Ducks Unlimited Canada
Institute for Wetland & Waterfowl Research
PO Box 1160
Stonewall, Manitoba, Canada
R0C 2Z0

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The purpose of the Bonnycastle Fellowship in Wetland and Waterfowl Biology is to assist in developing talented young professionals who are dedicated to furthering the conservation of wetlands and wildlife, and to advance the scientific understanding of waterfowl and wetland biology.

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Thomas Riecke is the current recipient of the Bonnycastle Fellowship in Wetland and Waterfowl Biology. He is completing his PhD at University of Nevada, Reno, studying how factors on the breeding grounds influence productivity of black brant, with a goal of improving population models used to manage this species.

Birds often make trade-offs during the breeding season in an attempt to maximize their lifetime breeding success, such as skipping nesting in one year to increase survival to the next. These trade-offs may be more prevalent in longer-lived species such as geese. However, the factors influencing their decisions require further study. For his PhD, Thomas is exploring this topic using data from a long-term study at the Tutakoke River Brant Colony in Alaska, which were collected across a range of population densities, predation pressures, climatic conditions, habitat conditions and individual ages and qualities. Specifically, his objectives are to examine:

  • The effects of an individual’s current and previous reproductive effort and experience on their future reproductive potential
  • How nest predation by foxes and gosling growth and pre-fledging survival influence future reproductive decisions by adults
  • The effects of nest density and predation on colony age distributions and reproductive potential

His research will assist managing brant populations by improving our understanding of why populations vary, compensatory mortality processes and long-term effects of predation on reproduction in waterfowl.

About the Fellowship

The competition is open to graduate students based at any North American university. It will be awarded based upon the following criteria:

  • The qualifications of the applicant; the scientific soundness of the student’s research proposal
  • Originality and creativity in study design
  • Expected contributions of the study to wetland or waterfowl ecology
  • The importance of the proposed research to conservation
  • Achievability of the work.

Applications from doctoral candidates are preferred, but strong Master’s candidates are also urged to apply.

The award of up to $17,000 per year (Canadian funds) is available to provide personal or research support for successful applicants. The reward is renewable for up to two additional years for PhD students and once for Master’s students, assuming annual approval of a satisfactory progress report and the need for continuing financial support.

For additional information on this fellowship, download the Graduate Fellowships Background document.


The Side-Effects of Stress

Arctic researchers link stress experienced during moult to mortality

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The Mallard Take-Over

Could the prevalence of mallard-like traits in today’s waterfowl go back thousands of years?

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Past Fellowship Winners

 2014-2015: David Iles, PhD. Effects of climate change on waterfowl phenology, trophic interactions, and demography, Utah State University

2014-2016: Jennifer Provencher, PhD. Assessing multiple stressors in northern waterfowl: parasites and pollution, why both may matter to conservation, Carleton University

2011-2013: Jane Harms, PhD. Dynamics of Disease: The origins and ecology of avian cholera in Northern Canada, University of Saskatchewan

2011: Philip Lavretsky, PhD. Genetic Introgression and Conservation of the North American Mallard Complex, Wright State University

2010: Nathan Senner, PhD. The impacts of global climate change on the annual cycle of long-distance migratory birds, Cornell University

2009-2010: Rian Dickson, MSc. Postbreeding ecology of White-winged Scoters (Melanitta fusca) and Surf Scoters (M. perspicillata) in western North America: wing moult chronology, body mass variation and foraging behaviour, Simon Fraser University

2008-2010: Mark Bidwell, PhD. Community structure and demography of waterbirds in southern boreal forests: Relationships with environmental and disturbance gradients, University of Saskatchewan

2006-2007: Daniel Coulton, PhD. Consequences of dispersal in yearling mallards: sources of immigrants and site familiarity benefits, University of Saskatchewan

2005: Christa MacNevin, MSc. Gap Analysis and Assessment of Important Breeding and Migratory Habitat for Shorebirds within Alberta’s Prairie Grassland, University of Calgary

2005: Cindy Swoboda, MSc. Breeding ecology and population dynamics of White-winged Scoters, University of Saskatchewan

2004-2005: Michael Anteau, PhD. Nutrient reserve dynamics of lesser scaup (aythya affinis) during spring migration in the Mississippi Flyway, Louisiana State University

2002: Pamela O, MSc. Effects of foraging by Brant, Canada and Lesser Snow Geese on thresholds of Festuca rubra, University of Toronto

2002-2003: Katherine Mehl (Drake), PhD. Brood Ecology and Population Dynamics of King Eiders, University of Saskatchewan

2001-2003: Nicola Koper, PhD. Effect of Habitat Management on Ducks and Songbirds, University of Alberta

2000: Bruce Friesen-Pankratz, PhD. Biotic and abiotic determinants of adsorption and degradation of agricultural pesticides in prairie wetlands, University of Manitoba

1996-1997: Diana Hamilton, PhD. The relationship between common eiders and the intertidal community in which they feed, University of Guelph

1996-1997: Scott Walter, PhD. Nesting ecology of Eastern Prairie Population (EPP) Canada geese, University of Wisconsin

1996: Mark Miller, Post Doctorate, Duck Population Monitoring Proposal, University of Guelph

1995: James Leafloor, PhD. Philopatry, geographic variation in body size, and the genetic structure of the southern James Bay population of Canada Geese, University of Wisconsin

1995: Greg Robertson, PhD. Winter philopatry, habitat choices and population biology of lesser snow geese, Pacific brant and harlequin ducks in the lower mainland of B.C., Simon Fraser University