Bakken research update

New technicians join the team to finish up brood counts

Broods swimming in a wetland

Broods swimming in a wetland

Photo © Mason Sieges

With the addition of eight technicians, the final stage of the Ducks Unlimited Bakken research project is now underway. This time, field researchers will count broods, which are hens and their ducklings. Technicians have 2 ½ weeks of counts followed by data entry, before repeating the process once more in August. When they are finished, all the data goes to DU research scientists for analysis.

This research is part of a three-year Ducks Unlimited project. The technicians and scientists are measuring how the oil and gas development in the Bakken affects duck populations. This year’s research started with pair counts; brood surveys can begin now that the ducklings have hatched.

Ducks Unlimited research scientists led duck identification and navigation training for the new technicians. The ducklings are too young to fly, so broods will hide as a defense against predators. This requires the techs to identify the ducklings quickly and from a great distance. They must record the species, age and total number of ducklings.

The technicians come from across the United States. Exposure to a new ecosystem with different plant and animal species benefits them because many are studying wildlife biology.

“I’ve seen more ducks in the past couple of days than I ever have back home,” said one technician.

The new terrain requires some technicians to brush up on their navigational skills. In their home states, many of them could use landmarks like mountains or large bodies of water as an aid. Anyone who has visited the Bakken region knows you won’t find many of those there.

Ducks Unlimited is thankful for the hard work of their technicians and researchers, as well as the participation of private landowners in the area. Additionally, the continuation of this project could not have occurred without support from our partners. We thank the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Habitat and Population Evaluation Team, N.D. Game and Fish Department, Central Flyways Council, Prairie Pothole Joint Venture, and Enbridge Minnesota Association of Resource Conservation and Development Councils.