To increase the number of conservationists and citizens who enjoy and support waterfowl and wetland conservation, Ducks Unlimited partnered with the University of North Dakota (UND) for a student research internship program. Undergraduate students Nick Conrad and John Palarski were sponsored by UND professor Dr. Susan Ellis-Felege and used video surveillance technology to examine nest attendance and defense in blue-winged teal at DU's Coteau Ranch this summer.
With the help of DU's research staff, John and Nick located 67 blue-winged teal nests and installed miniature 24-hour infrared surveillance cameras at 33 of the nests. They collected and analyzed thousands of hours of nesting footage, developed field techniques, collaborated with DU biologists and honed study design skills. They even practiced public presentation skills when they were asked to present their research to high school students, magazine photographers and DU volunteers.
The internship program has touched individuals of different occupations and nationalities. The nature of the students' project allowed them to incorporate their video surveillance data into a large UND citizen science project created by Dr. Ellis-Felege and Dr. Travis Desell, called Wildlife@Home. Online participants, dubbed citizen scientists, on the website can participate in the analysis of the waterfowl nesting video footage and ask questions about waterfowl ecology to DU scientists.
"The participation and interest we received on DU's page alone was phenomenal," said Kaylan Carrlson, DU manager of conservation planning.
Nearly 20,000 people visited the DU research page while nearly 10,000 people viewed videos of nesting ducks.
"We are looking forward to continuing this program in the upcoming year, incorporating new undergraduate students into the project and continuing to work toward an increased support and understanding of wetland and waterfowl conservation," said Carrlson.
Ducks Unlimited is the world's largest non-profit organization dedicated to conserving North America's continually disappearing waterfowl habitats. Established in 1937, DU is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year, with special events, projects and promotions across the continent. Ducks Unlimited has conserved more than 13 million acres thanks to contributions from more than a million supporters across the continent. Guided by science and dedicated to program efficiency, DU works toward the vision of wetlands sufficient to fill the skies with waterfowl today, tomorrow and forever. For more information on our work, visit www.ducks.org. Connect with us on our Facebook page at facebook.com/ducksunlimited, follow our tweets at twitter.com/ducksunlimited and watch DU videos at youtube.com/ducksunlimitedinc.
Jennifer P. Kross