A test of competing hypotheses explaining the use of urban habitats by Cackling Geese (Branta hutchinsii) wintering in the Willamette Valley, Oregon

Erin Harrington, M.S. Candidate
M.A., Oregon State University

The goal of my project is to determine why Cackling geese are now using urban areas in the Willamette Valley region. I hypothesize that although dispersal to urban areas may be more energetically costly than movement in traditional areas, Cackling geese are moving into urban ecosystems due to increased foraging opportunities that maximize energy gain per unit of effort. I will test predictions derived from this hypothesis by quantifying time activity budgets of Cackling geese in urban and rural areas, and by analyzing collar observation data from previous studies. If we can identify the most likely explanations driving goose use of urban areas in Oregon, we will have the opportunity to decide how to manage geese to either encourage or discourage behavior as necessary, and/or prevent these kinds of redistributions in the future.


Evidence for cross seasonal effects: insights from long-term data on northern pintail

Megan C. Zarzycki, MS candidate
B.S., Humboldt State University

Animal populations are influenced by events and conditions throughout the annual cycle, all of which may interact to influence changes in the reproduction or behavior of that species in another season. My research is focused on exploring the role of these cross seasonal effects on the population dynamics of the northern pintail (Anas acuta) throughout its North American range. Using available climatic, habitat, and management data I will test for evidence of cross seasonal effects in the pintail population and if present, how indices of the size and success of the pintail population may be affected by climatic fluctuations and changes in anthropogenic influences in key breeding and non-breeding areas. The pintail population continues to remain below North American Waterfowl Plan objectives, and an improved understanding of how the population’s reproductive success may be impacted by changes to the quantity and quality of their habitat across their range could aid management and how the population may respond to climate change and human driven land-use changes in the future.


Factors influencing population dynamics, movement patterns, and habitat selection of the endangered Hawaiian Duck (Anas wyvilliana) on Kaua‘i

Christopher Malachowski, Ph.D. Candidate
M.S. Wildlife Science, Oregon State University
B.A. Biology and Environmental Studies, Univ. of Pennsylvania

My research focuses on the island endemic Koloa maoli (Hawaiian Duck, Anas wyvilliana) in Kaua‘i.  Koloa experienced significant declines in the early to mid-1900’s and were listed as federally endangered in 1967.  Current threats to population persistence include habitat loss, introduced mammalian predators, and loss of genetic integrity through hybridization with feral Mallards.  Unfortunately, nothing is known about the relative importance of these threats or the particular period of the annual cycle when their impact is most severe.  A critical obstacle in developing effective recovery plans involves the lack of data on many basic aspects of species ecology.  Therefore, I am conducting a research project to quantify the spatial scale and timing of movement patterns, sex-specific survival rates, and key factors related to the breeding ecology of the endangered Koloa on Kaua‘i.  Additionally, I am quantifying habitat use by Koloa, particularly at core wetland areas to develop an unbiased picture of how Koloa use low elevation wetlands on Kaua‘i and to understand the role of federally managed wetland systems in meeting the daily and annual needs of Hawaiian Duck.  Information gained on the movement patterns, habitat selection, and demographic parameters at the landscape scale will then be used to develop population models to identify factors limiting population growth and to estimate the risk of decline associated with various management and conservations actions for this endangered island duck.  To learn more about the Koloa project, please contact me (christopher.malachowski@oregonstate.edu) or visit the Koloa maoli Research webpage below.

Link to Koloa maoli Research webpage.

Link to M.S. thesis – Hawaiian Duck (Anas wyvilliana) Behavior and Response to Wetland Habitat Management at Hanalei National Wildlife Refuge on Kaua‘i.


Assessing changing oceanic and atmospheric conditions on near-shore food webs and migratory waterbirds for decision makers in the Pacific Flyway: an integrated modeling approach 

Kevin Buffington, Ph.D. student
M.S. Biology, Idaho State University
B.S. Biology, University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire

With up to 2 m of sea-level rise projected by 2100, intertidal habitats (mudflats and salt marshes) are likely to undergo drastic transformations.  My research will focus on modeling functional change in the intertidal zone.  I will develop models for elevation, habitat (vegetation) and species distribution using process-based techniques.  Ultimately, I intend to identify how migratory shorebirds will be affected by sea-level rise at wintering and stop-over sites along the west coast.  The Coastal Ecosystem Response to Climate Change (CERRC) program lead by the US Geological Survey currently has 15 study sites stretching from Puget Sound in Washington to the border with Mexico in California.  Detailed, ground-based surveys of elevation, vegetation and inundation at each site, in addition to long-term monitoring, allows for the development of fine-scale empirical models of elevation and habitat change.  Using a subset of the CERCC study sites, I will develop integrated, multi-level ecosystem response models at local scales for land managers to use in their decision-making process in dealing with the challenges of climate change.

Coastal Ecosystem Response to Climate Change (CERRC): http://www.werc.usgs.gov/Project.aspx?ProjectID=222

CERCC results for the San Francisco Bay Estuary: http://www.werc.usgs.gov/Project.aspx?ProjectID=238


Climate change impacts to plant communities in west coast tidal marshes

Christopher Janousek, Research Associate
PhD, University of California, San Diego
BA, University of California, Santa Cruz

My work focuses on climate change impacts to salt marsh plant communities on the west coast of the US. I’m based in northern California where I work closely with other team members at the US Geological Survey. My on-going projects include testing tidal inundation effects on plant productivity, elucidating environmental drivers of salt marsh plant decomposition, and investigating latitudinal variation in salt marsh plant communities. Our team’s field sites extend from southern California to Puget Sound, Washington. The field data we compile helps inform sea-level rise modeling of coastal marshes and assessments of habitat vulnerability to changing climate. My other research interests include ecology of marine algae and seed germination ecology. Links to some recent publications: Oregon salt marsh productivity responses to tidal inundation; salinity effects on tidal wetland plant germination; plant community structure of Oregon tidal marshes.

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