Wisconsin DU waterfowlers send ducks to college

DU volunteers and staff are helping student researchers explore how waterfowl influence local wetland communities

Students from Northeastern Illinois University research ducks donated by DU waterfowlers.

© Sarah Orlofske - NEIU

Students from Northeastern Illinois University research ducks donated by DU waterfowlers.

Wisconsin Ducks Unlimited volunteers and staff are again helping student researchers at Northeastern Illinois University (NEIU) explore how waterfowl influence local wetland communities.

DU waterfowlers are donating up to 150 duck carcasses to the university for student research. The studies will focus on blue and green wing teal, mallards and wood ducks. It’s the second year for the effort, which is coordinated by DU and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. Last year waterfowlers donated 75 ducks.

"DU is a science-based organization, and any time we can move the needle forward on waterfowl research, we are happy to help," said Brian Glenzinski, DU regional biologist in Wisconsin.

Sarah Orlofske is an assistant professor of biology at NEIU. Her students are using the ducks for parasite ecology research, which will help the biology community better understand waterfowl impacts on local habitats. The research also will show how diet and characteristics of the birds influence their parasite communities.

"We are very excited about continuing and even expanding this area of our research," Orlofske said. "This is a tremendous learning opportunity for students from a very urban environment that haven't yet experienced seeing waterfowl up close. Hopefully the experience will lead to a greater appreciation for these important species and their habitats."

Orlofske will use the ducks for a variety of learning opportunities.

Most of the birds are used by graduate and undergraduate students conducting research as part of their independent studies course, which serves as their senior capstone requirement for their biology major.

Some birds and the resulting parasite specimens will be used in Orlofske’s  Animal Parasitology course, where students complete dissections, isolate, preserve and identify parasites.

Lastly, the birds will be used by General Biology course students to illustrate concepts such as natural and sexual selection, leading to different coloration between males and females within a species, as well as the evolution and adaptations for flight.

"This partnership is valuable scientifically because it enhances our ability to identify parasites in the local ecosystems and establish baseline information for the future understanding of waterfowl populations, wetland ecosystem health, and the role of parasites in communities and ecosystems," Orlofske said