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 seeks 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.

Read more about Amphibian Occupancy, Functional Connectivity, and Resilience of Rainwater Basin Wetlands.

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

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

Creel Clerk interviewing anglers
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 aquatic invasive species through an integrated outreach/education program;
3. Continue aquatic invasive species monitoring to help focus prevention efforts; and

Read more about Aquatic Invasive Species (AIS) Prevention Program.

Technician conducting AIS Outreach. Photo: Allison Zach
Avian Habitat Relationships Across Ecological Scales
Using geographic information system spatial analysis tools, we are analyzing data from avian point count surveys and local vegetation assessments within a larger land cover layer of Nebraska.

Read more about Avian Habitat Relationships Across Ecological Scales.

Priority pheasant management areas defined by the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission in the Berggrenn Plan using models developed through this study. Graphic courtesy of the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission
Bat Movements Across Transforming Landscapes
By studying bat migratory patterns in Nebraska we will help utility companies, wind energy developers, and wind facility owners avoid, manage, and mitigate the effects of new and existing wind energy facilities.

Read more about Bat Movements Across Transforming Landscapes.

Bat caught in a mist net
Better Soils for Birds
This project investigates how disturbance is used as a tool by managers to improve the quality of grasslands enrolled in the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP). To achieve this aim, we are tracking 1) soil, 2) plant, 3) pollinator, and 4) ground–dwelling macroinvertebrates response to the disturbances used by managers that serve as analogies for historical disturbance.

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Upland sandpiper in the Lynch area Upland sandpiper in the Lynch area (photo courtesy Hannah Birge)
Canid Distribution and the Potential Impacts of Energy Development in Nebraska
The project goal is to understand how habitat structure, landscape attributes, and behavioral intraguild interactions, across multiple spatial and temporal scales, affect habitat use and geographic distribution of Nebraska's canids species and how energy development may alter these relationships.

Read more about Canid Distribution and the Potential Impacts of Energy Development in Nebraska.

Lucia preparing trail cameras. Photo: Adela Annis
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.

Read more about Climatic Constraints on Bobwhite Quail Populations Along Their Northern Extent.

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 propose to compile and analyze a comprehensive database on license holders and hunter education participants in Nebraska with the goal of helping inform and direct wildlife and fish

Read more about Comprehensive Evaluation of the Nebraska Outdoor Enthusiast.

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.
Convergence NNA: Adaptive Capacity and Resilience in the New Arctic: Identifying Pathways to Equitable, Desirable Outcomes for People and Nature Through Convergence
The goal of the workshops is to convene expert participants with relevant, disparate expertise to converge around six thematic goals to understand how transformations in the New Arctic can be managed to reduce inequitable and undesirable outcomes for people and nature. The workshops will commence with listening sessions led by Indigenous and other Arctic stakeholders.

Read more about Convergence NNA: Adaptive Capacity and Resilience in the New Arctic: Identifying Pathways to Equitable, Desirable Outcomes for People and Nature Through Convergence.

Developing a Network for Invasive Species Outreach and Monitoring in Nebraska
• Decrease the risk of invasive species introduction and spread through volunteer training workshops, and by targeted messaging across multiple user groups;
• Develop and implement a “next generation” invasive species education strategy;

Read more about Developing a Network for Invasive Species Outreach and Monitoring in Nebraska.

Traveling education trunk contents. Photo: Allison Zach
Dynamics and Trade-offs Among Social, Economic, and Ecological Components of Resilience in Working Agricultural Landscapes
This project applies resilience thinking and panarchy theory to questions of sustainable development at FEWS nexuses in landscapes worldwide. Expected products include frameworks for adaptively governing and managing for resilience and ecosystem services in agricultural landscapes, as well as frameworks for avoiding social–ecological traps, such as poverty and rigidity traps.

Read more about Dynamics and Trade-offs Among Social, Economic, and Ecological Components of Resilience in Working Agricultural Landscapes.

Evaluating Wetland Condition Across Nebraska
• Evaluate the overall condition of Nebraska wetlands, within five Biologically Unique Landscapes.
• Identify benchmarks for similar wetlands to be compared to in the future.

Read more about Evaluating Wetland Condition Across Nebraska.

Soil profile from a North Loup River wetland site. Photo: Cody Dreier
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.

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Global Change, Vulnerability and Resilience: Management Options for an Uncertain Future
Our objectives for this new 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.

Read more about Global Change, Vulnerability and Resilience: Management Options for an Uncertain Future.

Hybridization As A Facilitating Factor in the Biological Invasion of Asian Carps
Project goals are to 1) determine the number of distinct Asian carp populations in the Missouri River basin, 2) describe differences in individual growth rates and morphology among the populations, as well as quantify the extent of hybridization of each population, and 3) use ecological models to pinpoint which native fishes in the Missouri River basin are the most susceptible to this invasion by

Read more about Hybridization As A Facilitating Factor in the Biological Invasion of Asian Carps.

Invasive hybrid carp collected at the Kibbe Life Science Station in Warsaw, Illinois. Photo: Sarah Gaughan
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.

Read more about Implementing the North American Bat Monitoring Program Through Citizen Science in Nebraska.

Baxter Seguin testing bat echolocation detector for a driving transect near Lincoln, Ne. Photo: Tayelor Gosselin
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 NGPC cost-share programs which remove ERC, to identify where these programs are succeeding at their conservation goals and where improvements can be made.

Read more about Invasion, Cost-share, and Private Landowners: Resolving the Challenges of Scale with Managing Juniperus Virginiana on Nebraska's Rangelands.

Managing Red Cedar Invasion of Nebraska Grasslands - Part III
The overall goals of this project are to:
• Assess the impacts of eastern red cedar spread on wildlife species.
• Assess the vulnerability of grassland-dependent species to eastern red cedar invasion.
• Compare the effects of alternative management strategies.

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

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.

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 Council, and assist with any additional legislation regarding invasive species as needed;

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2016 lakeside outreach event. Photo: Allison Zach
Novel Ecological Uses for Unmanned Aerial Vehicle-UAVs
A primary application is the use of UAVs to remotely ignite controlled burns to help with management of grasslands, including the reduction of woody invasive species such as eastern red cedar. This particular line of work has led to the development of a prototype UAV.

Read more about Novel Ecological Uses for Unmanned Aerial Vehicle-UAVs.

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.

Read more about Rainwater Basin Joint Venture Science.

Ducks Unlimited technician Danielle Ramsden surveys waterfowl on a Rainwater Basin playa during a waterfowl monitoring project. Photo:  Alyssa Eby
Range and Habitat Usage of Northern Long-Eared Bats in Nebraska
This project aims to evaluate distribution and habitat usage of the Northern Long-Eared bat throughout the state. This critical information will allow managers and biologists to focus future conservation efforts on areas that will have the greatest positive impact.

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Warren recording data at a sampling location north of Rushville, NE. Photo: Catherine Berrick
Testing for the Presence of the Chytrid fungus (Batrachochytrium Dendrobatidis) in Amphibian Populations Across Nebraska
To determine the current extent of chytrid in Nebraska by swabbing larval amphibian populations statewide. Using PCR, the samples were tested for the presence of Bd zoospores. The presence/absence of chytrid in amphibian populations were used to model the distribution of chytrid based on environmental covariates associated with wetland condition and amphibian call surveys.

Read more about Testing for the Presence of the Chytrid fungus (Batrachochytrium Dendrobatidis) in Amphibian Populations Across Nebraska.

Use and Satisfaction of Public Hunting Opportunities
The effect of hunting and hunter participation on wildlife populations, hunter recruitment and retention, and local economies is likely acting at multiple scales that are currently not considered when managing wildlife resources.

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A pheasant hunter being interviewed in the Rainwater Basin. Photo courtesy of NEBRASKALand Magazine
Wetland Condition Assessment
To quantify the condition of important wetland resources in Nebraska and aid in the development of wetland-specific, rapid assessment methods and state-wide wetland management strategies. The knowledge gained will be important to the management of our wetland resources in Nebraska, and nationally.

Read more about Wetland Condition Assessment.

Establishing survey plots in the Sandhills (courtesy Craig Allen)
Wild Bee Assemblages of the Southeast Prairies and Sandstone Prairies Biologically Unique Landscapes
• Determine whether wild bee assemblages differ among grassland types: The dominant three types of grasslands in the BUL— remnant prairie, grazed pasture, and CRP plantings—were sampled and bee abundance, species richness, and diversity measured. Species were also categorized by sociality, foraging capacity, nesting behavior, and floral specificity.

Read more about Wild Bee Assemblages of the Southeast Prairies and Sandstone Prairies Biologically Unique Landscapes.

A Male bee (Bombus griseocollis) on goldenrod (Solidago canadensis). Photo: Bethany Teeters
Working with Rural Students to Document Swift Fox on Nebraska Ranches
By surveying for swift fox on private lands we are adding significantly to our understanding of what is limiting this rare species in Nebraska; moreover, because camera traps attract a multitude of species we are documenting and thereby aiding in the management of other species of conservation concern here in Nebraska.

Read more about Working with Rural Students to Document Swift Fox on Nebraska Ranches.

Lucía Corral teaching students at Chadron State College how to use trail cameras. Photo: Teresa Frink

Cooperators