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

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News Item Date
With mentorship from Nebraska faculty, Westside High School student Humphrey gets head start on fisheries career as Hutton Scholar - Ella Humphrey’s interest in fisheries began with a freshwater home aquarium. The rising senior at Omaha’s Westside High School started keeping aquariums as a hobby and built a reservoir of knowledge about freshwater ecosystems in the process. She thrived at taking care of fish and creating balanced systems for them to live in.

“I am fascinated by the diversity of fish species in river systems, which led me to be more interested in the conservation of native species,” Humphrey said.

People who pursue degrees in fisheries often explore those topics throughout their careers, and Humphrey decided to pursue a career in fisheries as soon as she learned it was possible to have one. This summer, Humphrey worked with Jonathan Spurgeon with the U.S. Geological Survey—Nebraska Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit after she successfully applied to be a member of the Hutton Fisheries Biology Program. Humphrey experienced multiple aspects of the fisheries career field by helping a collection of fisheries experts that included faculty members from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s School of Natural Resources as well as Nebraska Game and Parks Commission staff members.

The nationwide paid summer internship and mentoring program is sponsored by the American Fisheries Society. The program’s stated goal is to recruit and introduce high school students from underrepresented backgrounds, specifically minorities and women, into fisheries agencies and institutions. Only a handful of Hutton Scholars are chosen each year, and Humphrey is only the second student to partner with Nebraska faculty since the program began in 2001.

Humphrey’s path to applying for the Hutton program began a bit turbulently. During a zoology class she was taking at the Omaha Zoo, she was listening to a presentation about leeches and blood. Midway through it, she fainted.

“I never thought I was squeamish, but I guess I don’t like leeches,” she said.

While she waited to get picked up from school, she started talking with Dr. Elizabeth Mulkerrin, the vice president of education at the Omaha Zoo. Humphrey said they shared a lot of similar interests, and Mulkerrin suggested she look into applying for summer internships. Later at home, she searched online for fisheries-related internships.

“At last I stumbled upon the Hutton Junior Fisheries internship on a random website and was shocked by how amazing the internship sounded,” she said. “That night I began my application.”

Many Hutton Scholars apply with assistance from a mentor they hope to work with during the eight-week internship. Members of the Hutton Program contacted the Nebraska Chapter of the American Fisheries Society to find possible mentors within close proximity to Humphrey. Through a close-knit network of fisheries professionals across the state, Spurgeon was able to mentor Humphrey. Spurgeon said that the University of Nebraska-Lincoln SNR fisheries team, as well as faculty at other campuses across the University of Nebraska system, are happy to provide mentorship to high school students interested in applying for a Hutton scholarship for summer internships in Nebraska. Spurgeon said that the opportunity to work with a Hutton Scholar of Humphrey’s caliber has come as a welcome surprise.

“I’ve been really impressed,” Spurgeon said. “She’s as focused as many grad students.”

Humphrey said one of her favorite experiences of the eight-week internship took place during the first week. Humphrey and Spurgeon seine netted and backpack electrofished along the Platte River.

“This was my first glimpse at the fish diversity in Nebraska and my first time crossing a large river on foot,” she said.

During her summer internship, Humphrey has spent hours upon hours out on some of the Cornhusker State’s major waterways. She said one of her favorite experiences was boat electrofishing with Spurgeon and University of Nebraska-Lincoln SNR fisheries ecologist Mark Pegg.

“We went to the Missouri River where we caught countless species, including silver carp, blue sucker, and a massive 35-inch channel catfish,” she said. “Once we left the river and arrived at the UNL boat barn, I learned how to remove the otoliths from the silver carp, which I later aged.”

Spurgeon said that Humphrey has been “laser-focused” throughout the internship, adding that she can take her interest in fisheries as far as she wants it to go. The direction it appears to be heading is toward the study of large river ecology. She said that, in the future, she wants to conduct research on large rivers in an effort to better conserve threatened and endangered fish species. A “huge dream,” she said, is to work on some of South America’s largest rivers, like the Orinoco or Rio Negro.

“I am very interested in rivers due to the way they are always changing and evolving,” she said. “I think rivers present a fun challenge to work on because they are so interconnected and span huge distances. The fish diversity rivers hold also fascinates me, I love that I can find a little sand shiner or a large sturgeon in the same water. I had an amazing experience this summer on the Missouri River trawling for age zero sturgeon. The fact that a sturgeon barely 20 millimeters long can survive in such a large and fast flowing river like the Missouri still fascinates me.”

She said that the most valuable thing the Hutton internship gave her is “an opportunity to meet so many amazing people in the fisheries field.” Along with numerous SNR staff collaborations, Humphrey also helped conduct habitat surveys in streams with Nebraska Game and Parks Commission researchers.

“Every person I have met during my internship has been very kind and willing to teach me as much as possible about fisheries,” she said.

Spurgeon said that School of Natural Resources would be lucky to have Humphrey if she decided to pursue a fisheries and wildlife major at the school. That’s what she is currently considering.

“I have to admit that I am a little disappointed that I still have a year of high school left and that I can’t start my undergrad already,” she said. “After graduation I plan to get my undergrad in fisheries and wildlife from UNL, then I plan on going to grad school and possibly get a doctorate later on.”

For other high school students with an interest in fisheries, she said they should apply for the Hutton Junior Fisheries Biology Program.

“I would absolutely recommend the Hutton Scholars program to other high school students,” she said. “I believe anyone who has the chance to work with UNL faculty and participate in the program would be extremely lucky. The Hutton Scholars program has given me countless opportunities to network with people and get valuable hands-on experiences in the field.”

-Cory Matteson, SNR Communications
July 2021
New textbook edited by School of Natural Resources team spotlights social aspects of fish, wildlife harvest management - When you receive a state fishing or hunting license, you will be informed of harvest limits connected with the activity. You can bag up to five rainbow trout in a day. You can keep a walleye if it’s 15 inches long. You can only bag two white-fronted geese per day during their season, but can keep up to 50 light geese per day during theirs.

Making harvest management decisions like these is a challenging, ever-evolving process that is done with sustainability, population dynamics and people in mind, said Larkin Powell, professor of conservation biology and animal ecology at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln School of Natural Resources. The body of research centered on the social aspect has grown in recent years, he said, and it is reflected in a new textbook co-edited by Powell and Kevin Pope, biologist with U.S. Geological Survey and director of the Nebraska Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit.

“Harvest of Fish and Wildlife: New Paradigms for Sustainable Management” will be released June 7, and is available for pre-order now. The textbook features chapters authored by 24 teams of scientists and game managers with expertise about the subject, and an interest in exploring harvest management issues from angles that Pope and Powell said have not been represented in previous textbooks.

“Historically, we considered harvest management in biological or ecological contexts,” Pope said. “That's how we were trained, but now we're encouraging people to think about harvest management as occurring in a social-ecological system. Ecology is important, but so is the social aspect, the politics and actual actions and behaviors of hunters and anglers.”

The authors include many who represent UNL’s School of Natural Resources, and Nebraska as a whole. Chapter authors include five UNL faculty members, one UNL adjunct faculty member, two UNL grad students, two UNL staff members and two Nebraska Game and Parks Commission biologists. The book also includes scientists and experts who are colleagues of Pope’s and hail from four U.S. Geological Survey Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Units from across the country.

“This book is a welcome addition to the literature on harvest management, integrating both terrestrial and aquatic perspectives and engaging the social as well as biological sciences,” said Jonathan R. Mawdsley, chief of the U.S. Geological Survey’s Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Units Program. “The chapter authors are a veritable ‘Who's Who’ of thought leaders in fisheries, wildlife management and decision science, and the book will undoubtedly be of broad interest to state, federal, academic, NGO and private-sector professionals.”

Numerous chapters directly address human elements of the harvest management decision process. Subjects include an exploration of engaging hunters in selecting duck season dates, the social and political context of harvest management and how marketing and ecological models can help predict permit-purchasing behavior of sportspersons.

“Management decisions can be pretty tricky,” Powell said. “It involves population dynamics, but also a lot of stakeholder engagement. And I think that's what emerged in the book. The book tries to bring all those things together, and give guidance to people that are managing these populations. The tricky thing was trying to find the threads that go between all those things. And, for us, that was one of the fun things. It was a challenge, but it was rewarding to help the authors incorporate that into their chapters."

Timothy McCoy, Nebraska Game and Parks Commission deputy director, said that the textbook provides "great insight" into the complex information that agencies consider when making harvest management recommendations and decisions.

"We must continue to adapt, challenge, apply and improve our wildlife science, social science and decision science in harvest management approaches for wildlife and people," McCoy said.

In the preface to the textbook, Pope and Powell wrote that they developed the idea for it with the idea of providing new insights into a traditional area of emphasis for fisheries and wildlife managers.

“We are now in a new era of harvest management,” they wrote in the preface. “Population biologists have new modeling tools that can be applied to harvest questions. Evolutionary biologists have measured effects of harvest that go beyond simple changes in population size, and we can evaluate the potential for selective mortality through harvest to affect populations and species. Social scientists have begun to look reflectively at behaviors of anglers and hunters, especially as anglers and hunters respond to changing densities of fish and game. And, tenets of decision science have proven useful as improved frameworks to select regulations for harvested species in social and political climates that are often hostile toward consumptive uses of fish and wildlife. In sum, harvest management has broadened beyond its traditional roots to embrace information provided by genetics and advanced population-dynamics modeling as well as insights obtained through consideration of human dimensions.”

The textbook explores how harvest management can help ensure a sustainable future, while promoting intentional, thoughtful and transparent justification for fishing and hunting regulations. Pope said that the textbook has appeal not only in fisheries and wildlife classrooms but also for population biologists, evolutionary biologists, social scientists and on-the-ground fish and wildlife managers. It is a valuable resource now, and will be for years to come, said John Carroll, director of the School of Natural Resources.

“Harvest can be one of the most controversial aspects of both fisheries and wildlife management,” Carroll said. “Dr. Pope and Dr. Powell using their respective expertise in population biology led a thorough review of this topic in this textbook. They also embrace a much broader view that includes focus on some traditional harvest topics relative to population biology, but also evolutionary implications and socio-ecological ramifications of wildlife use. There is no doubt that their book is critical now, but will only increase in importance over time as humans continue to dramatically impact fish and wildlife populations on a global scale. These faculty at the University of Nebraska are demonstrating how our natural resources programs not only have a local impact, but also significance at national and international levels.”

“Harvest of Fish and Wildlife: New paradigms for Sustainable Management” is published by CRC Press, an imprint of Taylor and Francis Group. To purchase a copy or request a copy for inspection, visit this site.

- Cory Matteson, SNR Communications
More details at: https://www.routledge.com/Harvest-of-Fish-and-Wildlife-New-Paradigms-for-Sustainable-Management/Pope-Powell/p/book/9781032002002
May 2021
Virtual Sunday with a Scientist to examine invasive species - The University of Nebraska State Museum-Morrill Hall’s Virtual Sunday with a Scientist will take place at 2 p.m. April 25 via Zoom.

The free program will be led by Allison Zach, program coordinator for the Nebraska Invasive Species Program, which works to prevent the introduction, promote early detection and reduce the harm of invasive species. Participants will learn to identify invasive species, such as the emerald ash borer, spotted lanternfly and zebra mussels. The interactive program will also include crafts, brainstorming and trivia.

Those interested in participating may register online or visit the Morrill Hall Facebook page for the Facebook Live presentation.

Sunday with a Scientist is a monthly event that highlights the work of scientists, while educating children, families and the university community on a variety of topics related to science and natural history. Presenters share scientific information in a fun, informal way through demonstrations, activities or by conducting science on site. During the spring 2021 semester, events will be hosted virtually over Zoom and Facebook Live.

April 2021
$3 Million Grant Awarded to University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff’s Aquaculture/Fisheries Department - A $3 million grant has been awarded to the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff’s Aquaculture/Fisheries Department by the U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), according to Dr. Laurence B. Alexander, UAPB chancellor.

“We are thrilled to announce that UAPB was chosen to receive a major grant to conduct nationally significant conservation research in partnership with NRCS,” Dr. Alexander said. “I would like to commend Dr. Michael Eggleton and his team for their contributions in leading the monitoring and assessment research that will result in a national framework for improving the wetlands.”

Dr. Eggleton is a professor of fisheries science in the UAPB Aquaculture/Fisheries Department and is principal investigator for the grant. Co-principal investigators include Dr. Uttam Deb, assistant professor/aquaculture economics, Dr. Yingkai Fang, assistant professor/natural resources economics, and Dr. Jonathan Spurgeon, assistant unit leader, U.S. Geological Survey – Nebraska Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit (formerly assistant professor/habitat management at UAPB). The duration of the grant is 2021 through 2026.

April 2021
Nebraska anglers are creatures of habit -
Study shows seven popular fishing spots across the state consistently attracted visitors from the same ZIP codes, providing key insights for natural resource managers

Fishing behavior of Nebraska anglers may be more predictable than previously thought, says a new paper published in the Ecological Society of America’s journal Ecological Applications. Seven fishing spots across the state were visited by loyal communities of anglers throughout the year, with little variation from spring to fall in the home ZIP codes of visitors.

“Our original conceptual model was that anglers are highly mobile and dynamic in their behavior,” said Mark Kaemingk, an assistant professor of aquatic ecology at the University of North Dakota and the paper’s first author. “Our new conceptual model is that anglers, as a whole, could be more predictable than previously thought.”

In Nebraska, fishing has an annual economic impact of over one billion dollars, but keeping track of who is fishing where – and how often – is critical for preventing overexploitation of lakes and reservoirs.

The authors had expected that the yearly summertime fishing spike would draw in vacationing families who were willing to travel farther during summer – but were surprised to find that summer anglers were traveling from the same places as those who visited during spring and fall. The team also found that the pattern held true over the course of the whole four-year study period, with little year-to-year variation in the ZIP codes of angler parties’ home residences.

Kaemingk and his colleagues are not sure whether the lakes were being visited by the same anglers repeatedly, or by different groups from the same ZIP codes – say, families with school-aged children during the summer, and retirees from the same town during autumn. But, Kaemingk says, having a big-picture view of anglers’ traveling patterns can help natural resource agencies make more well-informed management decisions.

“Our previous research has also highlighted that where anglers reside on the landscape can be used to predict on-site behavior at the waterbody, such as harvest propensity,” Kaemingk said.

Changes in participation patterns at a given lake could lead to higher or lower rates of fish harvest over time. This means that data about angler behavior can empower natural resource managers to set regulations that optimize the ecological conditions of a lake as well as creating sustainable fishing experiences for anglers.

The study surveyed anglers at Branched Oak Lake, Calamus Reservoir, Harlan County Reservoir, Lake McConaughy, Merritt Reservoir, Pawnee Lake, and Sherman Reservoir.

December 2020
Nebraska Game and Parks partners with Platte Basin Timelapse project, others to boost wetland resources - With the help of a $280,000 matching grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, working with partners that include the Platte Basin Timelapse project housed at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln School of Natural Resources, will be able to modernize wetland conservation resources for educators and the public.

The three-year project is expected to result in a new online collection of educational materials, including a fifth-grade curriculum and activity book; Platte Basin Timelapse short films and multimedia stories; a public-consumption Guide to Nebraska Wetlands; and an online wetland ESRI StoryMap.

Game and Parks, Ducks Unlimited, and UNL are providing the matching funds for the project, expected to be completed in 2022.

“We want to tell the stories of the important aspects of wetlands,” said Ted LaGrange, Game and Parks wetlands program manager and lead on the project. “The benefits of wetlands are important to understand, as are the conservation actions being taken to sustain them.”

Communities benefit from wetlands in a variety of ways. They act as habitat for a diversity of fish, wildlife and plant species; offer recreational benefits to hunters, anglers and wildlife observers; and improve water quality, provide groundwater recharge, and reduce the effects of flooding.

“These are stories that need to be told no matter where a person lives: Wetlands — and the benefits they provide — are just as important to urban communities as they are to rural ones,” LaGrange said.

A team of producers from Platte Basin Timelapse started collecting those stories across the state in summer 2020. For the next year, they’ll continue to collect photos, time-lapse images, video and audio recordings, and interviews that will be woven into compelling stories about Nebraska’s wetlands, the role wetlands play in people’s lives and why wetlands need to be conserved.

“This is a tremendous opportunity for our team of storytellers, and I’m confident Nebraskans will be both surprised and take pride in the beauty, diversity and richness of our wetlands critical to life in the region, and value them in new and important ways,” said Michael Forsberg, Platte Basin Timelapse co-founder and prominent Nebraska conservation photographer.

The multimedia products will be used in educational curriculum focused on the science of wetlands. The lessons, to be developed by Game and Parks’ Fish and Wildlife Education Division, will be available online at outdoornebraska.gov.

Other partners on the education project include the Nebraska Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit and U.S. Geological Survey, and many other organizations, agencies, and schools.

To track the project, follow Game and Parks and the Platte Basin Timelapse on Instagram or Facebook and search by #nebraskawetlands. To learn more about Nebraska wetlands, visit outdoornebraska.gov/nebraskawetlands.

-Nebraska Game and Parks Commission

More details at: http://OutdoorNebraska.org/nebraskawetlands

November 2020
It’s a trap! Study finds effects of weather, time on wildlife sightings - Lincoln, Neb. —Welcome to Pocket Science: a glimpse at recent research from Husker scientists and engineers. For those who want to quickly learn the “What,” “So what” and “Now what” of Husker research.

What? Since the early 1900s, ecologists and conservationists have glimpsed wildlife via camera traps: temporary photo stations that capture evidence of whatever animals wander by. As a low-investment and unobtrusive technique, the camera trap has increasingly informed efforts to estimate the prevalence and geographic range of species, especially the elusive and endangered.

Researchers account for sources of error that threaten the validity of population estimates based on camera trap sightings, particularly error that might lead to underestimates of rare species. But little attention has been paid to how weather and elapsed time may affect those sightings.

So what? Madsen Using more than 5 million photos captured by skunk-scented camera traps across western Nebraska, Anastasia Madsen and colleagues compared coyote sightings with weather conditions — barometric pressure, wind speed, precipitation, temperature — when the photos were snapped. The team found that each condition correlated with the likelihood of capturing coyotes on camera. That likelihood also dropped precipitously, to nearly zero, after just 24 hours. Image provided by the Nebraska Canid Project / Nebraska Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit.

Now what? Factoring in seasonal trends and weather forecasts when placing camera traps could improve population estimates and the conservation plans drawn from them, the researchers said. Relocating scented camera traps sooner could also refine spatial models by expanding study ranges without sacrificing validity.
May 2020
Meeting Item Date
Nebraska Coordinating Committee Meeting - September 8, 2021. [Virtual] Hosting presentations by unit graduate students, faculty, and local collaborators. September 2021
Nebraska Coordinating Committee Meeting - September 22, 2020. The public portion of the Coordinating Committee Meeting was not held due to the pandemic. September 2020
Nebraska Coordinating Committee Meeting - September 17, 2019. The annual Nebraska Coordinating Committee Meeting was held at the Champions Club at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. September 2019
Nebraska Coordinating Committee Meeting - October 2, 2018. The annual Nebraska Coordinating Committee Meeting was held at the Champions Club at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. October 2018
Nebraska Coordinating Committee Meeting - October 3, 2017. The annual meeting of the Nebraska Unit and its Coordinating Committee. October 2017
Nebraska Coordinating Committee Meeting - October 4, 2016. The annual meeting of the Nebraska Unit and its Coordinating Committee. October 2016
Nebraska Coordinating Committee Meeting - October 13, 2015. The annual meeting of the Nebraska Unit and its Coordinating Committee. October 2015
Nebraska Coordinating Committee Meeting (10th Anniversary Celebration) - September 30, 2014. Annual meeting of the Nebraska Unit and 10th anniversary celebration. September 2014
Nebraska Coordinating Committee Meeting - September 24, 2013. The annual coordinating committee meeting of the Nebraska Cooperative Fish & Wildlife Research Unit. September 2013
Nebraska Coordinating Committe Meeting - September 20, 21012. Nebraska annual Coordinating Committee Meeting. September 2012
Nebraska Coordinating Committee Meeting - The annual Coordinating Committee Meeting of the Nebraska Cooperative Fish & Wildlife Research Unit was held in Lincoln, NE, Thursday, 10/6/2011 on the UNL East Campus.

Approximately 33 university and agency guests joined the Coop Unit scientists, staff and students to discuss unit progress and research programs. Presentations were given by nineteen students.
October 2011
Nebraska Coordinating Committee Meeting - The 2010 annual Coordinating Committee meeting was held November 2, 2010 at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln East Campus Union. November 2010