Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Units Program: Nebraska
Education, Research and Technical Assistance for Managing Our Natural Resources

Nebraska Project

Rainwater Basin Joint Venture Science

July 2019 - August 2024


Participating Agencies

  • Nebraska Game and Parks Commission

The mission of the Rainwater Basin Joint Venture is to build and facilitate partnerships that work to advance habitat conservation for millions of migratory birds using strategies based on sound science in Nebraska’s mixed-grass prairie region. The Management Board of the Rainwater Basin Joint Venture is committed to implementing the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Strategic Habitat Conservation framework. This science-based model requires a commitment of resources and time to develop a strong biological foundation for delivering conservation planning and designing research and monitoring efforts. To fulfill this commitment, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln hired Dana Varner as the Science Coordinator for the Rainwater Basin Joint Venture in October 2014, and Greg Brinkman as a GIS Specialist in January 2022. Both Dana and Greg work with the Rainwater Basin Joint Venture science team to develop models and decision support tools that help identify areas where conservation is most likely to benefit migratory birds and other wildlife. Dana helps monitor and evaluate the success of ongoing and past habitat conservation projects, collaborating with researchers from various federal and state agencies and non-governmental conservation organizations. Greg focuses on providing additional GIS capacity and support to the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission in conjunction with the goals of the Rainwater Basin Joint Venture.

Dana recently wrapped up six years of data collection for a survey of waterfowl using Rainwater Basin playas during spring migration. Results of this study will be used to help guide conservation delivery in this critical stopover region. Greg has been working on creating statewide abundance and occurrence models for Greater Prairie-chickens and Sharp-tailed Grouse. These models are based on a long-term data collection effort led by the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission. These models will contribute to better targeting of management for prairie grouse. Both Greg and Dana have been collaborating with Nebraska Game and Parks Commission and University of Nebraska researchers to build a decision support tool that can be used by partners to identify priority landscapes based on customized criteria that can include seasonal waterfowl population abundance, upland and wetland habitats, ecosystems goods and services, and human dimensions benefits.