Environmental Science Lecturer Receives Grant to Develop Sea Duck Distribution Model

Jacob Straub received funding from Clemson University (funded by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service), to develop a spatial distribution model of sea duck species on the Lower Great Lakes.

Jacob Straub (Department of Environmental Science & Ecology) and his co-PIs: Beth Ross (US Geological Survey), Michael Schummer (SUNY ESF), Auriel Fournier (University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign), Douglas Tozer (Long Point Waterfowl and Wetlands Research Program, Bird Studies Canada), Shannon Badzinski (Canadian Wildlife Service – Ontario), and a post-doctoral student, will work collaboratively to develop an Integrated Species Distribution model. Straub’s primary role will be to coordinate data sharing, information, and logistics between conservation stakeholders in the United States and Canada.

Sea duck use of the Lower Great Lakes during spring migration, fall migration, and winter has increased over the past few decades. Limited information is available regarding sea duck abundance and distribution in the Great Lakes Region, as well as the connectivity of the Great Lakes population to other populations. Threats, such as commercial and energy development on the lakeshore and lakes, water quality, contaminants, and outbreaks of disease threaten sea ducks. A baseline understanding of their spatial distribution and factors that influence it are needed to respond to environmental and habitat changes. Additionally, climate change will increase extreme weather events, precipitation, and temperature, resulting in large shifts in habitat availability for ducks. The distribution model, using existing data sets, will help inform decisions for future potential survey approaches, monitoring efforts, management, and conservation.

The researchers will use aerial and ground count species surveys for the distribution model and link population abundance with habitat and environmental covariates in the Great Lakes Region. The model will then be used to simulate future population abundance under different climate scenarios such as reduced ice coverage, increased water temperature, and variable ice conditions. The model will also allow identification of the factors that contribute most to uncertainty in the models and which could be addressed by adaptive management. The outcomes and products anticipated from this work include species-specific maps of past/current distribution/abundance, maps for future climate scenarios, evaluation of stakeholder feedback based on potential monitoring designed, and information to contribute to the Sea Duck Key Habitat Sites Atlas.

The award will be administered by The Research Foundation for SUNY at SUNY Brockport.

February 22, 2021