, is trying to learn more about curlews by studying several aspects of their breeding biology. Specifically, his research is conducted at Crescent Lake National Wildlife Refuge in the panhandle of western Nebraska and focuses on nest and chick survival as well as nesting and brood-rearing habitat associations.
My interest in Mountain Plovers dates back to 1991, when I accepted a job as a field technician for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to work with Fritz L. Knopf. That experience sparked an interest that has continued to the present day. In 1991, I traveled throughout the range of the plover, but was particularly interested in those nesting on Black-tailed Prairie Dog colonies in north-central Montana. After a brief visit in 1992, I returned to Montana in 1995 and have worked there annually since that time. I owe a great deal to Fritz and retired BLM biologist John Grensten for their encouragement during the 17 years I have studied plovers in Montana.