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Andrea Bowling
Michigan State University

I received a B.S. in Biology with a concentration in Ecology, Evolution and Conservation from the University of Texas at Austin. After completing my bachelor’s of science I served in a number of seasonal field technician positions from California to Florida and worked in ecosystems from deserts to freshwater wetlands. I enjoyed being a team member collecting data for graduate research projects, state wildlife management agencies, and non-governmental organizations. I appreciated helping to understand the ecology of species within ecosystems.

One field technician position led me to start my Master of Science (MS) project. As a technician for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Cooperative Research Unit and an MS student in the Department of Wildlife, Ecology and Conservation at the University of Florida, I participated in a long-term monitoring study of an endangered raptor species, the snail kite. I presented findings at conferences and have published my research in a peer reviewed publication. My graduate school experience exposed me not only to all sides of research, but also to the realities that wildlife agencies face in making decisions.

After completion of my MS degree, I took a position with U.S.G.S. conducting research on manatee population dynamics and movements. This position allowed me to build on the methodological techniques, and research and writing skills gained from graduate school. I also discovered that I wanted to get my Ph.D. I knew that to continue in research I needed to continue my education and hone my research skills.

Michigan State University is geared toward graduate education and quality research, and I am thrilled to be a part of such a great learning and research-oriented environment. I want to advance my career in research and make significant contributions to quality science that lead to well-informed natural resource management decisions. My interests include population ecology and landscape ecology of endangered species and game species. I believe that sound management decisions are made based on the framework of well-designed and instituted research. My long-term career goal lies in applied population ecology research which will help inform management decisions.

Andrea Bowling

Effects of spatial and temporal patterns of landscape and weather on wild turkey populations and harvest potential

Wild turkey (Meleagris gallopavo) management has shifted focus from restoration to sustainable harvest management. Populations appear to be reaching peak levels and are not likely to continue to grow. As hunter numbers and hunter skills increase, wildlife managers need to be better equipped to determine where and when wild turkey populations can accommodate greater hunting pressure, and where they cannot. We know that harvest, especially fall harvest, can influence wild turkey populations. Consequently, managers seek to ensure that harvest is done in a sustainable fashion.

Wild turkey populations have proliferated on agriculture-forest matrix landscapes because habitat conditions are highly suited to their needs. However, as a ground-nesting species, the abundance of wild turkey populations is highly variable in space and time. We know that abundance in the agriculture-forest matrix is related to land cover and land configuration. We also know that the variability in wild turkey populations is driven by weather. What we do not know is how habitat and weather interact to produce variation in wild turkey populations.

My research examines the interaction of habitat and weather to gain a more comprehensive understanding of factors that affect wild turkey population dynamics. To explore this interaction, I am analyzing wild turkey populations across a range of habitat and weather conditions from New York to Michigan to Iowa. I draw on harvest records and brood counts that provide greater than 30 years of data. These long-term data sets and the emergence of new statistical tools such as hierarchical Bayesian spatial analyses offer an excellent opportunity to improve forecasts of abundance in wild turkey populations. Such forecasting ability will help wildlife managers identify areas where land cover and weather combine to create conditions where harvest regulations can be more liberal and areas where harvest regulations need to be more conservative. The tangible product of this study will be maps of the regional potential to support different levels of harvest and closer tailoring of hunting regulations.

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