UND Students Take Home First Place for Blue-Winged Teal Project

By Dana Kobilinsky

Conrad, right, and Palarski, left, write down information about a blue-winged teal nest they just found including how many egg they see, how far along the eggs are in incubation and the coordinates of the nest.
©Susan Felege

Undergraduate students at the University of North Dakota Nick Conrad and John Palarski rode around in ATVs in search of blue-winged teal nests last summer.

They found the nests and deployed surveillance cameras next to them along with an SD card inside of a box that collected the video data. Every three days, they changed the SD card and put the video data on the Internet at the wildlife@home page, a site made by the University of North Dakota to analyze video gathered from different cameras recording wildlife, for the public to see.

This was all part of a research project the students were working on in collaboration with Ducks Unlimited and the University of North Dakota that earned them first place in the undergraduate category of the student poster contest at this year’s annual TWS conference in Winnipeg.

“I wasn’t expecting it at all,” said Conrad, a junior at the University of North Dakota. “We also tied with our other buddies from UND. It was great that we both got the honor to do that for our school.”

Conrad and Palarski, another undergraduate student at the university, were studying predation and parental care of the birds through putting surveillance cameras on their nests to document their behaviors. They paid particular attention to nest recesses, or when the bird would leave the nests. After reviewing the videos, they saw that badgers and raccoons were some of the blue-winged teals’ predators.

Conrad remembers getting up close with the hens when he was putting out the cameras and replacing SD cards. “One time we were attacked by the hens on the nest,” he said. “They didn’t want to get off, so we had to touch them to get them to come out.”

Conrad said he and Palarski plan to continue working with their blue-winged tail research. “Right now, it’s just a poster,” he said. “We’re thinking about publishing the research in the future.”

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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