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School of Environment and Natural Resources


Bobwhites in the Contemporary Midwestern Landscape: Aardvarks in Arcadia, or Canaries in the Coal Mine?

Nov 16, 2015, 12:30pm - 1:30pm
Page Hall room 130 The LEC

SENR's Robert Gates, Associate Professor of Wildlife Ecology and Management, will present Bobwhites in the Contemporary Midwestern Landscape: Aardvarks in Arcadia, or Canaries in the Coal Mine? at the Glenn Colloquium Series at the John Glenn College of Public Affairs. For more information, including the schedule of future speakers, visit

Northern Bobwhites are an iconic bird of the American landscape, and the species thrived after European settlement and clearing of eastern forests.  Bobwhites need fine-grained landscapes with early successional cover types and “soft edges” that are maintained by natural and anthropogenic disturbances.  Despite their adaptability to a wide range of environments, bobwhites are declining throughout their geographic range.  Large-scale farming, simplified crop rotations, pesticides, and suppression of disturbance creates coarse-grained landscapes with “hard edges” that are hostile to bobwhites. Though a prolific breeder, bobwhites have high rates of mortality from predation and severe weather.  Bobwhites persist (for now) at low densities or in local areas where harvestable populations are maintained by intensive management.  Legendary wildlife biologists long ago established that Bobwhites are adversely affected by extreme weather, changing land use and agricultural practices, vegetation succession, and “hard edges. Yet bobwhite populations continue to decline despite application of science-based wildlife management. This presentation reveals findings from a 7-year investigation of Bobwhite (Aardvarks) population-habitat relationships on private lands in southwestern Ohio (Arcadia). Application of modern field and analytical methods supports long-standing knowledge from past studies, but on-going research is needed to inform conservation efforts.   Bobwhites (Canaries) are one among many wildlife species in decline as the Midwestern landscape (Coal Mine) becomes increasingly fragmented, coarse-grained, and intensively utilized by humans. The plight of northern bobwhites and other early succession-dependent species is discussed as an adaptive challenge that is unlikely to be solved as a technical problem.