Current Research Projects

Current research is focused on the role that diversity plays in providing ecological functions, understanding the dynamics and structure of channel catfish in Nebraska reservoirs, invasive species risk assessments and distribution modeling, the Nebraska Landowner Incentives Program, the occurrence of amphibians in Nebraska Rainwater Basin wetlands, documenting predator fish control on white perch populations, understanding how resilience is generated in ecological systems, assessing the value of grassland habitats songbird production in three national parks, understanding river otter home range and habitat, and the recruitment of walleye and white bass in irrigation reservoirs .

Click on the research project title to learn more:

Amphibian Occupancy, Functional Connectivity, and Resilience of Rainwater Basin Wetlands
This project will seek to assess how agricultural land–use may affect resilience of a large wetland complex. Both the quantity and overall quality of wetlands have severely declined globally. Many remaining wetlands exist in landscapes dominated by agricultural production. The Rainwater Basin is a region of Nebraska characterized by shallow wetlands located in an agricultural matrix.

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An automated recording device used to sample anuran calling activity at an irrigation reuse pit. Photo: Michelle Hellman
Angler Behavior in Response to Management Actions on Nebraska Reservoirs - Part II
Project goals are to understand 1) the participation patterns of anglers on multiple spatial and temporal scales; 2) how participation patterns of anglers’ influence fish populations and associated communities; 3) how management actions influence angler participation patterns and, in turn, fish communities; and 4) interactions and feedback mechanisms between and among angler groups and fish commun

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Ten pound Northern Pike at  Lake McConaughy, Nebraska Photo: Logan Dietrich
Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) Prevention Program
1. Decrease the risk of aquatic invasive species introduction into Nebraska by implementing a boat inspection and decontamination program;
2. Increase public awareness of AIS through an integrated outreach/education program;
3. Continue aquatic invasive species monitoring to help focus prevention efforts; and

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Technician Conducting AIS Outreach. Photo: Allison Zach
Assessment of Angler Use and Catch During 2018 at Sutherland Reservoir
The purpose of this study is to estimate angler use and catch at Sutherland Reservoir, Nebraska, from April through October 2018. Specifically, we will obtain monthly 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.

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Bat Movements Across Transforming Landscapes
Unfortunately, the cumulative impacts of opportunistic wind energy development could have unanticipated, negative consequences for bat populations. Across North America, wind turbines are estimated to kill over 800,000 bats annually.

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Bat caught in a mist net
Climatic Constraints on Bobwhite Quail Populations Along Their Northern Extent
The purpose of this project is to improve our understanding of how severe climatic events (e.g., snow storms, spring rains) alter quail physiology and behavioral decisions to impact population stability in Nebraska and to further develop management strategies aimed at offsetting these costs.

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Bobwhite quail (Art: Mandy Lipinski)
Comprehensive Evaluation of the Nebraska Outdoor Enthusiast
Working in conjunction with the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission and researchers from the School of Natural Resources and Nebraska Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, we are analyzing a comprehensive database on license holders and hunter education participants in Nebraska with the goal of helping inform and direct wildlife and fisheries management,

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Figure 1- A hypothetical relationship between different sporting groups including a group that has never participated (Recruit) and a group that has participated in the past but is not currently actively participating (Non-participant). The size of the circle indicates the relative size of the group that is exposed to recruitment and retention efforts and the size and direction of the arrow indicates the degree of movement between groups.
Global Change, Vulnerability and Resilience: Management Options for an Uncertain Future
Our objectives for this project are to develop models to detect and assess ecological regime shifts in space and time, to identify components of adaptive capacity, and to identify species and techniques that may serve as leading indicators of thresholds of changing ecological regimes.

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Implementing the North American Bat Monitoring Program Through Citizen Science in Nebraska
The North American Bat program (NABat) is a national protocol designed to streamline data collection and encourage collaboration across ecoregions in order to allow for broad understanding of bat ecology, populations, and habitat usage.

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Integrating Genetic Tools Into Conservation Efforts
Project objectives are to 1) determine which biological characteristics facilitate fish invasions within this region, 2) determine if hybridization occurs within other populations of bighead and silver carp or if it’s driven by novel environments, and 3) establish a mitochondrial genomic repository for this region.

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Invasive hybrid carp collected at the Kibbe Life Science Station in Warsaw, Illinois. Photo: Sarah Gaughan
Invasion, Cost-share, and Private Landowners: Resolving the Challenges of Scale with Managing Juniperus Virginiana on Nebraska's Rangelands
The purpose of this study is to understand the perceptions of Nebraskan landowners in regards to ERC and ERC management, and the ways participation-based incentives influence the scale of management of Nebraska Game and Parks Commission cost-share programs which remove ERC, to identify where these programs are succeeding at their conservation goals and where improvements can be made.

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Managing Red Cedar Invasion of Nebraska Grasslands- Part I
The objective of this grant is to assess the vulnerability of Nebraska’s grasslands to redcedar invasion, and develop predictive tools that enhance the potential to implement landscape interventions that (1) prevent the spread of redcedar trees or (2) restore degraded wildlife habitat following transformation to a redcedar-dominated state.

Read more about Managing Red Cedar Invasion of Nebraska Grasslands- Part I.

Managing Red Cedar Invasions of Nebraska Grasslands -Part II
A central aim of this thesis research is to synthesize the impacts of juniper invasion on grassland ecosystem services.

This synthesis will then be contrasted against:
• How Nebraskan’s value ecosystem services
• How other invasive species in grasslands alter ecosystem service provisioning

Read more about Managing Red Cedar Invasions of Nebraska Grasslands -Part II.

Monitoring, Mapping and Risk Assessment and Management of Invasive Species in Nebraska
Funding was provided through a federal-aid grant from the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission to:
1. Provide outreach to, and facilitate communication among, stakeholders regarding biological invasions, coordinate the Nebraska Invasive Species Advisory Council, and assist with any additional legislation regarding invasive species as needed;

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2016 lakeside outreach event. Photo: Allison Zach
Rainwater Basin Joint Venture Science
The Rainwater Basin Joint Venture’s (RWBJV) mission includes science–based conservation efforts for all priority bird habitats throughout Nebraska’s mixed–grass prairie region. The Management Board of the RWBJV is committed to implementing the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Strategic Habitat Conservation model.

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Ducks Unlimited technician Danielle Ramsden surveys waterfowl on a Rainwater Basin playa during a waterfowl monitoring project. Photo:  Alyssa Eby
Spatio-Temporal Foraging Activity of Bats in the Agricultural Landscape
For a more complete picture of bat foraging ecology in intensively managed agricultural environments, we will investigate the spatial and temporal movements of insectivorous bat species in crop fields through systematic deployments of acoustic bat detectors, from which we can: 1) examine the temporal activity patterns and trends of foraging insectivorous bats in crop fields, and 2) assess the spat

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Cooperators