Rainwater Basin Joint Venture Science

Goals

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. This science–based model requires a commitment of resources and time to develop a strong biological foundation for delivering conservation planning and designing research and monitoring efforts. To fulfill this commitment, the University of Nebraska–Lincoln hired Dana Varner as the RWBJV Science Coordinator in October 2014. This position is the product of a partnership between the RWBJV, the Nebraska Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Unit, and the University of Nebraska–Lincoln School of Natural Resources, which provides office space and support in Lincoln. Funding for the position is provided by the RWBJV.

Current Status

As science coordinator, Dana works with RWBJV science staff to develop models and decision support tools that help identify areas where conservation is most likely to benefit migratory birds and wildlife. She works with partners to determine the region’s conservation needs. In addition, Dana helps monitor and evaluate the success of ongoing and past habitat conservation projects, collaborating with researchers from various federal, regional, and state conservation organizations. Dana recently worked with the RWBJV’s Conservation Planning Workgroup, Public Lands Workgroup, and Technical Committee to complete an updated Best Management Practices for Rainwater Basin Wetlands. This detailed publication used five years of monitoring data to investigate the effects of several management treatments on playa wetland plant communities. This document could be a source of information for public land managers, private lands biologists, and private landowners interested in achieving the best possible wetland habitat conditions for the millions of wetland-dependent birds that rely on this region annually. Several projects are currently in progress including an assessment of milkweed survival in wetlands, an evaluation of waterfowl and Sandhill crane survey data collected on the North and South Platte Rivers, and monitoring of spring-migrating waterfowl use of playas in the Rainwater Basin region.

Ducks Unlimited technician Danielle Ramsden surveys waterfowl on a Rainwater Basin playa during a waterfowl monitoring project. Photo:  Alyssa Eby
Ducks Unlimited technician Danielle Ramsden surveys waterfowl on a Rainwater Basin playa during a waterfowl monitoring project. Photo: Alyssa Eby
Principal Investigator(s)
-Craig R. Allen, NE CFWRU
-Andy Bishop, Rainwater Basin Joint Venture Partnership
Project Coordinator(s)
Dana Varner
Project Duration
October 2014-June 2017
Funding
-Rainwater Basin Joint Venture
Project Location
Statewide Nebraska