I’m a second year Master’s student at the NRI. I have a passion for prairie habitat conservation and have conducted field work with rare plants in the past. I am currently studying the Northern Prairie Skink, a small lizard native to sandy prairie areas in southwestern Manitoba. The purpose of my study is to gain insight into the habitat use of these endangered prairie reptiles, while at the same time discovering how much local people know about the skink.
My name is Kristen Martin, and I am a Masters student with Dr. Koper. I like to spend long, summer nights traipsing through wetlands, in total darkness, in search of the elusive, (and believed by some to be imaginary!) yellow rail. The yellow rail (Coturnicops noveboracensis), infamous for eluding birdwatchers hoping to catch a glimpse of this small, secretive, chicken-like marsh bird, has experienced significant population declines, resulting in its listing as a species of Special Concern in Canada. These population declines are likely associated with the extensive loss of wetland habitat that has occurred throughout this species’ breeding and wintering ranges. Due to the yellow rail’s incredibly secretive nature, and survey challenges associated with the fact that it vocalizes at night, even the basic habitat suitability requirements of this species are not well understood. My research aims to evaluate the influence of wetland habitat characteristics, both at the patch level and the landscape level, on the suitability of wetland habitat for yellow rails in south-central Manitoba.
I performed a revisitation study on the nesting ecology of the Western Grebe at Delta Marsh, Manitoba. Delta Marsh is a marsh of international significance under the RAMSAR Convention and has undergone major changes to the marsh ecosystem over the last 40 years. Using baseline data from Gary Nuechterlein’s (1975) seminal study on Western Grebe nesting ecology, I linked significant decreases in reproductive success to an increase in the abundance of the invasive fish species common carp, artificially stabilized high water levels, and changes to the plant community. As a flagship species that can draw attention to the conservation and eco-tourism opportunities of Delta Marsh, the benefits of its conservation and management go far beyond the benefits to this species alone.
Adrienne is studying the effects of grazing by bison and cattle on the plant community in Grasslands National Park. Controversially, she calls Hesperostipa comata (also the provincial grass of her home province, Saskatchewan) her favourite grass. In her spare time, Adrienne enjoys exploring the outdoors, playing music, refining her scotch palate, and snuggling with her little badger hunter, Woodrow.
“…But more to the point of our story
For the first time in the collective memory,
That old brown prairie that had been so dry for so long
Was very muddy,
– The Truck Got Stuck Talkin’ Blues
Hello! I’m Tonya, and I’m lucky enough to work in Grasslands National Park in southern SK for my project. What I’m interested in finding out is how different grazing intensities affect the plant communities in northern mixed-grass prairies. What I do: listen to birds, sweep fields for bugs, and look at plants. How awesome is that?
I have been exploring how (mowing frequency, with / without haying) and where (in urban, suburban, and rural landscapes) transmission lines might be managed as habitat for plants and animals of tall-grass prairie, which is a critically endangered ecosystem in Manitoba. Prairie plant cover and structure, and arthropod and bird abundances within fragmented grasslands along transmission lines were hypothesized to be significantly affected by vegetation management and by land-use around transmission lines, which could influence how easily plant propagules and arthropods move between grassland fragments. Thus, surveys of prairie plants and animals along transmission lines enabled me to explore whether or not prairie birds preferentially settle in grassland habitats with more arthropod prey within anthropogenic landscapes.
My master’s thesis research investigates grassland songbird area sensitivity and experimentally tests whether conspecific attraction influences habitat selection and areas sensitivity of two focal species, Savannah sparrow (Passerculus sandwichensis) and Le Conte’s sparrow (Ammodrammus leconteii), in remnant tall-grass prairies in Manitoba. In the summer of 2010, I deployed decoys and broadcast song playback of my focal species in small tall-grass prairies that were not occupied by these species for several years previous. In 2011, I will conduct surveys to determine whether the artificial conspecific location cues (decoys and playback) that I deployed in 2010 have “convinced” any individuals of my focal species to settle in the formerly unoccupied small patches. If conspecific attraction influences settlement patterns and area sensitivity of the focal species, then the small prairie patches treated with decoys and playback in 2010 will have higher focal species settlement rates in 2011 than my control sites. Understanding the behavioural ecology of a species may be critical for conservation and management of its populations, especially in rare and fragmented habitat types, such as tall-grass prairie.
My primary area of interest is the conservation of biodiversity, in particular studying the effects of anthropogenic landscape-scale changes on threatened species. My organism of choice happens to be songbirds, and though I love all birds, I keep finding my way back to warblers. At the University of Manitoba, I will be focusing on Golden-winged Warblers, which are a threatened species in Canada, and quickly declining across their entire range in the Eastern US. These declines have been attributed to both habitat loss and ‘genetic swamping’ or hybridization with Blue-winged Warblers. I will take a landscape scale perspective to study the distribution and occupancy of the GWWA across Manitoba. I also want to know how landscape factors such as fragmentation and connectivity affectreproductive success, and gene flow between subpopulations which may have implications for the potential threat of future hybridization with Blue-winged Warblers.
My name is Jennifer Rodgers, and I am a second year masters student in Nicky’s lab. I’m originally from Thunder Bay, Ontario, and I completed by undergraduate degree at the University of Waterloo in Waterloo, Ontario.
For my master’s thesis I am examining the influence of natural gas development in south-eastern Alberta on the relative abundances and diversity of grassland songbirds. Grassland habitats are in decline due to habitat loss and under-protection, which has led to a greater loss of grassland bird species in these regions than in any other group of birds found in North America.The natural gas industry requires the use of shallow-gas wells, pipelines, access roads, and other related infrastructure, for resource extraction. Such anthropogenic disturbances can have widespread impacts on wildlife. These disturbances create habitat edges, which may either positively or negatively influence the densities and diversities of grassland songbirds. Edges may contribute to an increase or a decrease in predation and vegetation structure may be altered, benefitting some bird species over others.
My favourite part of the field work involved in my data collection is conducting point counts. I love seeing prairie sunrises, and enjoy listening to the birds!