FWRC Researchers Assess Adverse Impacts on Deer Populations
FWRC researchers, including assistant professor Dr. Dana Morin, are studying the impacts of long-duration floods and chronic wasting disease, or CWD, on populations of white-tailed deer. Morin and her team assessed deer populations in the South Delta, which experienced a historic flood in 2019 and is also a CWD hot spot. Their methods included fecal sampling from transects, passive camera surveys, and collaring deer. From the fecal samples, the scientists could identify individual deer by their DNA, and they could assess whether the individual carries the protein for CWD. Dr. Steve Demarais collared 20 white-tailed deer with GPS trackers so the team could study their movements and learn from their patterns.
This work will help inform land managers as they navigate the challenges of long-term flooding and CWD, and it will give the Mississippi Department of Wildlife and Fisheries the information they need to better manage deer populations, especially in flood-prone areas.
Graduate Student Examines Birds' Usage of Marsh Terraces
Growing up in south Louisiana, where the coastline is rapidly disappearing, graduate student Madelyn McFarland developed a passion for wildlife conservation early in life. After graduating from Louisiana State University with a bachelor's degree in natural resource ecology and management and interning in Michigan with Ducks Unlimited, she enrolled in a graduate study program at MSU. McFarland worked for Dr. Brian Davis, Ducks Unlimited, Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, and other FWRC scientists on a restoration project located in her home region, coastal Louisiana. The project, entitled "Avian Use of Marsh Terraces in Gulf Coastal Wetlands," examines how birds benefit from marsh terraces built in that area. Marsh terraces are man-made structures that mitigate erosion, but Davis, McFarland and the team wanted to study how these terraces function as home habitats for marsh birds.
McFarland was awarded the 2021 Best Student Oral Presentation at the Society of Wetland Scientists' Conference for her research on this project.
MSU Researchers Cross State Lines for Expansive, Multi-Species Nesting Box and Eggshell Research
Taylor Gibson, a recent wildlife, fisheries and aquaculture master's graduate, worked with Dr. Brian Davis, on a project entitled "Nest Box Use And Reproduction Of Wood Ducks And Other Cavity-Nesting Ducks In Mississippi," a collaborative effort with eight states on the Gulf and East coasts of the U.S. Gibson said that the team wanted to determine the characteristics of the habitats and the ducks themselves that influence nest box use for reproduction. The team collected data from two sites in Mississippi, monitoring the boxes for wood ducks, black-bellied whistling ducks, and hooded mergansers. They banded the hens in the boxes, candled the eggs to determine incubation stage, and returned to tag the ducklings on their estimated hatch date. These boxes are an excellent teaching tool, allowing students to learn about these species firsthand. Gibson also worked with Dr. Pratima Adhikari, an assistant professor in the poultry science department, to determine the pressure needed to force an eggshell to crack.
Since hens abandon the entire nest when an eggshell cracks, having this knowledge was important to the study of duckling production.