To address these important questions, DU scientists have launched new studies to help refine their planning tools even further. In Canada, researchers are testing the relationships assumed by the DSS between wetland conditions, duck abundance, nesting effort, land cover, and nesting success. This is being done on landscapes that vary from dry to wet and with nesting cover that varies from poor to excellent. Monitoring sites are scattered from the southern grasslands north to the edge of the boreal forest. In the U.S., nesting success is likewise being monitored on three clusters of sites in North and South Dakota, using a sampling scheme designed to reveal how nesting success is affected by both the surrounding landscape and factors that vary from year to year.
"Coping with this variability may seem challenging," observes Ringelman, "but this is why our new studies are designed this way. Past research has not been able to span either the geographic space nor the year-to-year differences that allow clear separation of the effects on duck production of landscape features and temporal changes." By accomplishing this, Dr. Guyn adds, "DU planners will be able to create even more powerful planning tools in the near future."
And so the cycle of improvement in management performance continues. Plan—implement—evaluate—refine. A simple formula that allows DU's conservation programs to get better year after year.
Eyes toward the future
DU remains keenly focused on its waterfowl mission and conservation vision. We are in business to sustain duck populations for the long term, and we are committed to maximizing the long-term impact of conservation investments. That has led us to an unswerving commitment to manage adaptively. We embrace science, landscape-scale solutions, and broad partnerships as our approach to the business of conservation. The challenges before us are daunting, but never in its 67-year history has DU stood as ready and well prepared for the work ahead.
The choices we make today are wiser than the ones we made yesterday, and the ones we make tomorrow will be better still. That's what the union of research and wise conservation program delivery is about.
This article is part three in a four-part series, "Prairies Under Siege." Read part four here or go back to part two.