DU to use grant to research drones, energy use for New England waterfowl

Ducks Unlimited recently received a $100,000 grant from Waterfowl Research Foundation to support two regional research projects in
the Completing the Cycle initiative area, and Atlantic Flyway regions.

Of the grant, $85,000 was awarded to support DU Biologist Jake McPherson's project, which is working to determine how much energy a duck needs to swim, dive, fly and eat. That information is important as DU plans how to best restore and protect habitat which provides food for migrating and staging waterfowl.

DU has partnered with the University of Delaware and U.S. Geological Survey's Patuxent Wildlife Research Center to investigate how much energy a duck requires. Using state-of-the art equipment to measure oxygen consumption, researchers will isolate specific behaviors and their energy demands in captive American black ducks and lesser scaup.

The remaining $15,000 was awarded to support a new project, which will study the accuracy and ability to count ducks using unmanned aerial systems, otherwise known as drones. Scientists currently use airplanes to count ducks, but the study will determine if drones can get accurate numbers without disturbing the ducks.

"Planes are expensive and often are not feasible for counting waterfowl, in areas that are dense - we often can't get low enough," said John Coluccy, manager of conservation planning for Ducks Unlimited's Great Lakes/Atlantic Region. "With drones, refuge managers could do weekly surveys in the fall or year-round."

February 2016