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Kennedy students participate in 25 year study

Kennedy students were able to participate in a 25 year study led by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers-Alaska District and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Alaska Region.

This year's research team was composed of two scholars from Mississippi State University—Riley Porter, graduate student, and George Williams, undergraduate student.

Read more at https://www.army.mil/article/259604

What's the buzz?

A new paper is out from our research describing an uncommon bee in Mississippi. It is the first record of a specimen from this species displaying morphological characteristics of both males and females. And perhaps most unique about this finding is that the bee was found using sunflowers (mid-June 2016) planted for dove or other hunting the following fall.

News Archive

Kennedy students participate in 25 year study

Kennedy students were able to participate in a 25 year study led by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers-Alaska District and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Alaska Region.

This year's research team was composed of two scholars from Mississippi State University—Riley Porter, graduate student, and George Williams, undergraduate student.

Read more at https://www.army.mil/article/259604

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MSU Kennedy Chair produces 2020-2021 annual report

annual report coverDownload the 2020-2021 Kennedy Chair Annual Report.

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What's the buzz?

A new paper is out from our research describing an uncommon bee in Mississippi. It is the first record of a specimen from this species displaying morphological characteristics of both males and females. And perhaps most unique about this finding is that the bee was found using sunflowers (mid-June 2016) planted for dove or other hunting the following fall.

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Kennedy student wins best presentation

The Southeastern Section of TWS annually recognizes the best student presentation and best poster given at the 75th Annual SEAFWA Conference. The best student presentation was Madelyn McFarland, Graduate Research Assistant, Mississippi State University, and her presentation entitled, "Avian Use of Marsh Terraces in Gulf Coastal Wetlands of Louisiana."

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Waterfowl Q&A with Dr. Brian Davis on Mossy Oak Gamekeepers

Ducks flying
Dr. Brian Davis joins us in the studio this week. He answers all the questions we ask about ducks, their migration, banding, and how to improve our habitat to improve our hunting. Listen now.

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MSU Kennedy Chair produces 2019-2020 annual report

Download the 2019-2020 Kennedy Chair Annual Report.

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The Wildlife Society post marsh terrace work on Instagram

The Wildlife Society featured work by scientists and students in The Kennedy Chair on the marsh terrace work. See the Instagram post

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Hunter Education for the Professionals: University Hunt Programs



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Super Hens: The Experts Speak

Super Hens

Brian Davis, James C. Kennedy Endowed Associate Professor in Waterfowl and Wetlands Conservation, provides expert opinion on "Super Hens." Read the story at www.greenhead.net

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NSF Grant Looks at Genetic Diversity

two mallards

Professor Michael Schummer of the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry (ESF) is a co-principal investigator for a multi-disciplinary team of researchers from ESF, the University of Texas El Paso, Mississippi State University, Smithsonian Institute, and Illinois Natural History that has received nearly $1 million in funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to study genetic diversity in North America. The research project is entitled "Genomic and Morphological Consequences of Landscape-Level Hybridization between Wild and Domesticated Congeners."

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Deepwater Horizon Project Tracker

A Kennedy chair project on evaluating the efficacy of marsh terraces is featured on the Deepwater Horizon Project Tracker. Visit the tracker at dwhprojecttracker.org/project/749

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Delta Waterfowl Hunt Program

Delta Waterfowl Hunt Program students

The weather was cold, clear and breezy for the Delta Waterfowl Mississippi State University Hunt Program this past weekend, but everyone had a good time and learned more about the role waterfowl hunting plays in wildlife conservation. Students participated in two clay shooting events, a mentored hunt, a waterfowl presentation, and demonstrations on concealment, calling, and decoy strategies. Thank you to Delta Waterfowl Foundation for hosting our students.

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Restoring Coastal Wetlands

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MSU Kennedy Chair produces 2018-19 annual report

Download the 2018-19 Kennedy Chair Annual Report.

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MSU alumni reunite at Duck Symposium

2019 Duck Symposium

Mississippi State faculty, students and alumni reunited at the 2019 Duck Symposium in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.

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Farmed Fish Losses to Scaup Quantified

Avian predators cause serious losses on fish farms. The Southern Regional Aquaculture Center has an on-going project that is measuring the predation risk and economic effects of lesser scaup on baitfish farms and of cormorants on catfish farms. The project team is led by Dr. Luke Roy (Auburn University) with team members including Dr. Anita Kelly (Auburn University), Dr. Brian Davis (Mississippi State University), Dr. Brian Dorr (USDA/WS National Wildlife Research Center), and Dr. Carole Engle, Dr. Jonathan van Senten, and Dr. Michael Schwarz (Virginia Tech University). The project work has included intensive field data collection on the numbers of birds feeding on fish farms, the volume of fish consumed on fish farms, and the economic effects of bird-scaring costs combined with the value of the fish losses.

A first fact sheet has been published that summarizes the losses on golden shiner farms due to predation by scaup. As the project progresses and additional analyses are completed, additional fact sheets and other materials will become available. The fact sheet can be read or downloaded from: https://www.pubs.ext.vt.edu/AAEC/AAEC-191/AAEC-191.html.

Baitfish farms that would like to add scaup or increase the scaup number on their individual bird depredation permit can use this information to request changes. Information concerning permitting can be found here: https://www.aphis.usda.gov/aphis/ourfocus/wildlifedamage/operational-activities/ct_federal_permit_process.

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Restoring Coastal Wetlands

Hundreds of thousands of acres of wetlands have been lost in the U.S. in the past few decades. More than two-thirds of this loss occurred along the Gulf of Mexico.

As the largest private owner of wetlands in the U.S., ConocoPhillips views conservation as a key priority and has allocated over $6.8 million to restoration efforts since 2012. This includes activities such as hurricane protection, coastal restoration, wetlands mitigation and biomass carbon sequestration. Through partnerships with public, private and nonprofit organizations, the company has participated in more than 30 projects that have enhanced approximately 86,000 acres of wetlands. Marsh terraces, first implemented in the 1990s, are an important component of these efforts. New research on terrace sites throughout Louisiana by scientists at Mississippi State University (MSU) and Ducks Unlimited, including seven vital locations situated on ConocoPhillips Coastal Wetlands property, evaluates the effectiveness of marsh terraces small manmade ridges of excavated soil constructed in shallow, open water areas. They are typically covered in vegetation and serve as a habitat for fish, ducks and other birds.

"Terraces are intended to provide numerous benefits in restoring coastal wetlands," said Brian Davis, lead project investigator and associate professor in the MSU Forest and Wildlife Research Center. "They reduce wave energy and erosion, protecting the coastline against flooding. They also provide habitat for waterfowl and various other aquatic species."

Though more than 80 marsh terracing projects have been constructed in Texas and Louisiana, there is no real data to provide a clear understanding of the ideal techniques to use to optimize conservation. The MSU research team hopes to change that. Professors, graduate and undergraduate students will measure numerous geological and biological outcomes of constructed marsh terraces using, among other tools, visible and thermal imaging cameras deployed on unmanned aerial vehicles, and sonar sensors on unmanned surface vehicles. By assessing soil compaction and hydrology and compiling data on avian populations, they hope the data will answer a number of questions: Does a certain type of vegetation contribute to terrace longevity? Do various bird populations respond better to a specific type of vegetation? And does terrace shape and/or configuration impact efficacy?

"The ultimate goal of this project is to develop best management practices for marsh terrace design to inform engineering and construction plans," Davis said. "The hydrodynamic models will allow us to determine how future terraces will perform and persist and how to best allocate resources for greatest future impact. The real value of the partnership with ConocoPhillips is that we are collaborating to better understand restoration efforts, which has broad, long-term benefits."

Work in the field will continue through 2020, and data will be ongoing for an additional year or so. Researchers intend to share their findings to maximize coastal restoration and protection efforts that promote sustainable and productive ecosystems across the entire Gulf Coast region.

Originally posted in ConocoPhillips Spirit Now at http://www.conocophillips.com/spiritnow/story/restoring-coastal-wetlands/

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MSU Kennedy Chair produces 2017 annual report

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MSU Kennedy Chair produces 2016 annual report

Download the 2016 Kennedy Chair Annual Report.

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New Study Underway to Estimate the Impact of Lesser Scaup on Arkansas' Baitfish Industry

Download our research spotlighted in Arkansas Aquafarming newsletter.

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MSU Kennedy Chair produces 2015 annual report

Download the 2015 Kennedy Chair Annual Report.

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Duck banding at Trim Cane

duck banding

Brian Davis and waterfowl students capturing wood ducks for banding at Trim Cane Wildlife Management Area.

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MSU Kennedy Chair produces 2014 annual report

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MSU alums featured on cover of The Wildlife Professional

MSU Alums

In this picture, Mississippi State University researchers and Ducks Unlimited biologists are testing a core sampling device to estimate waterfowl food abundance in Gulf Coast ricelands. We were standing in an idle rice field. On the Gulf Coast, rice usually isn't grown in the same field year after year. It is often just left idle for 1-2 years, and during this time the "grassy" fields that result provide good habitat for grassland birds, waterfowl (if flooded), and other wildlife. Left to right: Matt Kaminski (DU Biologist/MSU alumnus), Joe Marty (MSU graduate student), James Callicutt (MDWFP/MSU alumnus), and Dr. Brian Davis (Assistant Professor, Wildlife Ecology and Management, MSU).

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MSU Kennedy Chair produces 2013 annual report

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MSU wildlife biologist receives regional award

Richard M. Kaminski, a longtime Mississippi State University professor, is being recognized for his contributions and service to wildlife science and conservation.

Kaminski, a professor in the MSU Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Aquaculture, received the 2013 Clarence W. Watson Award at the Southeastern Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies' meeting in Oklahoma City in October.

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Kennedy gift to benefit MSU wetland theater, grow endowed chair

A gift of real estate in Carroll County serves as a lead contribution for Mississippi State University's Carsie Clark and Diane Worthington Young Wetland Education Theater and increases a previously established endowment for the James C. Kennedy Chair in Waterfowl and Wetlands Conservation.

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Team Duck at the 6th North American Duck Symposium

team duck
Can you name the members of the 'flock'?

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WOODS: MSU's waterfowl research revealing

Waterfowl research being conducted by Mississippi State University professors and graduate students could have important impacts on habitat conservation and duck hunting in the Delta region of Mississippi. Specifically one recent piece of work being conducted and continues deals with a study of mallard duck survival in relation to habitat use. Ultimately a better understanding of these factors could improve waterfowl management and enhance the economic impact of duck hunting in the state.

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MSU waterfowl program receives national award

Mississippi State University’s waterfowl and wetlands science program was recently honored by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The North American Waterfowl Management Plan, a program of the service’s Division of Bird Habitat Conservation, gave the Blue-winged Teal Award to MSU’s program because of its significant contributions to waterfowl, other wetland-associated migratory bird populations, and wetlands habitats.

Richard M. Kaminski, professor in MSU’s Forest and Wildlife Research Center and College of Forest Resources, has dedicated his career to conserving and understanding wetland habitats and the birds that rely on their natural resources. He was named holder of the James C. Kennedy Endowed Chair in Waterfowl and Wetlands Conservation in 2008. As chair, he leads MSU’s award-winning waterfowl and wetlands science and conservation program.

Kaminski and his colleagues are recognized as leaders in waterfowl and wetlands science education. Their studies have been instrumental in strengthening the science and importance of winter habitat conditions on waterfowl populations.

More than 40 MSU graduates work directly or indirectly to implement the North American Waterfowl Management Plan locally, nationally and internationally. The MSU group has worked to ensure that the conservation priorities and strategies in the plan reflect contemporary science.

Thomas E. Moorman, director of science and public policy for Ducks Unlimited, Inc. complimented the 12 program graduates currently employed by the non-profit conservation organization.

"The depth and breadth of Rick’s former students is both remarkable and a testament to the MSU program," Moorman said. "His vision to ensure the future of waterfowl is possible through development of a cadre of professionals that provide exceptional service to our field."

MSU’s program focuses on research and outreach as well as academics, carrying out the university’s land-grant mission.

"Rick and the MSU program have truly excelled at both the research and outreach side of their mission," said John M. Eadie, chair of the Department of Wildlife, Fish and Conservation Biology at the University of California-Davis. "Very little of their work sits dusty in file cabinets or buried in theses on library shelves."

Alumnus Mike Brasher nominated the waterfowl group for the award. Kaminski accepted the award on behalf of the program at the North American Wildlife and Natural Resources Conference March 27 in Arlington, Va.

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MSU scientists study ducks in the Delta

Results from a Mississippi State University study of mallard ducks in the state's south Delta revealed information that could help shape conservation and habitat management programs.

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MSU Kennedy Chair produces 2012 annual report

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A European conservation challenge—The case of the Greenland White-fronted Goose

After a period of increase, the global Greenland White-fronted Goose population has declined markedly since the late 1990s due to low reproductive success in recent years. In 2006, hunting of white-fronts was banned in Iceland, yielding complete protection throughout their annual cycle. This conservation strategy has halted the decline, but the cause of low breeding success continues to puzzle researchers. Mitch Weegman

Greenland White-fronted Geese breed in west Greenland, stage during autumn and spring in Iceland, and winter in Ireland and western parts of the United Kingdom. The purpose of my Ph.D. research—a collaboration between the University of Exeter and Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust—is to understand the reasons for the population decline and low rates of reproductive success.

One approach to improve our biological knowledge of these birds is to examine decisions made by individuals throughout their life cycle and ultimately link these to reproductive output in successive years. Greenland White-fronts are unique among waterfowl in that less than 5% of individuals marked in their first winter of life ever breed. It is this enigmatic portion of the population that I will study. In addition, we hope to gain insight about the other 95% of the birds that never breed, but migrate to Greenland each spring. Fortunately, collaborators in Ireland and Britain have maintained, since 1982, a long-term database of resightings of marked individuals and counts of all known regular wintering habitats. Thus, there is a wealth of historical data to analyse.

Flock sizes have fluctuated at most wintering habitats since counts began, although the mechanism for this dynamic is not understood. However, the large flock at Wexford, Ireland—that numbers over 8,000 birds—has remained relatively stable since the early 1990s, despite overall declining population size. This decline is in contrast to the flock at Islay, an island off the western coast of Scotland, where numbers more than doubled to 15,000 birds, but now have declined to levels similar to the late 1980s. By analysing these data, I hope to help explain variation in flock sizes and specific strategies of breeding birds.

To examine behavior of individuals and how this affects their propensity to breed, I began fieldwork in Ireland and Scotland during winter 2011-2012. I attached GPS/accelerometer tags to 20 male Greenland White-fronts. I chose to mark males instead of females to avoid any potential reproductive bias and because males are typically larger than females, minimizing tag weight effects. The tags record one GPS fix per day and an electronic trace of movement in three dimensions that enables us to record behavior every six minutes over an annual cycle. Data may be downloaded remotely to a base station less than a mile away. This fine-scale behavioral data will provide new insights into strategies of individual birds.

Another important aspect of my work was observation of social interactions between family groups. We believe larger family groups enjoy access to quality food and habitat throughout the year, therefore potentially contributing the greatest number of young annually to the population. Over the next few years, I would like to compare biological outcomes (e.g., body condition, survival, etc.) of these white-fronts and conspecifics without membership in large family groups to understand possible differences in life-history strategies.

While family group size may be very important to breeding success, overall body condition of birds and food availability during migration are issues ornithologists have pinpointed for many years as fundamentally important for population dynamics. Beginning in the early 1980s, studies of staging Greenland White-fronted Geese have taken place at Hvanneyri, Iceland, home of the Agricultural University of Iceland and one of the most important known staging areas for Greenland White-fronts as they migrate to Greenland.

To determine overall condition of birds, we brought a 12-member team consisting of professionals and volunteers from the Czech Republic, Denmark, England, Ireland, and Scotland. We conducted daily goose counts, documented the amount of fat storage by scoring abdominal profiles of individuals, and resighted collared birds from 3 April to 6 May 2012. An average of 1,000 Greenland White-fronts were counted on fields of the Agricultural University; peak numbers occurred 22 April, when nearly 2,000 were counted. In addition, the team generated over 900 resightings of collared birds; most were collared at Wexford, Ireland. A few resightings were of birds collared in the late 1990s, making them 12-15 years old. Two of the team members, Kerry Mackie (Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust) and Alyn Walsh (National Parks and Wildlife Service of Ireland), coordinated rocket-netting efforts, catching 69 new birds this year. These newly collared birds in the population will contribute to our studies and the estimates of long-term survival of individuals.

Preliminary results from this spring suggest birds arrived 10-14 days earlier than average, as conditions in Iceland were mild and snow had melted by mid-February. In fact, first flocks arrived 24 March, the earliest documented arrival date. Further, white-fronts were in exceptional condition from early April. Abdominal profiles of many individuals during early April were similar to those of birds departing for Greenland in years past. We also observed many birds resting and not foraging in fields throughout the day, perhaps due to their exceptional condition. However, despite excellent condition of geese by mid-April, average departure date only was six days earlier than in previous years. These results suggest the staging period in Iceland is actually increasing in duration. Historically, white-fronts have staged for three weeks, but this period has now increased to nearly six weeks. Although further research is needed on staging areas, it seems likely changes in climate have resulted in warmer conditions and thus increased forage opportunities in Iceland, which the birds are exploiting.

The trip to Iceland completes the fieldwork for this season. We’ll return with the geese to wintering sites in Ireland and Scotland in November, as we continue to follow the 20 tagged birds. Ideally, we’ll use historical and tag data to better understand the Greenland White-fronted Goose population decline and provide management recommendations to return this important population to favorable conservation status. I look forward to seeing my U.S. colleagues and friends in Memphis, TN in January at the symposium, Ecology and Conservation of North American Waterfowl, where I’ll provide further results of my research.

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James C. Kennedy named Conservation/Private Citizen award winner at 2012 Wetland Conservation Achievement Awards

Ducks Unlimited announced today the winners of the 2012 Wetland Conservation Achievement Awards during the 77th North American Wildlife and Natural Resources Conference, held at the Hilton Atlanta. This year's recipient of the Conservation/Private Citizen award is James C. Kennedy of Atlanta.

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MSU Kennedy Chair produces 2011 annual report

Download the 2011 Kennedy Chair Annual Report.

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Ecology and Conservation of North American Waterfowl

A Symposium and Joint Meeting of The North American Duck Symposium and Workshop, The North American Arctic Goose Conference, and The International Sea Duck Conference. Local Organizer/Host: Mississippi State University

January 27-31, 2013
Memphis, TN

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MSU Kennedy Chair produces 2010 annual report

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Duck Migration Forecast: November 2010–January 2011

Not too long ago, waterfowl hunters and other enthusiasts only had weather forecasts from the newspaper, radio, or TV to help them plan for arrival of birds from the north. Nowadays, with the internet and long-term weather forecasts, we have better ability to plan our outings. Such planning is important because other activities may increasingly attract our attention away from outdoor recreation. Thus, we watch the weather channel and seek information regarding waterfowl migration from the internet to increase the likelihood our limited days afield are successful. Additionally, increased availability of weather data and predictions also are important for conservation planning by waterfowl managers who need to understand distributions of ducks and provide habitat for them throughout the flyways.

To aid waterfowl hunters, ‘watchers,’ and managers in prediction of migration and fall-winter distributions of ducks, Drs. Rick Kaminski and Michael Schummer, Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Aquaculture at Mississippi State University (MSU), in collaboration with Drs. Mike Brown and Charles Wax, MSU Department of Geosciences (Climatology Unit), and Andy Raedeke and Dave Graber, Missouri Department of Conservation, have been busy analyzing temperature and snow data to evaluate their combined effects on duck migration during fall-winter. The research team further evaluated how atmospheric teleconnections, such as El Niño, La Niña, and the Arctic Oscillation Index, influence annual differences in weather severity and thus duck migration in the Mississippi and Atlantic Flyways. They developed and published a weather severity index (WSI = - [average daily temperature oC ] + number of consecutive days with average temperature <0 o C + snow depth + number of consecutive days with snow cover; Schummer et al. 2010, Journal of Wildlife Management 94:94-101) that explained significant variation in changes in relative abundance of ducks at mid-continent latitudes across Missouri during fall and winter migration, 1995–2005. As WSI values approach 8 for mallards and zero for other dabbling ducks, there was increased likelihood of migrations by these ducks from Missouri to southern locations. At values above WSI thresholds, rate of change in relative abundance of ducks became increasingly negative indicating increased likelihood of migration to southern latitudes.

Based on the WSI threshold for mallards, the team of researchers have been evaluating if the WSI differed among decades and the effect of atmospheric teleconnections on annual changes in WSI from 1950– 2008. Severity of weather has been mild during the 2000s when compared to previous decades and differed substantially from the more severe 1960s and 1970s. Most winters during these decades were typified by cold and snowy conditions known to cause migration of mallards to southern wintering grounds. Further, the Arctic Oscillation Index explained substantial variation in weather severity during El Niño and La Niña episodes but not when the Oceanic Niño Index was neutral. Because we can forecast El Niño and La Niña episodes nearly 3 months in advance of their occurrence, we can develop season-long forecasts of annual distributions of ducks in the Mississippi and Atlantic Flyways.

image of winter patterns

El Niño and La Niña winters are typified by specific weather patterns, but frequency and intensity of these weather patterns can be modified greatly by the Arctic Oscillation Index. The MSU researchers found that severity of weather (indexed by WSI) increased with decreasing Arctic Oscillation Index during winters with El Niño and La Niña conditions. Increased weather severity likely resulted from decreases in temperature and increased snowfall at northern and mid-latitudes of North America that generally accompany a decreasing Arctic Oscillation Index. However, the Arctic Oscillation Index can only be reliably predicted approximately 7 days in advance. Therefore, knowing if we are trended toward an El Niño and La Niña winter is important, but watching the Arctic Oscillation Index for short-term fluctuations in weather patterns also aids our understanding of weather severity and thus potential periods of duck migration.

Based on published literature, we provide the following duck migration forecast for fall-winter 2010-2011. Our prediction is developed using available research and literature regarding reaction of ducks to weather severity and long-term weather forecasts. However, weather severity in North American should not be considered an absolute predictor of duck migration. A multitude of other factors potentially influence migration and winter distributions of ducks, including food and habitat availability, evolutionary and ecological mechanisms, body condition, and human disturbance. Presently, La Niña conditions exist over the equatorial Pacific and are expected to influence weather patterns throughout North America through fall-winter 2010-2011.

Warm conditions are likely to occur in the northeastern U.S. much later into fall-winter than normal; whereas, when cold air intrudes into the mid-continent, weather will be colder than normal but may often be followed by extremely mild and possibly wet conditions. These alternating cold and warm conditions may "flip-flop" several times this fall-winter. Much of the change in conditions will rely on the status of the Arctic Oscillation Index and the latitude of the boundary between cold arctic air and the warm southerly flow. Specific and local conditions are difficult to predict accurately this far in advance. Thus, reviewing the Weekly Weather Severity Index for Mississippi Flyway Duck Migration will be important for planning your hunting activity.

In summary, we may see cold, stormy conditions that influence duck migration in the mid-continent, but as warm conditions return and snow quickly melts, ducks that "stick it out" at northern latitudes may find available food and fewer competitors following such weather events. In the Mississippi Alluvial Valley (the Delta) and southeastern U.S., dry conditions will likely persist well into winter as will warmer than normal conditions. Areas in the southeastern U.S. with permanent water or where water can be pumped or flowed from sources may see increased abundance of ducks this season because of reduced availability of natural wetlands from lack of precipitation. Sustaining waterfowl on areas also will likely be related to food availability, potential competition for food among concentrated birds, and human disturbance. Overall, duck migrations this year may be sporadic, and a classic "grand passage" of waterfowl is doubtful. Increased rainfall and mild temperatures will increase likelihood that ducks migrating from the prairies will remain in northern to mid-latitude regions of the Mississippi Flyway (e.g., upper Midwest and Missouri) whereas those from the Great Lakes region may not leave until late in fall and then remain in areas with abundant water at the Illinois-Ohio latitude.

The Waterfowl Breeding Population and Habitat Survey by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Canadian Wildlife Service indicates that the 2010 total duck breeding population was 41 million, and the majority of species were above their long-term average. However, availability of these birds to hunters is dependent upon many factors, particularly weather. Although historical patterns during La Niña episodes normally result in conditions less than ideal for large-scale early season migrations of ducks to the southern end of the Mississippi and Atlantic flyways, a strongly negative Arctic Oscillation Index can cause movements of ducks throughout these flyways. Thus, pay close attention to weekly duck migration forecasts on this website and tell your friends to visit the site. The duck migration forecast is updated each Monday morning November–January and provides a 5-day forecast for duck migration for the coming week using weather data available on the internet.

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MSU Graduate Students Present at International Symposium on Biodiversity

Wildlife graduate students, Justyn Foth and Jake Straub, recently presented their research at the International Symposium on "Ecology and Biodiversity in Large Rivers of Northeast Asia and North America" in Memphis, Tennessee. This was the third such symposium with two previous symposia in Khabarovsk, Russia (2002) and Harbin, People’s Republic of China (2006).

The goal of this symposium was to bring together Chinese, Russian, and North American researchers, river engineers, wetland managers, and conservation biologists to discuss local and landscape-scale management of large rivers and associated natural resources. The main objectives of the symposium were to manage riverine ecosystems to ensure water quality and quantity, restore and manage wetlands, increase sustainable fishery stocks, and conserve these internationally significant natural resources.

A wide range of topics were presented at the symposium including river and other wetland restoration, eco-monitoring, remote sensing, and flora and fauna. Justyn presented his M.S. research on aquatic macroinvertebrate communities in bottomland hardwood forested wetlands, and Jake presented his doctoral research on red oak production and abundance dynamics in the Mississippi Alluvial Valley.

Justyn’s and Jake’s research on food resources of wetland wildlife in these forested wetlands was different than most other talks at the symposium. Most other talks focused on biological phenomena occurring in the major rivers of both continents.

Justyn and Jake were asked numerous questions by agency professionals interested in ecosystem functions following their talks. Justyn remarked, "The questions were most helpful for designing additional data analyses and improving our future presentations." Jake and Justyn enjoyed the opportunity to discuss research interests with professionals from China and Russia as well. They both look forward to presenting their completed research at future symposium locally, nationally, and internationally.

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MSU Kennedy Chair produces 2009 annual report

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MSU researchers announce Web-based duck migration forecast

As global warming and climate change debates continue to "heat up" worldwide, researchers at Mississippi State are examining how weather influences duck migration patterns.

"In the past few years, we have observed that ducks are not migrating to southern latitudes in abundance, or are doing so generally only in the presence of severe weather," said Rick Kaminski, a senior waterfowl ecologist at the university.

"Our initial thoughts were that ducks were remaining at northern latitudes as a result of warmer weather, available food and habitat, among other factors," added the James C. Kennedy Endowed Professor in Waterfowl and Wetlands Conservation.

To test the theory, Kaminski and Mike Schummer, a post-doctoral research and teaching associate in MSU’s Forest and Wildlife Research Center, recently began examining influences of weather variables on fall-winter duck migration.

"Our project goal is to increase our understanding of duck migration patterns for planning habitat and hunting management," Schummer said.

The research team set out to identify weather variables or their combinations that best explained rates of change in abundance of mallards and other dabbling ducks at mid-latitude regions in the Mississippi Flyway.

The results soon will be published in the Journal of Wildlife Management. The publication has been produced since 1937 by The Wildlife Society of Bethesda, Md., one of the world’ leading scientific organizations.

Two other objectives of the MSU project included determination of patterns and long-term trends in a weather severity index and, using a variety of climate projections, the computer modeling of potential future duck-population distributions throughout North America.

From all this, the MSU research team has developed an immediately usable tool to predict waterfowl movement patterns. The new Web-based Duck Migration Forecast includes a five-day outlook to indicate when mallards and other dabbling ducks will journey south.

Using 10 years of survey data provided by the Missouri Department of Conservation and weather data from U.S. Historical Climatology Network Stations, MSU and Missouri collaborators found that cumulative effects of snow and temperature, as well as the duration of these events, best explain the rate of change in duck abundance.

"Our findings suggest that dabbling ducks, including northern pintail, gadwall and green-winged teal, migrate prior to freezing conditions or snow, while mallards generally migrate when freezing temperature and snow persist for several days," Kaminski said.

The scientists collaborated with meteorologists in MSU’s geosciences department to look at the weather severity index for the past 50 years to add clarity to the habitat-vs.-climate debate.

Though the study is ongoing, preliminary data suggest that most winters since the late 1990s have been warmer than the 50-year average.

"The forecast includes areas from North Dakota to Western Tennessee, and predicts the likelihood of duck migration down the Mississippi Flyway," Schummer explained.

When complete, the research project should enable U.S. biologists and managers to better determine where and when habitat should be made available for migrating and wintering ducks.

It also will allow hunters—whether residing in big cities or rural communities—to determine the best days to take to the flyways in search of waterfowl.

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Future Waterfowl Professionals Visit DU NHQ

Drs. Richard Kaminski, Brian Davis and a dozen Mississippi State University students engaged in a morning's discussion about the challenges facing waterfowl managers in North America.

Presentations by Dr. Scott Yaich, Ken Babcock, Jamie Brown, and Dale Humburg of DU’s staff in National Headquarters were used to initiate a great dialogue about the complexity of waterfowl conservation challenges, the range of solutions from science to policy needed to address them, and the diversity of new skills that will be required to solve them.

While the students, who ranged from upper level undergraduates to Ph.D. candidates were well grounded in basic biological education, they demonstrated interests that also included economics, business, and sociology. The future of waterfowl management will require these diverse skills to address emerging issues of waterfowl habitat loss, water quality, climate change, and public engagement in conservation issues. However, it was clear that the future of waterfowl management has a cadre of new professionals that will be up to the task.

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Climate change or not, ducks aren't here

The possible effect of climate warming on duck migration is a controversial topic among waterfowl managers and duck hunters alike.

But you can bet Minnesota duck hunters, realizing the season ends next Tuesday, are looking out the window this morning and asking, "What the heck is going on?"

An unusually mild November has stalled the duck and goose migration from Manitoba to Mississippi, and though some waterfowl hunters are finding birds in flooded crop fields, the lack of migration is a head-scratcher.

"We’'re getting an awful lot of calls about our goose count," said John Wollenberg, assistant area wildlife manager at Lac qui Parle Wildlife Management Area in western Minnesota, where the goose season ends Sunday. "Normally, we’d have 100,000 geese here by mid-November. We’re stuck at 40,000. If it’s not the latest migration we’ve had, it’s one of the latest."

Are late migrations the new paradigm for waterfowl seasons? Should managers re-examine the dates when waterfowl seasons begin and end? Should hunters plan on taking their vacations in November rather in October? These and many other questions are swirling around the waterfowl-hunting world.

Michael Schummer doesn’t have the answers, but he is tracking the migration trends that the duck world is talking about. He predicted in August that this would be a mild fall and a late migration, and he’s telling die-hard mallard hunters in Mississippi not to take those hunting vacations in December.

"I’m saying embrace the shoveler and love the gadwall. Those mallards might not show up until the last week in January," said Schummer, a teaching and research associate in the department of wildlife, fisheries and aquaculture at Mississippi State University.

Schummer and other researchers have developed a Web-based duck migration forecast, which is updated every Monday, November through January. It forecasts when migration is likely to occur for mallards and other dabbling ducks in areas from Jamestown, N.D., through Memphis, Tenn.

One thing you won’t get Schummer to do is relate late migrations with climate change.

"It’s an evolving science and in its infancy," he said of the climate change research. "We try to get students and researchers to weigh the evidence and information. It’s controversial."

What Schummer and his associates have done is collect mountains of daily temperature and snowfall data from 1950 to 2008. The data, gathered from the Historical Climatology Network, is being compiled to create a Weather Severity Index that could be used to draw conclusions and make predictions on how temperature and snowfall influence waterfowl migration.

Similar research has been conducted in Minnesota and throughout the country to predict deer deaths during winter months.

In the 1950s, duck hunters experienced similar warm and late-migration periods as today, but trends shifted toward colder and snowy autumns in the 1970s and early 1980s—years that provided memorable seasons for waterfowlers.

But are the warm autumns in the 2000s occurring more frequently? Yes, said Schummer.

"It’s the frequency of these mild events that is increasing," he said. "Last winter was pretty cold, though, but between then and 2000, we had some of the mildest years on record."

And 2009 has been very unusual. Schummer said the U.S. experienced the wettest October ever recorded in 115 years, an event that caused ducks to spread out over a vast area, especially in the Upper Midwest. With mild temperatures in November, those ducks are feeding and aren’t interested in moving because "there is no reason for them to go anywhere," Schummer said.

"This is a very good year for ducks," he said. "There is a lot of food out there and a lot of places to hang out."

So how did Schummer predict this late migration? It’s an El Nino year, when there is a warming of the central and eastern tropical Pacific waters. That pattern brings rain to the Southwest and warm winter weather to the northern states.

How mild can El Nino make the Midwest? At 3 p.m. on Nov. 18, weather stations between Memphis and Jamestown reported temperatures varying only five degrees, from 43 to 48.

"That’s typical of an El Nino year," Schummer said.

But Schummer said there’s a change in weather approaching. The migration forecast predicts a major movement of dabbling ducks other than mallards during this week, and that migration will occur out of higher latitudes and into mid-latitudes, like Missouri, of the Mississippi Flyway.

In other words, you might want to be in the marsh starting on Thanksgiving and through the weekend.

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MSU professor again honored for practical waterfowl research

A nationally recognized Mississippi State wildlife biologist and university administrator is receiving another major honor from The Wildlife Society.

Richard M. Kaminski, associate dean of the College of Forest Resources, is the international organization’s latest selection for the Caesar Kleberg Award for Excellence in Applied Wildlife Research. A 25-year member of the MSU faculty, Kaminski also holds the college’s James C. Kennedy Endowed Chair of Waterfowl and Wetland Conservation.

In 2007, he was elevated to the prestigious rank of Fellow by the Bethesda, Md.-based non-profit scientific and educational organization founded in 1937 to promote wildlife stewardship around the world.

Named for a Texas conservationist, the society’s Kleberg Award recognizes scientists "whose body of work, in both inquiry and discovery, has resulted in application to wildlife management and conservation on the ground."

Last year, Kaminski was among a group of 25 cited by Outdoor Life magazine for major contributions to hunting, fishing and other outdoor sports. He was among the first U.S. scientists in the 1970s to conduct wetland management experiments examining waterfowl use and aquatic invertebrate responses to various wetland management situations.

Kaminski also has been honored on campus with a John Grisham Faculty Excellence Award, as well as an MSU Alumni Association award for graduate-level teaching and other recognitions.

A Manitowoc, Wis., native, he holds a doctorate from Michigan State University.

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MSU students and alumni, winners at 5th North American Duck Symposium

Mississippi State University was well represented at the 5th North American Duck Symposium in Canada, with 49 presentations made by current students, faculty, and alumni.

Winners in the annual event, included alumnus Josh Vest, a current doctoral student at Utah State University. Vest received third place for his oral presentation on research conducted on the Great Salt Lake in Utah. He also received a travel scholarship.

Doctoral candidates Heath Hagy and Jacob Straub faired well in the competition, garnering second place for their poster presentation entitled, "A reliable correction factor for recovery of moist-soil seeds from core samples." The pair also received travel scholarships to the symposium.

Master’s student Elizabeth St. James placed second in the poster presentation competition for research on the effects of hunting frequency on waterfowl use, harvest, and hunt quality on Mississippi Wildlife Management Areas.

Congratulations to the former and current student who represented Mississippi State University well during the five-day conference.

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Ducks Unlimited Honors Mississippi Heroes Of Conservation

Ducks Unlimited will recognize eight Mississippians for their individual conservation commitments in Jackson, Miss., August 1.

The Heroes of Conservation evening, including; dinner, honors presentation, conservation program presentations and an auction, will be held at the Hilton of Jackson.

Event honorees include:

  • Billy Joe Cross–past Executive Director of the Mississippi Game and Fish Commission and retired Director of Field Operations for Ducks Unlimited
  • Morgan Freeman–actor, conservationist and outdoor activist
  • Toxey Haas–CEO of Haas Outdoors
  • Richard (Rick) M. Kaminski, Ph.D.–Associate Dean and Professor of Wildlife, College of Forest Resources, Mississippi State University and Holder of the James C. Kennedy Endowed Chair in Waterfowl and Wetlands Conservation
  • Will Primos–Founder of Primos Hunting Calls
  • Bill Sugg–President of Haas Outdoors
  • Melvin Tingle–Host of Mississippi Outdoors television show
  • William E. Walker, Jr. (posthumously)–Founder of the Walker Conservation Foundation and Bill’s Dollar Stores.

These gentlemen have made impressive contributions to conservation in Mississippi and elsewhere through their personal careers, philanthropic support of conservation organizations, conservation activities on their own lands, efforts to educate the public about conservation, and through a lifetime of sharing their own passion for the outdoors with those around them.

The evening’s conservation presentations will provide continental and regional perspectives to DU’s conservation efforts. Dr. Scott Stephens, DU director of conservation programs in the Great Plains Regional Office, will present an overview of DU’s work on the breeding grounds, and Jerry Holden, director of conservation programs for the South Mississippi Flyway, will be presenting the overview of DU’s work on the wintering grounds.

The evening will begin at 6 p.m. and is expected to end at 10 p.m. Tickets should be purchased before July 24, and prices are: $100 for single ticket; $150 for couple; $400 for DU sponsorship and couple. Tables are also available.

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MSU professor and alumni attend Wetlands Conference

The Society of Wetland Scientists 30th International Meeting convened in Madison, Wisc. in late June. The theme of this year’s meeting was Wetlands Connections, with the goal of exchanging information and connecting people concerned about wetlands science and conservation. Consistent with the society’s focus on wetlands, the site of the meeting overlooked beautiful Lake Monona in Madison only a block from the state capitol building.

Rick Kaminski, associate dean and holder of the James C. Kennedy Endowed Chair in Waterfowl and Wetlands Conservation, participated in the meeting. Kaminski and three former graduate students were invited by conference organizers to give plenary presentations in a symposium entitled, "Connections Among Wetlands, Wildlife, and Agriculture." Alumni who presented at the conference were Aaron Pearse, Josh Stafford, and Scott Stephens.

"It’s a special privilege to be invited to give a plenary presentation at an international meeting of a professional society," remarked Kaminski. "I was honored to share the podium with three former students who are doing landmark research on waterfowl and wetlands and were also invited to present highlights from their programs."

Kaminski entitled his presentation, "Connecting Croplands, Wetlands, and Waterfowl through Science and Conservation in the Lower Mississippi Flyway." The presentation reviewed major findings by his graduate students from their research over the past decade throughout the Lower Mississippi Alluvial Valley or Delta.

Kaminski emphasized in his presentation, "Our research empirically demonstrates that large flocks of ducks and other waterfowl often are ‘connected’ to ‘complexes’ of wetlands and not merely one type of habitat. For example, flocks of 100 or more mallards and other dabbling ducks tended to be associated with habitat complexes composed of flooded croplands such as rice and soybean lands, forested wetlands such as bottomland hardwood and scrub-shrub wetlands, grass-sedge wetlands, and permanent water bodies such as rivers, catfish ponds, and bayous."

Quantitative knowledge of the make-up of habitat complexes attracting abundant waterfowl provides valuable guidance to conservationists developing and managing public and private lands for waterfowl and other wildlife.

Pearse’s, Stafford’s, and Stephens’ presentations illustrated how farmers, ranchers, and conservationists can work together for mutual ecological, environmental, and economical benefits.

A wildlife scientist for the U.S. Geological Survey in North Dakota, Pearse’s current work centers on spring migrating ducks, geese, and sandhill cranes through the intensively farmed Rainwater Basin along the Platte River in central Nebraska.

Stafford’s team studies waterfowl and wetlands throughout the heavily farmed Illinois River Valley. He is currently a director of the F.C. Bellrose Memorial Waterfowl Research Laboratory in Illinois.

Director of conservation for Ducks Unlimited, Stephens’ program is centered in the Prairie-Pothole Region in South and North Dakota. Here, Stephens and DU partners are conserving and restoring wetlands and prairie landscapes and working with landowners enrolled in conservation programs of the Farm Bill in efforts to improve breeding habitats for waterfowl.

Kaminski concluded, "We are proud of our former students, making important research discoveries and conserving habitats for ducks and other wildlife beyond MSU in the Mississippi and Central Flyways."

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Wonder Weeds for Waterfowl

Webster’s dictionary defines ‘weed’ as, "Any undesired, uncultivated plant." However, an ecologist recently said a weed was, "A plant without a home." The latter definition seems fitting for a community of wild grasses and sedges that many waterfowl managers and hunters call ‘moist-soil’ plants.

As the name implies, moist-soil plants are adapted for living and reproducing in wetlands. They thrive in seasonally flooded wetlands, which are not flooded year round but usually remain wet during the growing season.

Moist-soil plants generally are annuals that produce lots of seed or tubers each year because of their short life span and need to spread their genes at the end of a single growing season. Abundant production of seeds and tubers is good news for waterfowl as ducks and geese worldwide feed on these natural morsels of energy and other important nutrients.

In the Lower Mississippi Valley (LMV), where wetlands and agriculture abound, migrating and wintering waterfowl feed heavily on both natural and agricultural seeds. However, wildlife scientists from Mississippi State University (MSU) reported in Delta Wildlife (summer 2005) that the abundance of waste rice-grain missed by combines during harvest-and other crop seeds has decreased significantly over the past 25 years.

The decrease is largely due to earlier harvests which leave seeds in the field to decompose, get eaten by blackbirds, snow geese, and rodents, and sprout but not produce a mature plant and seed head in fall before wintering waterfowl arrive.

The MSU scientists also reported that moist-soil seeds and tubers can fill part of the ‘grain gap’ due to the decreased abundance of waste crop seeds. Their published research revealed that harvested rice fields in the LMV in late fall contained only about 70 pounds of waste rice per acre compared to almost 500 pounds of moist-soil seeds per acre in managed wetlands in the same region.

Not only do moist-soil seeds partially compensate for the decreased abundance of waste crop seeds, but many of the seeds and tubers targeted in moist-soil management provide nearly as much food energy to waterfowl as agricultural seeds. For example, MSU scientists have reported that mallard ducks can obtain, on average, about 3.2 kilocalories of energy by eating a gram of corn, rice, or soybean compare to about 2.8 kilocalories from a gram of moist-soil seeds. Moist soil seeds such as barnyard, foxtail, and panic sedge, also common in LMV wetlands, may provide even more energy for waterfowl than corn, based on feeding trials with Canada geese.

A good summary of moist-soil plant management practices is covered in the "Waterfowl Habitat Management Handbook" by the MSU Extension Service (Publication 1864). Briefly, to produce moist-soil plant communities, managers should disk soil in spring or early summer and then try to keep soils moist during the growing season. Disking soil every year or two and keeping it moist during the growing season promotes germination of natural ‘seed bank’ and stimulates vigorous plant growth. However, disking should not be done in the heat of summer (e.g., August). Soil disturbance during the ‘dog days’ of summer generally promotes germination by undesirable plants such as coffeeweed, cocklebur, and sicklepod. If undesired weeds appear, herbicide application may be needed to prevent them from overtaking the moist-soil plants. Again, the handbook mentioned above identifies a variety of herbicides useful in controlling unwanted weeds. Always remember to use herbicides that kill broad-leaf weeds and vines (e.g., 2, 4-D) but which do not harm desired moist-soil grasses and sedges.

What about growing moist-soil plants with ‘hot’ foods such as rice, corn, and milo? Actually, rice, corn, and milo are agronomic grasses that compete quite well with moist-soil grasses and provide greater food energy for waterfowl than most natural seeds. MSU scientist are studying what they term ‘dirty rice’ and ‘grassy corn and milo.’ Basically, moist-soil grasses and sedges are allowed to grow amongst the grain crops which are not harvested but left for wintering ducks.

Grassy corn in particular can increase potential duck use per acre about ten-fold or more because corn generally yields more bushels of seed and has a greater energy value than moist-soil seeds. To produce grassy corn, habitat managers plant corn rows about three feet apart and apply herbicide once before or soon after planting to enable the corn to grow about a foot tall and establish a good root system without weed competition. The wide spaced rows allow sunlight to reach grasses and sedges that will grow amid the corn plants. Fertilizer and irrigation also may be necessary for production of normal cobs.

After grassy corn fields are flooded in fall-winter, they provide corn and abundant moist-soil seeds and aquatic invertebrates-the latter of which are critical sources of protein for ducks. The flooded grass under the corn is critical habitat for invertebrates. Indeed, the combination of high-energy corn, the stalks providing cover for waterfowl, and the protein-rich invertebrates-all within ‘swimming space’ for waterfowl-make flooded grassy corn a ‘duck magnet’ especially for mallards.

As said earlier, another definition for weeds is "A plant without a home." From our perspective, moist-soil plants are ‘wonder weeds’. Try adopting these ‘wonder weeds’ into your ‘family’ of duck holes. If you do, you’ll provide a ‘home’ for weeds and waterfowl this winter.

Dr. Rick Kaminski is a professor of wildlife biology at Mississippi State University and has spent his entire career studying waterfowl and educating new waterfowl professionals.

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Using your time wisely, at least, if you’re a duck…

Each year, millions of waterfowl (i.e., ducks, geese, and swans), travel thousands of miles and undergo critical physiological events which help them fulfill their annual life cycle. This cycle can be divided into four phases which are all critical for survival: (1) Breeding / Reproductive Season–late Spring and Summer, (2) Fall Migration–Fall and early Winter, (3) Pair Formation / Wintering–Winter, and (4) Spring Migration–late Winter and Spring. Each species of waterfowl differs slightly in the timing and the specific activities during these 4 major stages, but generally waterfowl in North America follow temperate weather south in the fall and back north in the spring, spending the time between these migrations preparing to breed, breeding, and finding enough food resources to survive. We will follow waterfowl through this magnificent journey describing some of the critical events, processes, and influences which shape the behavior and adaptations within the annual cycle of waterfowl in North America.

The air is cool and crisp as she descends upon the remnant prairies of the Dakotas. She is a female mallard who, just last year, hatched north of Ipswich, South Dakota. As temperatures have warmed and food resources have been depleted on the wintering grounds of the north Mississippi Delta, where she spent the last three months, she began leap-frogging back north using the forested wetlands and rice fields in eastern Arkansas. After resting and feeding on moist-soil and a few remaining agricultural seeds, she headed north, stopping briefly in the boot hill of Missouri where millions of other mallards and species of waterfowl rest and feed during migration. From there, it was only a few hundred miles north to the southern extent of the Prairie Pothole Region (PPR) in South Dakota and northern Iowa.

She flew over the landscape dotted with grasslands and wetlands, but dominated by agriculture, driven by some unclear honing ability to the place where she successfully hatched almost one year ago. Then, small, temporary wetlands were abundant in the grasslands and crop fields of northeastern South Dakota. Winter snowfall had been good that year, filling many small basins with water and flooding agricultural fields. She had been raised on a tract of land preserved by the Nature Conservancy called Ordway Prairie. Several hundred bison and thousands of cattle roam 135,000 acres of a perpetual grassland easement keeping this section of the prairie coteau in mixed-grass prairie and perfect for upland nesting ducks.

Surrounding Ordway Prairie, conservation groups like Ducks Unlimited work diligently with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, South Dakota Department of Game, Fish, and Parks, and the Prairie Pothole Joint Venture to enhance, restore, and create habitat for waterfowl and many other species of wildlife. This mallard hen was brooded on lands secured by funding provided by the North American Wetland Conservation Act and directed by the North American Waterfowl Management Plan to protect, restore, and enhance wetlands and waterfowl habitats in North America. Along with provisions in the Farm Bill discouraging producers from draining wetlands and cultivating native grasslands as well as paying incentives for restoring waterfowl habitats, these groups and policies help save the PPR from destruction and provide waterfowl and many other species with critical habitat.

She continues to fly north over South Dakota looking for an abundance of small wetlands, but finds none. She stops briefly on a Waterfowl Production Area wetland, which was purchased and restored using federal duck stamp dollars provided by hunters and avid outdoorsmen, but only a few inches of water persist and invertebrate foods have not yet begun to emerge due to the warm, dry winter. She continues north, looking for an interspersion of grasslands and wetlands on which to begin her first clutch. Soon after crossing I-94 into south-central North Dakota, the landscape begins to change. Early spring snowfall and rains have filled many permanent basins to the point of overflow and hundreds of seasonal and temporary wetlands dot each square mile. She and her mate, a mature drake mallard, descend on a very promising landscape near Woodworth, North Dakota.

Here she will rest for a period of just a few days to a few weeks before selecting a nest site, creating a nesting bowl, and laying eggs. Her mate may remain nearby for a short time, ready to defend her from other males attempting to breed when she leaves the nest. During the 26-30 days of egg-laying and incubation, she will have to be fortunate enough to evade predation from fox, raccoon, skunk, and small mammals and be even luckier to have her eggs evade depredation by a slough of similar predators.

This particular hen is fortunate to hatch a successful clutch. She has timed her egg laying synchronously with the first flush of invertebrates in nearby wetlands. Her brood will feed on freshwater shrimp, midge larvae, water beetles, and any other protein-rich forage that they can find for the next 45-60 days. By that time, each duckling will have developed flight and body feathers utilizing the abundant invertebrate foods rich in protein and will be able to move to more distant wetlands to find food. Meanwhile, the hen mallard is beginning to go through physiological changes of her own. She has been feeding on protein-rich foods to help improve body condition, as more than 30% of her weight was depleted by spring migration, egg laying, and incubation. Soon, she will molt or lose her worn feathers, replacing them with new ones before fall migration. Though some waterfowl species share parental responsibilities, her mate has likely moved elsewhere, perhaps traveling farther north into Canada to molt with other males and build up his own reserves for fall migration. Analogs to the Conservation Reserve Program in Canada such as Greencover Canada and Alternate Land Use Services are helping to protect habitat throughout Canada for environmental quality and wildlife benefits. Even within the breeding season, waterfowl depend on a variety of habitats, including different wetland types for food, brood rearing, and protection; thus programs and policies which create and protect habitat in the United States, Canada, and Central America are all extremely important for migratory birds.

Fall Migration

Just before fall migration, the mallard hen feeds heavily to build up reserves needed for her journey. She will likely wait until cold weather and strong north winds give her an incentive to fly south. Along the way, she will stop at temporary wetlands, permanent water, and man-made or maintained wetlands such as reservoirs, sewer lagoons, industrial filtration and cooling ponds, hunting clubs, river systems, aquaculture ponds, and other waters to rest and forage. These wetlands are called stopover sites and may be used for a short duration or for several weeks. Some stopover sites are actively managed by private individuals for hunting and by state and federal agencies for provision of waterfowl habitat (i.e., National Wildlife Refuges) and commonly include moist-soil, flooded agricultural, and deep water units. River systems and areas protected by the Clean Water Act, legislation assigning the Army Corps of Engineers to protect navigable waters and those connected by a significant nexus from dredging, filling, and diversion, are also important stopover areas for migratory waterfowl.

During this season, hunting replaces small mammalian and avian predators as one of the greatest threats to survival for the mallard hen and other ducks like her. From late September until she arrives on wintering grounds, she will have to evade hunters and other predators, find forage, and avoid disease in order to survive. Adaptive Harvest Management (AHM) and legislation such as the Migratory Bird Treaty Act ensure that waterfowl populations are managed correctly and are protected during most of the year. In particular, AHM allows federal agencies to set harvest restrictions based on the number of breeding waterfowl in a given year. This helps ensure that over harvest does not negatively affect population levels and under harvest does not leave populations susceptible to disease and other density-dependent factors.

Nonbreeding / Wintering Season

After a long journey from North Dakota down through the Mississippi Flyway, the mallard hen has arrived in southern Missouri. Here, private, federal, and state lands provide important habitat for wintering waterfowl, the latter purchased with conservation sales tax dollars. Throughout the Mississippi Alluvial Valley, state and federal agencies and private organizations pay incentives for landowner provision of waterfowl habitat through the Conservation Reserve Program (i.e., WRP, CP 23, CP 9, swampbuster, etc.), easements, and cost shares. The variety of conservation programs helps to maintain a diverse suite of habitats important to waterfowl and other wildlife throughout winter. As the season progresses, she will initially begin to replace the fat reserves lost during fall migration with high energy foods such as agricultural waste grains and seeds, then slowly reduce her intake, in a "coasting" and survival mode until spring migration. She must continue to forage throughout winter, but her primary focus transitions from migration and feeding to finding a mate and pair bonding. She will move between the available habitat complexes, though like most other regions, many natural wetlands have been lost to agriculture or development (>50% loss in the U.S.), searching for a suitable mate and simply surviving.

She will likely be attracted to managed wetlands that have an equal interspersion of emergent vegetation (i.e., moist-soil plants, bulrush, and cattail) and open water nearby flooded agricultural fields and large reservoirs (forming a habitat complex). This hemi-marsh is important to provide landing and feeding areas which are somewhat isolated from other ducks. Further south, forested wetlands including greentree reservoirs, coastal marshes, and other types of emergent habitats provide this type of cover. During mid-winter, waterfowl hunting seasons close, easing the pressure on all wetland wildlife. As temperatures have remained warm and mid-latitude states have remained ice-free, the hen has been able to remain in the northern tier of the Mississippi Alluvial Valley, not risking the flight further south to Mississippi or Louisianna. She will select a mate and spend the remainder of winter pair bonding and simply surviving until spring migration. As the day length increases and temperatures rise, she and her mate will increase their food intake to increasing body mass before spring migration.

Spring Migration

Changing seasons will queue many waterfowl, including the hen mallard, to begin their long migration back north to breeding grounds. With her mate in tow, she will navigate between stopover areas, slowed only by the availability of open water and her breeding strategy. National wildlife refuges and temporary wetlands (i.e., sheet water left in shallow depressions from snow melt) are important stopover and feeding sites during the spring. Other than snow geese, hunting is closed during the spring which eliminates a major mortality threat compared to fall migration. Some waterfowl species migrate more directly in the spring than the fall and many mix between the flyways as the lack of available food and the urgency to breed necessitate a fast migration. Successful migration is partially dependent on body condition achieved on wintering areas and may be influential on breeding success, illustrating the influence of cross-seasonal effects within the entire annual cycle. Migrants who wintered in areas where food was abundantly available and were able to build reserves without major harassment or predation may arrive on breeding areas more ready to begin the process of recruitment.

Conclusion

As long as she survives, the hen mallard will continue to progress through each of these life-stages or physiological events, not as four independent parts, but as a continual cycle where body condition and factors affecting one stage have consequences in subsequent stages. Waterfowl that are best adapted to a situation or utilize the resources given during the entirety of the annual cycle will gain fitness (i.e., successfully recruit the next generation of waterfowl). Waterfowl life-cycles are complex, yet driven by a simple principle—survival and fitness.

Though I provided only the example of a hen mallard, the processes, factors, and external influences which drive waterfowl populations and life-history strategies are all related. Instead of taking short flights, letting ice cover, temperature, day length, and food availability push them south, snow geese ascend as high as 20,000 feet, and travel as much as 17,000 miles (70 hours) at a time. Most ducks, including the mallard hen, conversely, travel in short bouts, stopping to feed and rest along their migration routes. These adaptations or strategies have evolved over hundreds of thousands of years to allow many different species of waterfowl to inhabit a finite number of habitats and utilize all of the available resources. Each species fulfills a particular niche whether it is a mallard stopping regularly during migration to dabble on natural and agricultural seeds, snow geese traveling in one long flight to arrive and grub on rice in Louisiana, canvasbacks and other diving ducks using deep pools along the Mississippi River to forage on aquatic plants and invertebrates, or Canada geese traveling in medium-length migration flights and stopping to forage on a wide variety of agricultural seeds and winter wheat. Waterfowl, as a whole, have partitioned out these niches and strategies to maximize habitat use and biodiversity during each part of the annual cycle.

Continual habitat conservation, enhancement, restoration, creation, and research will allow future generations to experience, first hand, the story of the hen mallard and other waterfowl. Of particular concern, most wetlands throughout North America remain unprotected. Recent court decisions restricting the extent of the Clean Water Act and uncertainties surrounding the Farm Bill continue to threaten waterfowl habitats. Furthermore, high commodity prices and the cellulosic ethanol industry threaten the integrity of grasslands in the Northern Great Plains and Canada. It is imperative that these habitats and others associated with each stage of the annual cycle be conserved and that conservation efforts recognize local wildlife management and habitat provision within the realm of landscape scale conservation planning.

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Grassy corn for wintering ducks

Introduction

States north of Mississippi like Illinois, Iowa, and Nebraska produce mega-tons of corn annually for human and domestic animal consumption. Mississippi too is increasing its production of corn (>$350 million in 2008) on land in the Delta and elsewhere generally where cotton is grown. But, waterfowl scientists at Mississippi State University and managers around the Delta have been growing and experimenting with "Grassy Corn" for waterfowl habitat.

Grassy corn is not a new variety of seed that you buy at a local seed dealer . It’s merely the "coexistence" of corn and natural grasses in lowland croplands or other fields that can be pumped or naturally flood for wintering waterfowl.

In the spring 2007 issue of Delta Wildlife, we introduced the concept of "grassy corn." Based on preliminary research, the MSU scientists reported that ‘grassy corn’ can increase potential available food energy for ducks about ten-fold per acre, because corn generally yields more bushels of seed and has a greater energy value for waterfowl than natural grass and other moist-soil seeds.

An expert at producing grassy corn is Rance Moring, manager of York Woods near Charleston, Mississippi. Co-author Rance Moring offers his recipe for successfully producing "grassy corn".

York Woods Grassy Corn Recipe

Seed spacing is the most critical part of managing grassy corn, so the corn and natural grasses receive abundant sunlight. I plant on 38 inch rows and space the corn plants 6 to 9 inches apart within rows. This spacing results in about 18,500 to 22,000 seeds per acre. If corn is planted too densely, it will shade out the grass understory which is a key component of ‘grassy corn.’

Corn variety is a personal preference, but I recommend using a Glyphosphate resistant strain to enable herbicide treatment if unwanted noxious weeds appear such as coffeeweed, sicklepod, cocklebur, and vines. I plant as early as possible (mid-April) to take advantage of spring rains that help corn growth and promote production of barnyard, sprangletop, and other grasses that produce abundant seeds for use by wintering ducks.

I use a starter In-Furrow fertilizer of 10-34-0 at approximately 5 gallons per acre. After planting and achieving a successful stand of corn, I start lay-by when plants are around 12 to 18 inches tall. I apply nitrogen in the form of Ensol at an cumulative rate of 100 units per acre (remember, I used starter fertilizer also). Nitrogen fertilizations is followed by an application of Glyphosphate. This timely herbicide application gives the corn plant a head start on grass competition and allows abundant sunlight to reach between the rows and promote germination and growth of grasses and sedges. Remember you are managing corn and grass, so you want to see both corn and grasses mature successfully.

After grassy corn fields are flooded in fall-winter, they provide corn and abundant moist-soil grass/sedge seeds, tubers, and aquatic invertebrates—the latter of which are critical sources of protein for ducks. The flooded grass under the corn is critical habitat for invertebrates. Indeed, the combination of high-energy corn, the stalks providing cover for waterfowl, and the protein-rich invertebrates—all within ‘swimming space’ for waterfowl—make flooded grassy corn a ‘duck magnet’ especially for mallards and other dabbling ducks.

However, beware that snow and other geese have strong preference for grassy corn too. So, if you are bothered by geese, you may want to limit corn production and maximize moist-soil plant management, which provides excellent habitat for dabbling and diving ducks. The small seeds produced by moist-soil plants are difficult morsels for geese to grub and ingest.

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‘I love ducks’: Students follow migration on cross-country field trip

At the very least, a group of students from Mississippi State University traveling north through the United States will gain an appreciation for the grueling twice-a-year migration undertaken by birds.

And these kids won’t even have to flap their arms a single time. They’ll spend the entire 3,461 miles traveling together in a van owned by the school.

"And (early next week) we’ll be marathon-driving 17 hours back to Mississippi," says Richard Kaminski, the veteran Mississippi State professor who set up the field trip to end all field trips.

Most of the students are focused on waterfowl and wetland conservation—although efforts to protect game birds such as ducks and geese also help a variety of birds and other wildlife.

They made their first stop in Missouri on Monday. Then, on Tuesday, the class of 14 visited The Nature Conservancy’s 7,100-acre Emiquon Preserve in Fulton County.

That night, students slept at the University of Illinois at Springfield’s Emiquon Field Station—much more comfy than floating on nearby Thompson Lake, where predators might lurk. A very light-coated coyote was seen circling the shoreline on Tuesday.

Josh Stafford of the nearby Forbes Biological Station of the Illinois Natural History Survey is a former student of Kaminski who has mentored more than 40 graduate students during his 26-year tenure.

And for this trip, Kaminski called as many former students as he could—including Stafford—to help set up the migration route that will take his class to the Mississippi River, the Platte River in central Nebraska and to the duck-breeding grounds in the Prairie Pothole Region of South Dakota and North Dakota.

It was a journey that waited until Kaminski had enough former students scattered around the country to make it possible.

"It’s a real privilege to migrate with this group on a trip I’ve wanted to take for 25 years," Kaminski says.

Gathered on the shore of a growing Thompson Lake at Emiquon, Stafford tells the students they will be observing survey scientists Aaron Yetter and Randy Smith sample for macro-invertebrates that provide food for migrating ducks.

Earlier in the day, Yetter and Smith got a head start, collecting damsel fly nymphs, several types of worms, mayflies, beetles and snails. All are food for ducks, and all were collected in water about 18 inches below the surface—mallard feeding depth, Smith explains.

Picture a mallard duck in the park with its tail tipped up in the air as it feeds below the surface. In the fall, migrating ducks feast on high-carbohydrate foods such as annual weed seeds and corn to provide energy for migration. In the spring, they switch to invertebrates as a source of protein to prepare for mating and brood rearing. Snails provide good duck food, and their shells provide calcium for egg production. The bodies provide protein and lipids.

Kaminski says students should learn the importance of migratory rest stops like Emiquon.

"They should be able to see the importance of nutrient- and energy-rich foods strategically located along the migration routes," he says.

While most ducks have moved on, Emiquon hosted American white pelicans, countless American coots, Forster’s terns and several herons and egrets on Tuesday.

Stafford told his former teacher that one of the most interesting things about Emiquon was the abundance of submerged vegetation. Diving ducks depend upon these plants, and studies show they have all but disappeared.

Stafford says that comparing new aerial images to maps created 60 to 70 years ago shows just how far the habitat had deteriorated.

"The rebound of submerged aquatic plants is probably the most exciting part, because they are just gone (about everywhere else along the Illinois River)," he says. "We knew we lost it, but we didn‘t know what a big impact it was."

Looking out over Thompson and Flag lakes, now covering more than 4,000 acres, Kaminski says today is an exciting time to be working in conservation and natural resources fields.

"I think that throughout your career you will have the opportunity to witness unprecedented conservation," Kaminski told Stafford. "I think we’ve just seen the tip of the iceberg."

"Climate change is the catalyst that got people thinking about global conservation. From here, the sky could be the limit."

Kaminski has worked his entire career to secure funding to perpetuate the study of waterfowl and other water birds. He now occupies the James C. Kennedy Endowed Chair in Waterfowl and Wetlands Conservation.

One thing he insists upon is a passion for the subject.

Before students boarded The Nature Conservancy’s pontoon boat for a tour of Thompson Lake, Kaminski had everyone introduce themselves and tell a little bit about the focus of their studies. Every so often, one of the students would conclude, "And I love ducks."

The rest of the group would laugh.

"It‘s a prerequisite," Kaminski says with a growing smile. "Before they enroll in this course, I ask, ‘Do you love ducks?’"

It is a question that has to be answered without hesitation.

"Yes, a lot," the student answers.

"OK, you‘re in."

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Managing WRP for Waterfowl

What do you envision when you hear or read the words "moist-soil wetland"? Do you think mud, shallow water, and weeds? Indeed these are all components of moist-soil wetlands. Researchers at Mississippi State University (MSU) and Arkansas Tech University (ATU) are working with the Natural Resource Conservation Service (NRCS) to evaluate the effect of management on moist-soil plant and wildlife communities in Mississippi and Arkansas. The NRCS and university biologists are working with private landowners to increase habitat for wetland wildlife by increasing number and area of managed moist-soil wetlands on private properties enrolled in the Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP).

Conservation initiatives of the Farm Bill, such as WRP, are helping restore former agricultural lands to wetlands with native grasses and bottomland trees. The WRP provides landowners with technical and financial assistance to restore and enhance habitat for migratory birds and other wetland plants and wildlife.

Moist-soil management generally entails gradually draining water from wetland impoundments in spring or summer, followed by soil disturbance by disking. This management sequence promotes growth of annual plants. Annual plants are targeted in moist-soil management because they produce abundant seeds and tubers with high nutritional value for a variety of wetland wildlife. Managed moist-soil areas are flooded in fall and winter, making seeds, tubers, and aquatic invertebrates available to migratory and wintering birds. "However, management intensity and seasonal water draw-down dates vary among landowners, and understanding how different management regimes affect plants and wildlife will help evaluate how well conservation goals of the WRP are being met," said Sarah Fleming, a MSU student working on the project in partial fulfillment for her M.S. degree in wildlife science.

Mississippians and Arkansans have seen an average loss of over 60% of wetland and forested wetland habitat since the 1950s. Fortunately, over the past decade conservation programs have helped increase total wetland acreage. Conservation programs are essential for restoration of lost habitat. Also, there is need for a monitoring tool that biologists and landowners can use to evaluate moist-soil and other wetland enhancement efforts. This need is why NRCS partnered with MSU and ATU to evaluate if different management techniques on WRP moist-soil wetlands were influencing plant and bird communities. "We hope to provide an answer to the question: ’what can I do as a landowner to improve moist-soil wetlands for wildlife‘," said Fleming.

Fleming has completed one of two years of her research. Her preliminary results are consistent with past?? research indicating that actively managed moist-soil wetlands (e.g., annual or regular soil disking, mowing, or herbicide control of invasive plants) provided the greatest diversity and occurrence of seed producing annual plants for waterfowl and other wildlife. Past research from MSU demonstrated that seed production?? in managed moist-soil wetlands throughout the Lower Mississippi Valley averages 500 lbs/acre. Energy and other nutrient values of many moist-soil seeds and tubers consumed by waterfowl often compare with agricultural seeds, but nutrient diversity is greater in moist-soil wetlands than croplands because of plant species diversity in these wetlands.

Fleming’s preliminary results also suggest that retaining water on moist-soil wetlands into early summer (i.e., draw-down by July) produced desirable annual plant communities. Although plants began growing later in the growing season, the quality of food resources available to fall and winter migrating birds were similar to areas where water was removed in spring. Indeed, wetlands with late draw-down retained water longer and were used by shorebirds, resident wading birds, and other wetland dependent wildlife during summer.

Funding for this project was graciously provided by NRCS Agriculture, Wildlife Conservation Center through the Cooperative Ecosystem Studies Units (CESU). Support for this project is offered through Mississippi State University, Department of Wildlife and Fisheries and the Forest and Wildlife Research Center. Similarly, Fleming would also like acknowledge all the private WRP landowners and WRP managers in Grenada, Quitman, Sharkey, Sunflower, Tallahatchie, Tunica, Warren, and Yazoo counties for gracious use of their land and support for this project.

Sarah’s 2008 results contribute to an increasing body of literature suggesting that active management is important to maintain early succession, diverse plant communities in moist-soil wetlands that are favored by waterbirds and wetland wildlife, remarked Dr. Rick Kaminski, Fleming’s co-major professor and waterfowl-wetland ecologist. "Clearly, WRP landowners should observe positive results when they gradually de-water wetlands during spring and summer and maintain early succession plant communities by regular disking," said Kaminski.

Fleming will continue her research to determine how different management techniques influence waterbird use and the 2009 plant communities. Final results of Fleming’s study, including "best management" practices for WRP landowners, will be available in early 2010.

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Senior MSU forest resources faculty member honored, promoted

Richard M. Kaminski is being named holder of the James C. Kennedy Endowed Chair in Waterfowl and Wetlands Conservation in Mississippi State's College of Forest Resources.

Kaminski, a 25-year faculty veteran at the university, also is being promoted to associate college dean. He is a professor of wildlife and a nationally recognized North American waterfowl and wetlands scientist.

"Dr. Kaminski has spent his career studying waterfowl, their habitats and educating future professionals," said Dean George M. Hopper in making the announcement. "He has mentored and graduated more than 40 graduate students and authored nearly 100 peer-reviewed scientific publications."

Last year, Kaminski was included on Outdoor Life magazine's list of 25 individuals making major contributions to hunting, fishing and other outdoor sports. He was among the first U.S. scientists in the 1970s to conduct wetland management experiments examining waterfowl use and aquatic invertebrate responses to various wetland management situations.

Over his career, the Manitowoc, Wis. native has received campus and other honors, including the MSU Alumni Association Graduate-level Teaching and John Grisham Faculty Excellence awards. He also holds the Mississippi Wildlife Federation Wildlife Conservationist of the Year and Ducks Unlimited Wetlands Conservation Lifetime Achievement awards.

In addition to teaching and research, Kaminski has assisted the College of Forest Resources in securing major private gifts, including the Scenic Homes-Dr. Richard M. Kaminski Scholarship in Waterfowl and Wetlands Conservation that was given in his honor.

Hopper said one of Kaminski's passions "is recruiting the next generation of waterfowl conservationists through the organization of youth hunts, summer camps, and classroom and field settings." Research by Kaminski determined that university-based programs focused on waterfowl and wetlands are declining in number throughout the U. S. and Canada, he added.

In addition to overseeing the college's academic affairs, Kaminski currently supervises nine graduate students working in various areas of waterfowl and wetland ecology and management.

The Kennedy Chair is a first for the MSU college and among the largest endowed professorships at the land-grant institution. "The endowment was established by James C. Kennedy, chairman of Atlanta-based Cox Enterprises Inc., and is a very significant achievement for the university," Hopper said. (For more, see www.cfr.msstate.edu/kennedychair.)

Kaminski holds a bachelor's degree in wildlife management and biology from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, and master's and doctoral degrees in wildlife ecology from Michigan State University. Prior to coming to Mississippi, he was a research biologist for Ducks Unlimited-Canada.

He is a Fellow of The Wildlife Society and associate editor for the international organization's professional journals, "Wildlife Society Bulletin" and "Journal of Wildlife Management."

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Position Announcement
Assistant Professor of Waterfowl and Wetlands Ecology and Management

POSITION:
Assistant Professor of Waterfowl and Wetlands Ecology and Management

DESCRIPTION:
The Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, Mississippi State University (MSU), is seeking applications for a 12 month, tenure track faculty position at the assistant professor rank. This position has primary responsibilities in research (~70%), teaching (~30%), and service to the University, the state of Mississippi and beyond, and the profession. Additionally, the position is integrally linked to the endowed program in the College and Department, ":The James C. Kennedy Endowed Chair in Waterfowl and Wetlands Conservation.": Hence, this position will sustain and enhance a nationally recognized program in basic and especially applied waterfowl and wetlands science.

LOCATION:
This position is located on the MSU campus in Starkville, MS in the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries in the College of Forest Resources ( http://www.cfr.msstate.edu).

CLOSE DATE:
Review of applications will begin February 15, 2009.

STARTING DATE:
August 15, 2009 or as negotiated.

RESPONSIBILITIES:
Support the land grant mission of MSU, which includes teaching, research, and service. Teach undergraduate/graduate level courses in (1) waterfowl ecology and management (alternate years), (2) wetlands ecology and management (alternate years), and (3) wildlife techniques (annually). Develop a graduate course in area of expertise as needed. Develop a strong extramurally supported research program in the waterfowl and wetlands ecology and management arenas. Collaborate with scientists within the Forest and Wildlife Research Center (FWRC) and other units on and off campus.

QUALIFICATIONS:
Earned doctorate with expertise in waterfowl (and other wetland wildlife) and wetlands ecology and management. Preferred candidates would have a scientific publication record; strong desire to lead a state, regional, and national level research program, university teaching experience, strong evidence of grantsmanship, strong desire to educate and mentor undergraduate and graduate students, and conduct outreach and professional service in waterfowl and wetlands conservation.

OTHER INFORMATION:
The Department of Wildlife and Fisheries has 31 faculty members (on and off campus), > 60 graduate students, and 6 support staff. The College of Forest Resources supports 2 computer labs for teaching and 3 spatial information technology research labs. See College and Department websites.

SALARY:
Commensurate with level of qualification.

BENEFITS:
Full benefits including personal and medical leave, retirement, and medical insurance.

TO APPLY:
Apply via the MSU Human Resources Management Website. Also send letter of application, curriculum vitae, statement of teaching philosophy and description of pertinent research training/background, official transcripts that confirm conferral of degree(s), and 3 letters of recommendation (sent by selected references) to:

Bruce D. Leopold, Ph.D.
Waterfowl & Wetlands Ecologist Search Committee
Box 9690
Department of Wildlife & Fisheries
Mississippi State, MS 39762
For more information, call (662) 325 3830 or email at bleopold@cfr.msstate.edu

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MSU announces first waterfowl, wetlands endowed chair

Waterfowl- and wetlands-related teaching, research and service are being greatly enhanced at Mississippi State through a significant gift from the chairman and chief executive officer of Cox Enterprises Inc.

James C. Kennedy recently established an endowed professorship in the university’s College of Forest Resources to focus specifically on the two areas.

The Kennedy Chair is the first of its kind for the academic program that came together in the mid-1950s as the School of Forestry. Expanded and renamed the School of Forest Resources in 1967, it was elevated to college status in 1996 and remains the only one of its kind at a Mississippi institution of higher learning.

"This gift demonstrates Mr. Kennedy’s dedication to conservation and his support of waterfowl and wetland resources," said college Dean George Hopper.

An endowed chair is a prestigious faculty position filled by a nationally prominent scholar and teacher. A minimum of $1.5 million is required to create an endowed MSU chair.

A native of Hawaii, Kennedy is a long-time conservationist and philanthropist. His love and respect for waterfowl is well-known, both internationally and in Mississippi. York Woods, his 5,500-acre conservation-easement property, is located near Charleston in Tallahatchie County.

When Kennedy is not in Atlanta, Ga., leading Cox Enterprises--one of the nation’s major media companies and automotive service providers--he may be found on his North Delta property.

"I find great pleasure in restoring land and improving habitat for waterfowl and other wildlife," Kennedy said.

His passion for conservation also is demonstrated through service on the executive board of Ducks Unlimited Inc. and as a former president of Wetlands America Trust.

"The endowed chair at MSU is one way that I can give back and ensure that future generations will have waterfowl and wetlands, and people to study and steward these valuable natural resources," Kennedy explained.

Hopper said the Kennedy Chair also holds distinction as "the first endowed waterfowl and wetlands university chair among the 14 states of the Mississippi Flyway, which includes the Mississippi River and its tributaries."

The Magnolia State is recognized by wildlife researchers and hunters alike for its strategic location on the waterfowl migration path stretching between Canada and the northern United States and warmer winter climates found in the Southern states and beyond.

Taking advantage of this natural geographic circumstance, MSU researchers have, over the decades, worked hard to develop a nationally respected program in wildlife science and management.

"For that reason alone, it seems fitting for our college to house the chair," Hopper observed.

Throughout much of North America, university-based programs focusing on waterfowl and wetlands conservation are declining in number.

"This decline in programs was one of Mr. Kennedy’s major reasons for establishing the chair," added Hopper, an alumnus of the MSU college.

NEWS EDITORS/DIRECTORS: For more information on the Kennedy Chair, contact Dean Hopper at 662-325-2953 or ghopper@cfr.msstate.edu.

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