Kendra E. Slownkendra.email@example.com
Advisor: Dr. Mike Eichholz
The Mississippi Valley subpopulation of interior Canada geese (Branta canadensis interior) has remained stable in abundance over the past several decades, but appears to have changed its wintering range, wintering further north than historically. Concurrently, temperate-breeding Canada goose populations (Branta canadensis maxima) have increased in abundance across much of the Midwest. During winter these populations’ ranges overlap, creating abundances of geese adequate to create human wildlife conflicts in areas such as the Greater Chicago Metropolitan Area (GCMA). Little-to-no hunting, reduced predator risk, open water throughout winter, and presumably ample food sources likely attract geese to the region in the late fall, winter, and early spring. The total GMCA goose population increases dramatically from the breeding to the migration and overwintering periods. This offers opportunities for wildlife recreation, but may create challenges and conflicts that range from inconvenient to extremely dangerous, such as aircraft strikes. At present, it is uncertain if this increase is due to an influx of temperate-breeding Canada geese from outside the region, an influx of interior Canada geese, or a combination of the two. While temperate-breeding geese are considered overabundant by most administrative authorities, interior geese offer important recreational activity to areas north of the GCMA, and there is a strong political desire to maintain their population levels. Therefore, research is needed to determine if the two populations are temporally or spatially segregated adequately to allow for reduction or management of the temperate-breeding population without negatively effecting the migrant population. Additionally, correlations between behavioral characteristics (behavioral syndrome) and natal dispersal (a presumed evolutionary precursor to migration) have been documented for numerous organisms. Understanding how behaviors differ between closely related migrant and sedentary organisms should provide additional insight into the evolution of migration.
We will investigate wintering ecology of Canada geese in the GCMA by comparing the behavior and distribution between the two populations. Analysis of DNA will be used to characterize the proportion of interior and temperate-breeding Canada geese in areas of management interest. Daily movements, feeding areas and food types used, characteristics of desirable and undesirable roosts and the influences of weather and other factors on behavior will be inferred from re-sighting of neck collars and time budget data. Goose capture will begin in the GCMA in late fall when the abundance of the goose population begins to increase in the GCMA and continue through early spring, when interior geese begin to depart. A sample will be removed for DNA analysis and geese will be fitted with a neck collar and a USFWS metal leg band. We will visit multiple locations used by geese and re-sight neck-collared individuals daily. We will record habitat information and conduct behavioral observations of marked geese. Because genetic composition of the marked sample will be known, we will use this data to test for spatial and temporal differences between populations of Canada geese wintering in the GCMA and test the prediction migrant geese are more aggressive and are less sedentary during winter.