Wildlife research at the is directed toward answering questions of the effects various land management activities (primarily grazing and timber harvest) have on communities and populations of wildlife in an ecological context. Current research projects include:
Black-backed woodpeckers are an uncommon resident,
classified as Sensitive Species by the Forest Service rely on the abundant food resources in these recently killed forests. We are developing understanding of how Black-backed woodpeckers select resources in ponderosa pine forests killed by mountain pine beetles and contrasting that with how they select resources in recently burned areas.
- Greater sage grouse populations have been declining at a long-term rate of about 2% per year. These sagebrush obligates seem to be reflecting the health and extent of sagebrush ecosystems and are classified as Sensitive Species by the Forest Service and BLM. The sagebrush ecosystems in eastern Wyoming and Montana, and western South Dakota and North Dakota differ substantially from those in the core of sagebrush regions and have different stressors to the ecosystem. We are developing basic ecological understanding of Greater Sage-grouse at the eastern edge of its range and evaluating hypotheses of resource selection developed from the core areas of the range. We also are studying the effects of oil and gas development on them.
- Aspen in the Black Hills has declined by an estimated 60% due to forest management practices and policies for the past 100 years. The benefits of aspen to biological diversity and ecosystems function and services are well understood. The Black Hills National Forest plans to double amount of aspen in the next 10-15 years and the Ruffed grouse is the management indicator species for aspen. We are developing a statistically valid protocol for monitoring the Ruffed grouse populations as the management indicator of healthy aspen ecosystems.
- Merriam’s turkeys were introduced to the Black Hills in the 1950’s. This interesting and colorful bird has become an integral part of the tourism and recreational industry of the Black Hills. We are in the final stages of more than 9 years of research to develop understanding of the mechanisms that drive resource selection and populations of Merriam’s turkeys.