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

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The purpose of the Waterfowl Research Foundation Fellowships is to develop critical scientific information about waterfowl and wetlands, contribute to the training of future waterfowl and wetland conservation professionals and honour the important role waterfowl hunters have played in supporting conservation throughout North America.

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One of the two winners of this fellowship is PhD candidate, Cory Highway, from Tennessee Technological University. His project investigates how the strategic addition of waterfowl rest areas affects the ecology and management of mallards during the non-breeding period.Public properties that are not used for hunting serve as refuges for migrating and wintering waterfowl. However, refuges may be too far apart and result in heavy concentrations of waterfowl. Cory will:

  • Work with private landowners to introduce 30–120 ha rest areas across western Tennessee to increase connectivity and potentially balance waterfowl distribution,
  • Deploy GPS transmitters on mallards to examine how rest area establishment changes how mallards use the landscape, and
  • Use autonomous recorders to count the number of gunshots and identify if implementation of rest areas changes hunter opportunities.

Cory’s research will provide a framework to understand whether strategic placement of waterfowl rest areas can benefit wintering waterfowl and waterfowl hunters.

Lauren McFarland

One of the two winners of this fellowship is Lauren McFarland, a PhD student at University of Texas El Paso for her research on the genetic and morphological consequences of hybridization between wild and game-farm mallards.

Hundreds of thousands of game-farm mallards have been released annually along the eastern seaboard of North America since the 1920s to provide a supplemental population of huntable mallards. Recent genetic work has demonstrated that these releases have resulted in extensive hybridization with North American wild mallards and it has been hypothesized that hybridization has introduced maladaptive traits that may partially explain declining mallard populations of eastern North America. Lauren will use the latest genomic and 3D-imaging technologies to examine the consequences of hybridization. She will:

  • Identify genomic regions that carry variation that arose through the artificial selective process that resulted in the game-farm mallard breed
  • Assess this genetic variation across hybrid ages to establish at which generation domestically-derived variation is lost, and thus a lineage is effectively wild
  • Explore morphological change in mallard bills using micro-CT scanning technology

Lauren’s research will shed light on the consequences of hybridization, producing information that can guide state and federal agencies in establishing management practices to reverse the impacts of game-farm releases and to educate hunters and the general public about the issues of this practice.


Supporting Young Scientists

New graduate fellowship will help shape the future of wetland conservation

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About the Fellowships

The Waterfowl Research Foundation Fellowships are open to graduate students enrolled at any North American university. Students must possess a current hunting or sportsman license issued by the appropriate regulatory authority. Subject matter for the student’s research can deal with any aspect of waterfowl or wetland biology that promises to advance conservation.

Fellowships will be awarded based upon:

  • The qualifications of the applicant, including the candidate’s past and present participation in waterfowl hunting
  • The scientific soundness of the student’s research proposal
  • Originality and creativity in study design
  • Expected contributions of the research to furthering waterfowl conservation
  • The achievability of the work.

Two awards of $12,000 per year (Canadian) are available to provide personal or research support for the successful applicant. The awards are renewable for up to two additional years for PhD students and once for Master’s students, assuming annual approval of a satisfactory progress report, continued possession of a valid hunting or sportsman licence and the need for continuing financial support.

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

Past Fellowship Winners

2021-2023: Rob Blenk, PhD. Development and application of an agent-based model as a novel approach to winter waterfowl survival and energetics, University of California Davis

2019-2020: Cynthia Anchor, MSc. Investigating the post-fledging movement and ecology of hatch-year mallards in the Dakotas, South Dakota State University

2018-2019: Joshua Brown, PhD. Long-term genetic effects of game-farm mallard releases on wild mallards in North America, University of Texas at El Paso.

2017: Clay Stroud, MSc. Relating diets and food availability to long-term population trends of Lesser Scaup wintering on Lake Pontchartrain, Louisiana, Louisiana State University