Congrats to Justin!
Justin Droke successfully defended his Masters Thesis, "Comparison of Spring Migration Ecology of Black Ducks and Mallards in the Montezuma Wetlands Complex". Declines in black duck populations in the twentieth century in conjunction with a dramatic expansion of mallards into the historic black duck range have raised concerns about the effect of competition between these two species on the black duck. Although mallards have been shown to displace black ducks in some breeding areas, there has not been any research until now on interactions between them during spring staging. Staging is a critical time of year for energy acquisition, as migratory waterfowl gather in productive habitat to build fat reserves for their long journey. Factors that disrupt the acquisition of food during staging can delay departure dates thus allowing competitors to settle in prime breeding habitat first, can lower the rate of survival during migration, and can lead to poor body condition upon arrival in breeding areas thereby affecting reproductive success. Competition for food with the closely-related mallard has the potential to affect nutrient acquisition by black ducks. Justin found evidence of habitat separation between mallards and black ducks at Montezuma, a site of very high importance to migrating waterfowl in the Atlantic Flyway. His results will inform management of wetland complexes to benefit black ducks in the presence of their closest competitor. Well done on an excellent thesis defense!
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