Date of Graduation

12-2015

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science in Biology (MS)

Degree Level

Graduate

Department

Biological Sciences

Advisor

David G. Krementz

Committee Member

Jason Tullis

Second Committee Member

John D. Willson

Abstract

The management of wintering waterfowl in North America requires flexibility because of constantly changing landscapes and conditions. Many mallards use the lower Mississippi Alluvial Valley (MAV) for wintering habitat, making this an area of emphasis for improving management strategies. In this study, I used mallard observation data from 2009-2014 aerial surveys collected in the Arkansas portion of the lower MAV to explain the abundance and distribution and of mallards. Using spatial hierarchical models and breaking covariate data to 2x2 km grid cells, I analyzed how covariates relate to the changes of abundance and distributions within and among surveys. Mallard abundance and distributions responded positively to surface water along with the land cover habitat inundated by that water. Rice fields, wetlands, soybean fields, and fallow (uncultivated) fields were used most by mallards. My models also showed a strong spatial pattern of mallard abundance across the MAV suggesting that covariates other than the ones used here may be important in better explaining mallard distribution. Biologists in the lower MAV can use these results to better conserve and manage lands for mallards.

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