Graduate student’s prairie chicken research wins first place

By Dana Kobilinsky

Matthew Broadway handles a greater prairie chicken. ©Hannah White

Graduate student Matthew Broadway took home first place in the master’s category for poster presentations at The Wildlife Society’s 22nd Annual Conference last October. He is a student at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point.

“I was happy that I could represent the university at the national conference and to come away with tangible recognition for myself and my institution,” Broadway said.

Broadway studied nest and brood survival rates for the Wisconsin population of greater prairie chickens. Data on juvenile survival in this particular population had been scarce, according to Broadway. “I took a first crack at estimating juvenile survival rates for prairie chickens in the state of Wisconsin,” he said.

Broadway conducted flush counts — a method in which birds are flushed into the air around 30 minutes after sunrise — to estimate the number of juveniles. He then put the information into a statistical model that considered detection probability and estimated survival based on previous counts.

After conducting this research, Broadway found that some local vegetation characteristics do a better job of predicting nest and brood survival compared to habitat characteristics at broader spatial scales. “This is good news for prairie chickens in Wisconsin because it’s a manageable characteristic; patch size would be more difficult to contrive in an agriculturally dominated landscape,” he said.

One important characteristic Broadway was interested in was residual cover or dead vegetation present from the previous growing season and how this habitat affects survival of the species. Dead vegetation seemed to have a negative influence on nest survival, Broadway said, adding his data mirrored previous research in other geographic regions.

“I think the research will be informative moving forward in the state of Wisconsin,” Broadway said. “We hope in the future that additional funds will become available to continue research on Wisconsin prairie grouse.”

Dana KobilinskyDana Kobilinsky is a science writer at The Wildlife Society. Contact her at dkobilinsky@wildlife.org with any questions or comments about her article. You can follow her on Twitter at @DanaKobi.

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