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School of Environment and Natural Resources


Spring 2014 SENR Seminar Series

Feb 13, 2014, 4:00pm - 5:30pm


The SENR Seminar Series welcomes Dr. Robert Gates, Associate Professor in the OSU School of Environment and Natural Resources, who will present Conservation of Northern Bobwhites: a Technical Problem or Adaptive Challenge for Wildlife Management?

Northern bobwhites (Colinus viginianus) are an iconic bird of the American landscape. The species historically and still inhabits a wide diversity of ecosytems ranging from arid coastal and great plains, mesic pine flatwoods and piedmont, tallgrass prairie and shrublands, oak savannahs, and the appalachian highlands. The fortunes of bobwhite populations have waxed and waned with human-induced changes in vegetation succession, land cover, and land use. The species does best in fine-grain landscapes with a diversity of early successional cover types and “soft edges” that are maintained by natural and anthropogenic disturbances. Though a prolific breeder, bobwhites have characteristically high rates of mortality from predation and severe weather events. The American landscape historically supported large populations after European settlement and the clearing of eastern forests. Despite their adaptability to a wide range of environmental conditions, bobwhites are declining in nearly all areas of their geographic range. Large-scale farming, simplified crop rotations, widespread use of pesticides, and suppression of disturbance is creating coarse-grained landscapes with “hard edges” that are generally hostile to bobwhites throughout their range. Yet the species persists (for now) at low densities or in localized areas where abundant populations are maintained by intensive management, often to sustain recreational harvest. A “canary in the coal mine” bobwhites are harbingers of population and habitat change for a wide range of avian species that depend on early successional habitats for all or part of their life cycles, and for pollinating insects that are also in serious decline. This seminar explores bobwhite conservation from the perspectives of a technical problem versus an adaptive challenge for environmental and natural resources management, based on work conducted by my graduate students and collaboratoring agencies in southwestern Ohio. I conclude with personal thoughts and observations about the nature and impact of scholarly work, and the relevance of problem-based applied research in today’s university.

The SENR Seminar begins at 4:10 p.m in 103 Kottman Hall with a video link to 123 Williams Hall on the Wooster campus.