Masters Students

  James Feaga

M.S. student in the Department of Wildlife, Fisheries & Aquaculture studying under Dr. Francisco Vilella. He began his research in May 2011, focused on wintering waterfowl use of production and non-production aquaculture ponds in the Mississippi Alluvial Valley. Jim also will investigate food resource availability in these ponds. Results from his study will be compared with similar data collected in the mid-1980s when all ponds were in production, whereas now >30% ponds are out of production because of competition from Asian markets. Additionally, his research will assess the value of managed and not managed ponds for waterfowl and all other waterbirds as part of the Migratory Bird Habitat Initiative to provide wetland habitats inland from the 2010 Gulf oil spill. During summer 2010, Jim performed undergraduate research as a Ronald E. McNair Scholar under the guidance of Dr. Margaret Brittingham. His research addressed avian use of restored wetlands within the Ridge and Valley region in Pennsylvania and evaluated wetland plant community composition to assess successional changes since restoration in 1998. Jim graduated in 2006 from Harrisburg Area Community College with three Associates degrees in Culinary Arts, Restaurant and Food Service Management, and Catering. He also graduated in 2011 from Pennsylvania State University with a B. S. degree in Wildlife and Fisheries Sciences. Concluding his achievement of a M.S. degree, Jim plans to pursue a Ph.D. with a focus in waterfowl and wetland ecology. Jim spends his free time cooking, hiking, mushroom hunting, biking, hunting, and many other outdoor activities.


  Molly Kneece

M.S. student in the Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, & Aquaculture (WFA) studying under Dr. Brian Davis. Molly joined the WFA in August 2012, after graduating from Clemson University in 2012 with a non-thesis, Master of Forest Resources degree and a bachelor's degree in Forest Resource Management. Molly worked for two seasons with the Nemours Wildlife Foundation as a technician on a mottled duck nesting ecology project in the ACE Basin of South Carolina. She has also volunteered with the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources capturing and banding wood ducks and mottled ducks. Molly's research focuses on determining habitat use and survival of mottled duck broods in the ACE Basin of South Carolina. This research is important because so little is known about reproduction and brood rearing ecology and management of mottled ducks in South Carolina, despite the species being revered by hunters, bird watchers, and other conservationists. After completing her M.S. degree, Molly hopes to pursue a career in waterfowl and wetland ecology and management. In her spare time, Molly enjoys hunting, fishing, and other outdoor-related activities.


  Joe Lancaster

M.S. student in the Department of Wildlife, Fisheries & Aquaculture, Mississippi State University, working with Drs. Brian Davis and Rick Kaminski. He joined the Department in spring 2010 after graduating from Lake Superior State University (2007) with a B.S. degree in Wildlife Management and working numerous seasonal technician positions for Delta Waterfowl Foundation and Ducks Unlimited Inc. in the Prairie Pothole Region of North Dakota and Manitoba, Canada. He also worked as a technician for MSU graduate students conducting research on wintering waterfowl and wetlands in Mississippi. Joe’s M.S. research addresses the effect that waterfowl hunting two and four days per week on Mississippi Waterfowl Management Areas may have on movements, habitat use, and survival of radiomarked female mallards. Results from his project will help guide managers in making decisions on size, distribution, and habitat composition (including sanctuary areas) of WMAs and other public and private conservation lands for mallards and other wintering ducks. In his spare time, Joe enjoys hunting, bowfishing, photography, and many other outdoor-related activities.


  Joseph Marty

M.S. student in the Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, & Aquaculture, Mississippi State University, is originally from Manitowoc, Wisconsin and now working with Drs. Brian Davis, Rick Kaminski, and Mike Brasher (Ducks Unlimited, Inc.). He joined the department in summer 2010 after graduating from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point in May 2010 with a B.S. degree in Wildlife Management and Biology. He worked for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources as a seasonal waterfowl technician in northern Minnesota. Joe also spent time working for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources trapping and banding waterfowl. Joe’s M.S. research addresses estimating abundance of waste rice and moist-soil seeds in harvested rice and fallow fields as foods for waterfowl wintering in the coastal prairies in Louisiana and the Texas Mid-Coast. Results from his project will help managers make decisions on farming practices and landscape conservation for migrating and wintering waterfowl in this region. After completing his M.S. degree, Joe hopes to pursue a Ph.D. related to waterfowl and wetlands ecology and conservation and then eventually pursue a career in the same discipline. In his spare time, Joe enjoys hunting, bass fishing tournaments, snowboarding, and many outdoor activities


  Kira Newcomb

M.S. student in the Department of Wildlife, Fisheries & Aquaculture, Mississippi State University, is investigating habitat use and winter survival of black ducks in and around the Tennessee National Wildlife Refuge (TNWR) under the tutelage of Drs. Brian Davis, Matt Gray (University of Tennessee-Knoxville) and Rick Kaminski. Before matriculating to Mississippi State in 2010, Kira graduated from Centre College in 2007 with a B.S. degree in biology. After graduation, she worked as a threatened and endangered species intern at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina. Kira was also employed by Virginia Tech as a shorebird technician on a Wilson’s plover project and as a technician assisting red-cockaded woodpecker researchers at Camp Lejeune. In addition, she worked as a research specialist for the University of Tennessee on king rail and shorebird studies at TNWR. Avian ecology and conservation are Kira’s passions, but she also enjoys reading and writing fiction, watching movies, and eating sushi.


  Clay Shipes

M.S. student in the Department of Wildlife, Fisheries & Aquaculture studying nesting ecology of mottled ducks in the ACE Basin South Carolina under the direction of Dr. Brian Davis. Clay graduated in 2008 from Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College with an Associates degree in Biology. He then received a bachelor's degree in forest resource management from Clemson University in 2010. He worked for the University of Georgia as a technician on a Clapper Rail project and as a S.T.E.P. student for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, both in coastal South Carolina. Clay has also worked with the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources capturing and banding wood ducks and mottled ducks. Results from his project will help managers better understand and manage historical rice fields and impoundments to benefit breeding mottled ducks. After his M.S. degree, Clay hopes to pursue a career in waterfowl and wetlands ecology and management. In his free time he enjoys hunting, fishing, and other outdoor activities.


  Matt Weegman

M.S. student in the Department of Wildlife, Fisheries & Aquaculture studying under Drs Rick Kaminski and Brian Davis. He began his program in December 2010. Matt's research focuses on determining waterbird use of Louisiana and Mississippi private lands enrolled in the Migratory Bird Habitat Initiative (MBHI), an initiative developed to create habitat for waterbirds after the Deepwater Horizon Gulf Coast oil spill in spring 2010. He will perform aerial and ground surveys for waterbirds and will collect core and sweep-net samples to assess waterbird use and food availability on MBHI managed and non-managed lands. Matt originates from Winona, Minnesota. He received his B.S. in Wildlife and Fisheries Sciences from South Dakota State University in December of 2009. Beginning in high school and continuing until college graduation, he worked for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service as a STEP employee. After graduating from SDSU, he worked for South Dakota Game, Fish, and Parks; USGS, Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center; Minnesota Department of Natural Resources; Ducks Unlimited, Inc., and the Veterinary Medical Center at the University of Minnesota. Matt has an intense passion for all things outdoors and began studying waterfowl with his twin brother, Mitch, as a middle school student in Winona, Minnesota. Matt plans on pursuing a Ph.D. after completing his M.S and would like to earn his private pilot's license with hopes of using it for waterfowl research. In his spare time, he greatly enjoys waterfowl hunting, some days exchanging his shotgun for a camera.


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