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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.


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.


Ph.D. Students

Stephen A. Clements - Ph.D.


Hometown: Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina

Previous Education: 
Mississippi State University, Master of Science (M.S.), Wildlife, Fisheries, and Aquaculture (2019)
Clemson University, Bachelor of Science (B.S.), Environmental and Natural Resources (2016)

Dissertation: Waterfowl Diets and Winter Foraging Habitat in South Atlantic Coastal and Inland Wetlands: Improving Inputs for Bioenergetics Modeling for Regional Conservation Planning

Stephen is evaluating diets of migrating and wintering waterfowl using South Atlantic wetlands and estimating the forage biomass and energetic density provided to waterfowl by those wetlands. This work will improve carrying capacity modeling efforts by the Atlantic Coast Joint Venture and its partners, who strive to meet population-based habitat objectives set by the North American Waterfowl Management Plan.

Ryo Ogawa - Ph.D.


Hometown: Hiroshima, Japan

Previous Education: 
Mississippi State University, Master of Science (M.S.), Wildlife, Fisheries and Aquaculture (2017)
University of Maine, Master of Wildlife Conservation (M.W.C.), Wildlife, fisheries and Conservation Biology (2016)
Meiji University, Bachelor of Arts (B.A.), Agriculture (2014)

Dissertation: Migration ecology of American White Pelican: circannual movement, geographic range, and annual survival

Ryo Ogawa’s research question is: how winds and thermals affects abundance and distribution of American White Pelicans. Ryo’s dissertation work includes 1) the geographic species distribution, 2) the circadian and circannual movement of individuals, and 3) the population dynamics.

Masters Students

J. Taylor Gibson - M.S.


Hometown: Kosciusko, Mississippi

Previous Education: 
Mississippi State University, Bachelor of Science (B.S.), Wildlife, Fisheries and Aquaculture (2017)

Thesis: Nesting ecology of wood ducks and other cavity-nesting ducks in Mississippi

I graduated from Mississippi State in 2017, while working for Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks, and for Dr. Davis at MSU doing Wood Duck banding and nest monitoring during undergrad. Since then, I have worked for Ducks Unlimited in North Dakota conducting brood surveys for a project observing the impacts of oil and gas development on brood abundance. Following that, I worked for Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, conducting statewide captures and banding of Wood Ducks and Mottled Ducks, primarily nightlighting from airboats. Most recently, I just left a position at Rockefeller Wildlife Refuge in Southwest Louisiana, working on multiple research projects such as Black-bellied Whistling Duck and Mottled Duck banding and nesting research, aerial waterfowl surveys for coastal Louisiana WMA's and refuges, Whooping Crane reintroduction, and multiple others.

Madelyn B. McFarland - M.S.


Hometown: Baton Rouge, Louisiana

Previous Education: 
Louisiana State University, Bachelor of Science (B.S.), Natural Resource Ecology and Management (2017)

Thesis: An Evaluation of Avian Use of Marsh Terraces in Gulf Coastal Wetlands of Louisiana

I was born and raised in south Louisiana where I attended LSU for my undergraduate degree. After graduation, I worked as a technician on a nesting Brown Pelican research project in Southwest Louisiana. From there I left home and traveled to Michigan to begin my new role as Conservation Intern with Ducks Unlimited in the Great Lakes/Atlantic Region. I assisted in the delivery of DU's conservation program across the 21-state region, but I was particularly fond of our work in the coastal wetlands of the Great Lakes. I knew I wanted to continue working in coastal wetlands, so when I was offered a position to assess marsh terrace restoration in south Louisiana, I jumped at the bit. I am assessing the restoration benefits of marsh terraces for coastal Louisiana's avifauna (wintering waterfowl and breeding secretive marsh birds). I have recently accepted a position as a Biologist with DU Illinois in the Big Rivers Initiative. I am excited to continue my work with DU and to apply what I've learned as a master's student at Mississippi State University.

Riley Porter - M.S.


Hometown: Athens, Georgia

Previous Education: 
Brigham Young University, Bachelor of Science (B.S.), Wildlife and Wildlands Conservation

At MSU, Riley is studying nesting ecology of the Common Goldeneye and other cavity nesting waterfowl of the Boreal Forest in Central-Interior Alaska.

Asia Sawyer - M.S.


Hometown: Ewa Beach, Hawaii

Previous Education: 
University of Florida, Bachelor of Science (B.S.), Zoology (2020)

Thesis: TBD

My name is Asia and I previously lived in Ewa Beach, HI before moving to Florida for my undergraduate studies. I attended the University of Florida where I received my B.S. in Zoology with a minor in Wildlife Ecology and Conservation. Although my interests lie more so with birds, I worked as a lab assistant at UF on a project studying how varying levels of urbanization affected moth phenology. After graduating, I interned at White Oak Conservation in Yulee, FL where I assisted in the captive breeding and management of the endangered Florida Grasshopper Sparrow. Currently, I am working as an avian technician for Mississippi State University running feeding trials for a project regarding the morphology and feeding efficiency of wild and game farm mallards. Additionally, I am preparing to apply to graduate school with the intention of studying wildlife ecology and conservation and conducting research in avian ecology.

Sharilyn Taylor - M.S.


Hometown: Jacksonville, Florida

Previous Education: 
University of North Florida, Bachelor of Science (B.S.), Biology (2013)

Thesis: Assessing native bee (Hymenoptera: Apoidea) diversity in natural wetland plant communities of the Mississippi Delta

Sharilyn has a diversity of experience including monitoring tortoise populations in Florida, trapped snakes and sampled blood, participated in various marsh ecology work in Ponte Vedra, FL, and designed undergraduate honey bee research project while an undergraduate student.

Mason Thomas - M.S.


Hometown: Iuka, Mississippi

Previous Education: 
Mississippi State University, Bachelor of Science (B.S., Wildlife, Fisheries and Aquaculture (2020)

Thesis: Determining the Impact of Post-Harvest Water Management on Invertebrate Communities, Agrochemical Availability, and Potential Trophic Biomagnification

Mason transitioned directly to a graduate position following the completion of his undergraduate degree in December 2020. Coming from an agricultural and outdoor background, Mason has always been interested in the impacts of agriculture on wildlife. He gained experience in agricultural conservation practices in the Mississippi delta during his undergraduate work within the department, which inspired his pursuit of a graduate degree. The goal of his thesis is to better understand the effects timing of post-harvest agricultural field flooding has on migratory shorebirds and waterfowl in the Mississippi Alluvial Valley.

Kevin Tillinghast - M.S.


Hometown: Westerly, Rhode Island

Previous Education: 
University of Rhode Island, Bachelor of Science (B.S.), Wildlife and Conservation Biology (2018)

Thesis: Restoring and Creating Migratory Bird Habitat in the Mississippi Delta and Lower Mississippi River Valley

At MSU, Kevin will be monitoring the response of migratory birds to wetland restoration efforts conducted throughout the Mississippi Delta during critical use periods, with a focus on shorebirds. The goal of his research is to inform management strategies concerning the creation of shallow-water habitat that provides migratory wetland bird species with crucial foraging opportunities.

Undergraduate Students

Mattie Graham - B.S.


Hometown: Pensacola, Florida

Collaborating with the Poultry Science Unit at Mississippi State, Mattie is assisting Hunter Mentges with measuring egg strength and thickness of 3 different species of cavity nesting waterfowl (Wood duck (Aix sponsa, Hooded merganser Lophodytes cucullatus, and Black-bellied whistling ducks Dendrocygna autumnalis) to better understand nest box ecology of all 3 species.

Brandon Kugle - B.S.


Hometown: Noxapater, Mississippi

At MSU, Brandon will be monitoring wood duck nest boxes, banding nesting female wood ducks, and web-tagging ducklings at Sam D. Hamilton Noxubee Wildlife Refuge and York Woods in Charleston, MS. The goal of this research is to understand the ecology and survival of wood duck ducklings and broods, as well as measure eggshell strength compared between the two sites.

Hunter Mentges - B.S.


Hometown: Trappe, Maryland

Collaborating with the Poultry Science unit at Mississippi State, Hunter is measuring egg strength and thickness of 3 different species of cavity nesting waterfowl (Wood duck (Aix sponsa, Hooded merganser Lophodytes cucullatus, and Black-bellied whistling ducks Dendrocygna autumnalis) to better understand nest box ecology of all 3 species.

Thera Mullen - B.S.


Hometown: Lacombe, Louisiana

My name is Thera Mullen. I am originally from Lacombe, LA, but now I live in Starkville, MS. I am a graduating senior at Mississippi State University. I have interned for USFWS and Limitless Vistas (AmeriCorps program that provides environmental conservation field technician training). I also worked for Mississippi State University doing point-count data surveys for National forests in Mississippi. I have also taken part in undergraduate research dealing with amphibian reproduction. In my free time I enjoy crabbing, fishing, searching for herps, checking coverboards and Sherman traps, playing with my 2 dogs, illustration drawing, reading, and singing. I am currently looking into potential jobs and graduate assistantships after I graduate in May.