Saturday, July 16, 2011

It takes a village...

Here's the latest update on the progress I have made during my first field season of my master's thesis project in Raptor Biology studying the Northern Goshawk. Previous posts in this series:

Northern Goshawk Adult. South Hills, Idaho.

No, I am not raising a child (reference to African proverb), but a thesis project is a large and challenging undertaking. My specific research has been supported in many ways by many individuals and organizations. I hesitate to list individually, as I am likely to omit an important contributor or two. I apologize in advance if I do. However, here are some of the contributors which helped make my first field season a success.

Financial Support

The Minidoka Ranger District of the Sawtooth National Forest is the primary financial supporter of this research. The Northern Goshawk is a local management indicator species and thus understanding the health of the population and filling in the picture of the goshawk's role in the ecosystem is critically important to them. In addition to the direct financial support, the forest service also provided a cabin within the study area, which was critical especially during the snowy portion of the season and access to important equipment such as an ATV, GPS units, call broadcast units, emergency radios, etc. Support also included GIS data and other coordination activities. This project could definitely not proceed without their support and commitment. Dena, Tom, Jill, Bonnie, Karen, Kirby, Amanda, the trail crew, the fire crew, the recreation crew, ... they all at one point or another crossed our path and helped with something. What a great organization!

Natural Research LTD awarded me the 2011 Mike Madder's Field Research Award! This competitive award provided additional funding which was used to purchase the digital nest cameras which are critical to my core research questions. I thank them for offering this award and their commitment to the advancement of science in Mike Madder's name.

Rob Miller & Karyn deKramer. I would like to be able to say that all project funding came from outside sources. Unfortunately, that is not the case. This project has faced many challenges requiring funds beyond the core budget. Our personal motorcycle also racked up over 1600 miles within the study area. I am grateful that we have been able to cover the required expenses and keep the project on track.  I especially thank Karyn for her willingness to share in our support.

Equipment and Support.

This project requires a significant amount of equipment: ATVs, trucks, nest cameras, batteries, GPSs, Rangefinders, climbing gear, etc.

Boise State University's Raptor Research Center provided logistical support, access to a truck and most of the equipment used by the program not provided by the forest service. In many cases they outlay-ed money to repair and replace dated equipment. Dr. Fuller, Kathy and Nikole are a pleasure to work with and have consistently exceeded my expectations in helping me as my project faced challenges.

The Idaho Bird Observatory initiated the discussions which led to this project and provided consultation, contracting, etc. Jay and Greg are a great team to work with and I admire their work to provide opportunities to students such as myself.

Inovus Solar donated a number of rechargable batteries which were used to power the remote nest cameras used in my study. This updated technology increased the feasibility of remote cameras and decreased travel time required in the field to replace them. They worked great!

Greg Kaltenecker not only dedicated his time in the field and the consulting mentioned above, but also contributed gasoline to the cause which helped keep the field crew moving from territory to territory. The study area consist of over 125,000 hectares. From our central location this includes a 20 to 25 mile radius. This is a lot of ground to cover with at least weekly visits to each of the 24 territories.


There were many volunteers through the season. First and foremost, Lauren, who worked long hard days from the beginning through the end. Nine weeks of hiking steep hills, through thick brush and inpenetrable ceanothus, snow, Belding's Ground Squirrel guts, and most importantly, putting up with me! I am forever indebted to her.

Others joined for days up to a week. Some left relieved their time was over, but most left wanting more. Karyn, Jay, Heidi, Dave, Carol, Cathy, Cristen, Uri, Kerry, Nicole, Jeri, Michelle, Dusty, Mike, and Grant, all spent time with Lauren and I in the field. Some provided training, some searched for goshawk nests, some found goshawks nests!, some helped with nest camera installation, etc. Many helped feed the crew as well. Wow, how to thank them all? How did I ever find such great friends?

But it didn't all happen in the field. Advice, perspective, and just listening when I needed to talk. My thesis committee, Jay, Marc, and Jen, all fielded questions via email, text message, and/or phone. I am sure they fear my name appearing on their caller ID! Other goshawk researchers also provided advice via email, some I have never met. Kristin, Susan, and Jack, to name a few, provided insight into how to search for nests, specifics on some of the areas within the South Hills, and in some cases just moral support. It was all appreciated.

I review this list of names and organizations in awe. How did I ever assemble such a team? How will I do it again next year? Some had never heard of a Northern Goshawk before seeing one in the field. They are great people who care deeply about our environment, it's conservation, and what it has to offer. I am honored to call each of them my friend, even the one's I have never met. Thank you!

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