Wildlife Biology, Ecology and Management
Wildlife research conducted by Institute scientists focuses on gaining a better understanding of the ecological and biological needs of game, non-game, and threatened and endangered species which can be used by land managers to develop sound management practices. An understanding of wildlife needs is critical for policy makers and government leaders who make decisions regarding wildlife and habitat related issues. Dissemination of research conducted by the Institute may be used to aid in the development of future wildlife management plans, practices, and policies and provides the framework for conservation and bio-diversity assessments using an ecosystem-based management approach.
Game animals such as white-tailed deer, quail, javelina, ducks, geese, sandhill cranes, wild turkey, and doves are important wildlife species in south Texas. Institute scientists have made valuable contributions toward understanding their biology, ecology, and management. The Institute has two specialized research programs focusing on deer and quail.
◊ The Richard M. Kleberg, Jr. Center for Quail Research provides the umbrella for all quail research conducted at the Institute. With an experienced and multi-disciplinary science team, the Institute has become a leader in cutting edge quail research. Drs. Leonard Brennan and Fidel Hernandez have led the way with the South Texas Quail Research and Quail Associates Research Programs. The overarching goal of these programs is to develop a scientific basis for the sustainable management and harvest of wild quail populations by collecting sound data regarding bobwhite ecology, productivity, and management. Results of this research will provide land stewards with accurate information regarding management strategies and life history.
◊ The Deer Research Program began in the early 1980s under the leadership of Dr. Charles DeYoung with the primary focus of understanding deer ecology and evaluating and refining deer census methods. Currently, Drs. Timothy Fulbright, David Hewitt, and Randy DeYoung have molded together with Dr. Charles DeYoung to form a team and have expanded the program to encompass habitat, nutrition, reproduction, and genetic aspects of wild white-tailed deer. In 2004, the Stuart W. Stedman Chair in White-tailed Deer Research was etablished to provide leadership for the deer research program. Dr. Charles DeYoung served as the first Stedman Chair and has since passed the torch to Dr. David Hewitt. Results from this program will help deer enthusiasts gain a better understanding of deer ecology and increase the overall effectiveness of deer management in south Texas and related environments.
◊ Additional Research involving game animals at the Institute includes work done by Dr. Bart Ballard and Dr. William P. Kuvlesky, Jr. Dr. Ballard addresses research opportunities in the area of natural and man-made wetlands focusing efforts toward the biology, ecology, and management of waterfowl, including species such as mottled ducks, redheads, and pintails. Dr. Kuvlesky has focused research projects on several species of quail and the Rio Grande Wild Turkey.
Institute scientists are also pursuing research opportunities in the area of non-game wildlife such as wading birds, shorebirds, birds of prey, wild cats, and small mammals. Scientists also study threatened and endangered species such as the ocelot, Texas horned lizard, Attwater’s prairie chicken, whooping crane, ferruginous pygmy owl, and piping plovers. To date, the Institute has one specialized research program in this area focusing on wild cats.
◊ The Feline Research Program, created and directed by Dr. Michael Tewes and assisted by Dr. Lon Grassman, was formalized in 1986, although Dr. Tewes has been conducting wild cat research since 1981. Many populations of wild cats are now threatened with extinction because of recent human-induced pressures. Research conducted through this program focuses on the ecology, behavior, and genetics of wild cats, and its application toward the conservation of wild cats in south Texas and around the world. The information gathered through this research is important for providing knowledge essential for management and conservation decisions regarding wild cats.