Completed Research Projects

Click on the research project title to learn more:

Adaptive Management for the Nebraska Natural Legacy Plan
1. Evaluate the effects of conservation activities;
2. Prioritize research and monitor activities;
3. Develop innovative programs to improve the ability to inventory and monitor at-risk species;

Read more about Adaptive Management for the Nebraska Natural Legacy Plan.

Niobrara Valley
Amphibian Monitoring Techniques (in Relation to Wetland Qualities and the Surrounding Landscape - Rainwater Basin Region)
To establish a program to monitor populations of amphibians in south central Nebraska's wetland complex in order to detect changes in presence in this region over time (if monitoring is continued). The acquired data will provide inferential insight into the presence or absence of amphibian species and changes in individual species presence and community composition.

Read more about Amphibian Monitoring Techniques (in Relation to Wetland Qualities and the Surrounding Landscape - Rainwater Basin Region).

Toad from amphibian study (courtesy of Valerie Egger)
Angler Behavior in Response to Management Actions on Nebraska Reservoirs
To understand 1) the participation patterns of anglers on local and regional scales, and 2) how participation patterns of anglers influence fish populations.

Read more about Angler Behavior in Response to Management Actions on Nebraska Reservoirs.

Interviewing anglers (courtesy of J. Fontaine)
Assessing the Relationship Between Stable Isotopes and Grassland Bird Productivity on Great Plains National Park Service Properties
Avian nest survival will be intensively monitored in three NPS units (Pipestone National Monument, MN; Homestead National Monument, NE; and Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve, KS). Stable isotope values will be determined for feather and blood samples taken from nestlings and breeding adults. The two target grassland bird species are meadowlarks (eastern and western), and dickcissels.

Read more about Assessing the Relationship Between Stable Isotopes and Grassland Bird Productivity on Great Plains National Park Service Properties.

Pulling feather for analysis (courtesy Sarah Rehme)
Assessment of Angler Use and Catch During 2016 at Sutherland Reservoir, Nebraska
The purpose of this study is to estimate angler use and catch at Sutherland Reservoir, Nebraska, during April through October 2016. Specifically, we will obtain monthly and yearly estimates of angler pressure, catch, and harvest. This information will allow the Nebraska Public Power District to evaluate angler use and influence of the fishery at Sutherland Reservoir.

Read more about Assessment of Angler Use and Catch During 2016 at Sutherland Reservoir, Nebraska.

Biodiversity, Disturbance, and Resilience: Evaluating the Role of Biodiversity in Moderating Ecosystem Response to Interacting Disturbances
By systematically introducing multiple disturbances to research units established within large restoration plots, aims to bridge the gap between tightly controlled mesocosm experiments and uncontrolled observational studies linking biodiversity and ecosystem functioning.

Read more about Biodiversity, Disturbance, and Resilience: Evaluating the Role of Biodiversity in Moderating Ecosystem Response to Interacting Disturbances.

Bioenergetics and Habitat Suitability Models for the Chinese Mystery Snail (Bellamya Chinensis)
This research attempted to help clarify some of the mystery for the Chinese mystery snail, a species we knew very little about at the onset of the study. We investigated the specie's ecology in laboratory experiments and assessed variables in the field that may be used to predict the species' distribution.

Read more about Bioenergetics and Habitat Suitability Models for the Chinese Mystery Snail (Bellamya Chinensis).

Chinese Mystery snails (courtesy: Valerie Egger)
Chinese Mystery Snail (Bellamya Chinensis) Ecology and Impacts
To address research questions related to the invasive Chinese mystery snail. Aspects of the project include studies of life-history traits, habitat preferences, population size, movement capabilities, desiccation tolerance, feeding methods, possible predators, shell strength, mark retention, and distribution.

Read more about Chinese Mystery Snail (Bellamya Chinensis) Ecology and Impacts.

Collecting snails at Wild Plum Lake(courtesy Michelle Hellman)
Cross-Scale Structure in Ecosystems
To determine the distribution of functional groups within and across scales, the association of measures of biotic variability in vertebrates (e.g., invasions, extinctions, nomadism, migration) with discontinuities in body mass distributions, and cross-scale analyses of patterns in body mass distributions from local to hemispheric scales.

Read more about Cross-Scale Structure in Ecosystems.

Ecological Applications of Time-Lapse Photography
To connect environmental changes, documented by time-lapse imagery, with bioacoustic data and water quality measurements to further our understanding of ecological variability and communicate complex system changes to a public audience.

Read more about Ecological Applications of Time-Lapse Photography.

Time-lapse of Platter River
Estimating River Otter Density Using Non-invasive Genetic Techniques
This project used DNA from river otter scat to estimate otter density in the Big Bend Reach of the Platte River and evaluated the feasibility of using the technique to estimate otter population densities throughout Nebraska.

Read more about Estimating River Otter Density Using Non-invasive Genetic Techniques.

Collecting DNA from scat
Evaluating the Benefits of Higher Diversity CRP Plantings for At-Risk Species
• Determine if higher diversity CRP plantings provide habitat and forage for at–risk grassland butterfly species: Higher diversity CRP planting mixes more often contained forage species for at–risk butterflies. CP38 was typically best suited for all species.

Read more about Evaluating the Benefits of Higher Diversity CRP Plantings for At-Risk Species.

Sensitive briar
Evaluating the Value and Efficacy of Agricultural Conservation Programs for Landowners and Conservation Practitioners
This project will work with conservation practitioners and landowners throughout the state of Nebraska to evaluate the perceptions and values of landowners, specifically:
1. What are the perceptions and perceived values of the CRP program?
2. What are the perceptions and perceived values of the alternative CRP practices and the associated management requirements and approaches?

Read more about Evaluating the Value and Efficacy of Agricultural Conservation Programs for Landowners and Conservation Practitioners.

Evaluation of Landowner Incentives Program (LIP)
This research project focuses on the response of species at risk. Assessment has focused on elements that are likely to respond rapidly, such as vegetation structure (which are directly manipulated in the LIP), insect communities (which have short generation times), and bird communities (which respond to vegetative structure).

Read more about Evaluation of Landowner Incentives Program (LIP).

Western Meadowlark (USFWS)
Fremont State Lakes Renovation Study: The Effects of Alum Application and Fishery Renovation on Water Quality
The goal of this study is to understand how physical drivers (e.g., lake-basin structure and groundwater flow) and biological drivers (e.g., fish community composition) interact to affect the longevity and effectiveness of alum additions for improving water quality. This will be addressed through three major tasks:

1. Monitoring physical and chemical water quality

Read more about Fremont State Lakes Renovation Study: The Effects of Alum Application and Fishery Renovation on Water Quality.

Private contractor applying alum treatment to Fremont Lakes (courtesy Brian Hammond)
Generation of Novelty in Complex Systems
To explore the causes and consequences of the generation of novelty and innovation for humans, for social systems and for ecological systems, we will convene a small diverse group of researchers from diverse disciplines, with a variety of approaches and backgrounds, where we believe a deliberate focus on the concept of novelty could be fruitful.

Read more about Generation of Novelty in Complex Systems.

Impact of White Perch on Walleye
To document potential competition bottlenecks that exist between white perch and other fish species of importance in the hopes of developing a management program to eliminate the "stunted" status for the white perch population in Branched Oak Lake and to prevent stunting of the white perch population in Pawnee Lake.

Read more about Impact of White Perch on Walleye.

Straining contents of a fish stomach
Incorporating Soil Ecological Knowlege into Management of CRP Lands
To evaluate how different mid-contract management strategies address the goal of improving upland gamebird habitat, and also seeks to quantify the effects of mid-contract management on soil, plants, and insects.

Read more about Incorporating Soil Ecological Knowlege into Management of CRP Lands.

Influence of Trout Stocking on Tier I/II Fishes
The goal of this project was to gain a better understanding of the interactions between non-native trout and species of concern in Nebraska headwater streams to better predict the outcomes of future trout stockings.

Read more about Influence of Trout Stocking on Tier I/II Fishes.

Kelly Turek with trout for stocking in the enclosures (courtesy Jamie Kindschuh)
Local and Landscape Constraints on Habitat Management for Upland Birds
Throughout the Great Plains, changing land-use practices are resulting in large scale biodiversity loss and an ever increasing dependence on effective conservation and restoration efforts provided by private, state, and federal agencies. Yet, far too often local management efforts fail to demonstrate the desired outcome for wildlife populations.

Read more about Local and Landscape Constraints on Habitat Management for Upland Birds.

Badger depredating an artifical nest (courtesy: Victoria Simonsen)
Management Induced Shifts in Pheasant Reproductive Strategies
Because pheasants are relatively short-lived, successful reproduction is paramount to population growth. The goal of this project is to better understand how management actions (e.g., habitat enhancement programs, harvest management) influence pheasant reproduction and subsequently pheasant population growth.

Read more about Management Induced Shifts in Pheasant Reproductive Strategies.

Measuring pheasant eggs (photo courtesy: Lindsey Messinger)
Merging Social and Ecological Network Models
1. Identify how the social component of ecosystems can be integrated into ecological network analysis (or vice versa); and
2. Apply and adapt the current ecological network analysis approach to predict movement, likelihood of introduction, and establishment of aquatic invasive species.

Read more about Merging Social and Ecological Network Models.

Missouri River Mitigation: Implementation of Amphibian Monitoring and Adaptive Management for Wetland Restoration Evaluation
In 2008 a multi-institutional project funded by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers was initiated in four states (Kansas, Missouri, Iowa, and Nebraska). The main goal of the project is to assess the success of previously restored wetlands and to create wetland restoration guidelines for future use.

Read more about Missouri River Mitigation: Implementation of Amphibian Monitoring and Adaptive Management for Wetland Restoration Evaluation.

Releasing fish caught in net (courtesy Reece Allen)
Monitoring Mapping and Risk Assessment for Non-Indigenous Invasive Species in Nebraska
To help build a cohesive non-indigenous species biosecurity and management system in Nebraska that is integrated and relatively seamless across institutional boundaries. Also,to map the potential spread of many invasive species in Nebraska.

Read more about Monitoring Mapping and Risk Assessment for Non-Indigenous Invasive Species in Nebraska.

Population Assessment of Channel Catfish in Nebraska
Current standards for sampling channel catfish in lentic systems often yield inadequate catch to assess populations. The objective of this study was to utilize a recently developed sampling method, tandem-set hoop nets, to collect channel catfish in sufficient quantities to describe the effects of stocking and habitat variability on populations in lentic ecosystems.

Read more about Population Assessment of Channel Catfish in Nebraska.

Hoop nets (courtesy Lindsey Chizinski)
Population Assessments of Temperate Basses in Nebraska Reservoirs
Managers needed baseline information on the abundances and spatial distributions of white perch and gizzard shad to assist in implementing effective actions for removing large proportions of these populations. Also, the effects of management actions need to be described to improve future management actions.

Read more about Population Assessments of Temperate Basses in Nebraska Reservoirs.

Netting fish out of Branched Oak lake for population assessment
Predators of White Perch at Branched Oak and Pawnee Reservoirs
The purpose of this project was to quantify food habits of adult white crappie, walleye, channel catfish, flathead catfish, hybrid striped bass and white bass to determine which, if any, of these fishes prey on white perch.

Read more about Predators of White Perch at Branched Oak and Pawnee Reservoirs.

Shocking catfish
Recruitment of Walleye and White Bass in Irrigation Reservoirs
The purpose of this project was to gain an understanding of the factors affecting recruitment of walleye and white bass in irrigation reservoirs. The primary foci were to document the relative importance of spawning habitats, and the timing of recruitment bottlenecks for walleye and white bass in southwest Nebraska irrigation reservoirs.

Read more about Recruitment of Walleye and White Bass in Irrigation Reservoirs.

Catching walleye with an electro-fisher
Resilience in Ecosystems
We are conducting experimental and empirical tests of the model of cross-scale resilience.

Read more about Resilience in Ecosystems.

River Otter Distribution and Abundance in Nebraska
The goal of this research is to provide state furbearer managers with a more complete picture of North American river otter (Lontra canadensis) distribution in the state of Nebraska so that they may be better equipped to make management decisions regarding the conservation status and harvest potential of this species in the state.

Read more about River Otter Distribution and Abundance in Nebraska.

Kayaking Nebraska rivers looking for signs of otters (Photo courtesy Nathan Bieber)
River Otter Home Range and Habitat Use
This project is collecting home range and habitat use information on river otters along the big bend area of the Platte River using radio telemetry.

Read more about River Otter Home Range and Habitat Use.

Sam Wilson and Kent Fricke releasing an implanted otter
Southeast Prairies and Sandstone Prairies Biological Landscape Research
To most effectively and efficiently manage prairies, while maintaining critical plant-insect relationships indicative of system fluctuation.

Read more about Southeast Prairies and Sandstone Prairies Biological Landscape Research.

Grassland Wildflowers
Spatial Risk Assessment of Invasive Species Impacts on Native Species in Nebraska
This project conducts spatially-based risk analyses for species and communities identified as at-risk by the Nebraska Legacy Project. Stressors are invasive species on the Nebraska noxious weed watch list. Results may provide guidance for invasive species surveillance and monitoring, and prioritize research and management needs regarding specifics of impacts.

Read more about Spatial Risk Assessment of Invasive Species Impacts on Native Species in Nebraska.

The Effect of Common Reed on River Otter Habitat Use
To increase the understanding of the effects of Phragmites australis (common reed) on river otters - flagship species for non-game conservation

Read more about The Effect of Common Reed on River Otter Habitat Use.

Understanding and Managing for Resilience in the Face of Global Change
We propose to address gaps in the science of ecological resilience in order to develop a usable framework for the implementation of resilience science by natural resource managers. We will do this by accomplishing a series of related but discrete tasks.

Read more about Understanding and Managing for Resilience in the Face of Global Change.

Understanding Invasions and Extinctions
Project objectives were to
1) compare the vertebrate body mass structures of Mediterranean-climate ecosystems, and
2) examine the effects of invasions and extinctions in Mediterranean-climate ecosystems on body mass structure and alpha, beta and gamma diversity.

Read more about Understanding Invasions and Extinctions.

Wind and Wildlife Project
Help to avoid, minimize, and mitigate negative impacts of wind energy development and operation on local flora and fauna by facilitating communication among stakeholders regarding wind power development and operation, identifying and implementing priority research and monitoring efforts, and developing management tools and technical guidance materials.

Read more about Wind and Wildlife Project.

Wind Energy concerns and solutions
Wind and Wings: Sustainable Wind Energy Development and Bat Conservation
The goal of this project is provide the public with information about bat conservation and wind energy through workshops and informational signs. A series of workshops targeting teachers and after-school educators will be held in Nebraska communities.

Read more about Wind and Wings: Sustainable Wind Energy Development and Bat Conservation.

Cooperators