Illinois researcher wins award

Congratulations Dr. Auriel M.V. Fournier, receipient of the BioOne Ambassador Award. This award recognizes early-career researchers who excel at communicating the importance and impact of their specialized research to the public.

Fournier is a quantitative wetland ecologist and ornithologist working on questions around wetland birds and wetland management as the Director of Forbes Biological Station, with the Illinois Natural History, Prairie Research Institute and University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. She completed her PhD with the Arkansas Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit at the University of Arkansas in 2017.

Her statement submitted for consideration of the award reads as follows:

Managing Public Wetlands for Multiple Wetland Birds

We have lost many of our wetlands globally, despite their importance for cleaning water, absorbing heavy rains, and providing habitat for plants and wildlife. Many remaining North American wetlands have been cut off from the natural patterns of flooding and drying by the leveeing of major rivers. These wetlands require active management to maintain healthy wetlands. Part of active management is the intentional flooding and drying to mimic natural floodplain patterns. The timing of drying and flooding is especially important to make sure habitat is wet when the animals need it, since habitat available after a migratory bird has left, doesn’t help that species.

Wetland managers often try to balance many needs, such as providing habitat for migratory birds and opportunities for humans to hunt or birdwatch. Meeting all these needs can be challenging, especially without complete information about the outcomes of different choices.

Conversations with wetland managers in Missouri, USA, led us to answer the question ‘How do two groups of wetland birds who migrate at different times respond when we flood wetlands earlier in autumn migration?’ We found that rails, who migrate earlier, use earlier flooded wetlands earlier more than wetlands which are dry during their migration. Ducks, who migrate later, had no difference between earlier or later flooded wetlands, as both had water during their later migration.

Being able to flood earlier to provide habitat for rails without a hurting ducks is a win-win for the birds, and the people who enjoy and wish to conserve them.

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