The purpose of the Bonnycastle Fellowship for Prairie Ecosystem Studies is to enhance the scientific understanding of prairie wetlands, associated habitats and wetland-dependent wildlife, and to contribute to the protection, restoration or wise use of this highly altered landscape.
This fellowship has been awarded to Samantha Fino, a PhD student at South Dakota State University for her work evaluating predator communities and duck nest survival in eastern South Dakota.
Grassland are an important but diminishing habitat for waterfowl. Samantha’s research will examine predator movements and duck nest success as related to characteristics of grassland patches. The goal is to help identify factors that lead to reduced predator use and higher nest success. Specifically, she will (1) quantify the influence of grassland composition and patch dynamics on predator communities, occupancy and use, as well as on nest site selection and survival of ducks, (2) quantify relationships between predator community dynamics and nest success, and (3) estimate vital rates of predators and nests. She will use a unique combination of radio-marked predators, camera traps, and surveys of predators and their prey. Results of this study will provide a better understanding of how grassland characteristics influence predators and will assist conservation agencies in developing habitat-patch-size recommendations that benefit waterfowl productivity.
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.
Past Fellowship Winners
2016-2017: Christine Rohal, PhD. Invasive Phragmites australis Management in Great Salt Lake Wetlands: Context Dependency and Scale Effects on Vegetation and Seed Banks, Utah State University
2014-2016: Hannah Specht, PhD. Occupancy of wetland dependent waterbirds in the Bakken Oil Field, North Dakota: Developing methods to assess impacts on low density, low detection species of concern, University of Minnesota
2011-2013: Lauren Bortolotti, PhD. The recovery of ecosystem function and biodiversity in restored prairie wetlands, University of Alberta
2006-2008: Ryan Fisher, PhD. Effect of landscape composition on habitat selection of grassland birds, University of Regina