College Receives Its Largest Ever Research Grant to Fund Collaborative Mallard Study
Campus News
Ben O'Neal, Ph.D.

Ben O’Neal, Ph.D.

Franklin College students and faculty will soon benefit from a $300,489 research grant to study the movement, survival, habitat selection and productivity of Great Lakes mallards.

The three-year project will be funded by a Wildlife Restoration Grant (F21AF02467; W-51-R-02) in cooperation with the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, Division of Fish & Wildlife, and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Wildlife Restoration Grant Program. This work is part of the Great Lakes Mallard Research Project, a collaborative effort to better understand the ecology of mallards across the Great Lakes region, which includes Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Ohio and Wisconsin.

Ben O’Neal, Ph.D., associate professor of biology at Franklin College, will serve as the principal investigator for the new study, which will provide Franklin College students the opportunity to immerse themselves in the important work of applied wildlife research.

“Mallards are a shared migratory resource with great significance to the recreation, economy and environment of the Great Lakes region,” O’Neal said. “Unfortunately, this population has experienced a substantial decline since the mid-2000s, and waterfowl biologists have struggled to understand why. Research aimed at understanding the reasons for low mallard abundance can lead to improved management strategies to benefit mallards, other wetland-dependent species and people.”

Data products will inform state and regional decision-making regarding the monitoring, management and harvest of mallards. O’Neal emphasized that this study will employ state-of-the-art technologies including satellite telemetry, DNA sequencing, stable isotope analysis, GIS mapping and statistical modeling to help answer key questions. Throughout the project, many students will have the opportunity to engage with emerging technologies and develop their own digital fluency.

“We are eager to offer another meaningful wildlife research opportunity to our students,” said Kristin Flora, Ph.D., vice president and dean of the college. “With dedicated professors like Dr. O’Neal leading and cultivating learning outside the traditional classroom, students gain applied research experience through development of methods, execution of field work, data analysis, and the presentation of findings.”

The project brings together multiple partners throughout the Great Lakes region, including Ducks Unlimited; Great Lakes Fish and Wildlife Restoration Act; Illinois Department of Natural Resources; Illinois Natural History Survey; Indiana Department of Natural Resources; Michigan Department of Natural Resources – Wildlife Division; Michigan State University; United States Fish and Wildlife Service; Winous Point Marsh Conservancy; and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

For more information, contact the Franklin College Office of Communications at (317) 738-8185.

POSTED Sep 7, 2021