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University of Saskatchewan – DUC Endowed Chair

The Endowed Chair in Wetland and Waterfowl Conservation

A bold investment in science…students…and the pursuit of a sustainable world.

The Endowed Chair in Wetland and Waterfowl Conservation will provide generations of students with opportunities to pursue their passions in conservation while delivering research that addresses some of the most pressing environmental issues of our time.

The first of its kind in Canada, the chair will teach and mentor future scientists, conservationists, and wildlife managers studying at the University of Saskatchewan. The endowment will provide student support through graduate fellowships and undergraduate scholarships.

Meet the DUC Endowed Chair in Wetland and Waterfowl Conservation

Dr. Mitch Weegman, an avian ecologist, will teach and mentor students at the University of Saskatchewan.

Weegman was recruited from the University of Missouri, where he served as assistant professor of avian ecology in the School of Natural Resources. Weegman was chosen from a competitive pool of candidates from across North America and Europe because of his strong research record and passion for student mentorship.

“Saskatchewan, and more broadly the Canadian prairies and parklands, are legendary for wetlands and waterfowl. Even as a kid, I read about and dreamed of visiting these landscapes. Launching the chair is the honour of my lifetime and I’m looking forward to getting started.”

Dr. Weegman will assume his role as the DUC Endowed Chair in Wetland and Waterfowl Conservation at the University of Saskatchewan on July 1, 2021. Read the full announcement.

Read about ongoing research projects

Photo credit: University of Missouri

Dr. Mitch Weegman

Ensure there is a continuous cycle of research related to wetlands and waterfowl.

Provide students with the skills to become leaders in solving real-world environmental problems.

Contribute to the discovery of innovative land-use solutions in working landscapes.

Be part of cutting-edge science that addresses complex environmental issues involving energy, water, climate, agriculture and quality of life.

The time is now

Investing in conservation science is critical. Support the Ducks Unlimited Canada Endowment and leave a lasting legacy.

DUC

The University of Saskatchewan is the ideal institution for Canada’s endowed chair in wetland and waterfowl conservation.

Located in the heart of the Prairie Pothole Region, with easy access to the western boreal forest, it is situated in the most important landscapes for wetland and waterfowl conservation in North America.

DUC and the University of Saskatchewan also enjoy a long and productive partnership. More than 20 current or former DUC employees studied here—including DUC’s chief executive officer, Dr. Karla Guyn.

Read: New training ground for aspiring scientists
DUC’s CEO Karla Guyn is a proud University of Saskatchewan grad. She knows firsthand that focused education and training in conservation science can have an incredible impact.

Read about endowed chair ongoing research projects

 Ducks Unlimited Canada researchers in the field.
 Ducks Unlimited Canada researchers in the field. © DUC

Ongoing research projects 

Led by Dr. Mitch Weegman, the DUC Endowed Chair in Wetland and Waterfowl Conservation at the University of Saskatchewan is providing world-class training opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students, postdoctoral fellows and other research staff.  

The following research projects are tackling some of the greatest conservation challenges of today, including how wetland-dependent migratory birds such as waterfowl and shorebirds are adjusting to climate and land use change. 

Quantifying environmental drivers of the continental northern pintail population decline

A team of researchers from Environment and Climate Change Canada, Ducks Unlimited Canada, University of Minnesota and University of Missouri have studied pintail survival and productivity (the number of juveniles produced each year) to learn why the pintail population has declined over the last 20 years, counter to other dabbling duck populations.

The team is currently developing conservation scenarios to improve the pintail population, with region-specific goals in the Prairie Pothole Region, and detailed understanding of how land use and pond abundance during the breeding and non-breeding season influence the pintail population.

This research project is led by postdoctoral fellow Qing Zhao.

 

Northern pintaill hen with brood near wetland

Full annual cycle modeling of greater white-fronted goose movement and behaviour

A team of researchers from Texas A&M University-Kingsville, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries and University of Missouri have been deploying GPS-acceleration (behavioural) tracking devices on midcontinent greater white-fronted geese in North America and Greenland white-fronted geese in Europe.

The devices collect a GPS position every 15 minutes and a behavioural fix every six minutes. Data from these devices will provide rich information about goose decision-making throughout the annual cycle. With this information, we can prioritize periods in the year where conservation strategies will promote subsequent reproduction and survival.

The project is led by two PhD students, Alexander Schindler and Clay Walters, and postdoctoral fellow Amy Shipley.

Photo credit: Brendan Kelly

white-fronted goose

Comparing migration strategies of shorebirds across North America and South America

Shorebirds are an incredible group of migratory birds that are smaller than most waterfowl species, but often migrate much further. Take the Hudsonian godwit, for example. These birds breed in the Canadian Arctic, stopover in prairie Canada and winter in Chile.

Working with researchers at University of South Carolina, Texas A&M University-Kingsville, Universidad Austral de Chile and University of Missouri, we are deploying tracking devices on several shorebird species to understand how bird decisions about stopovers and refueling during migration can be explained by migration strategy. For example, the total migration distance for some species such as American avocet is 800 kilometres compared to 16,000 kilometres in other species such as Hudsonian godwit.

This work is led by a PhD student, Sarah Clements.

Photo credit: Mark MacMillan

Sandpipers and godwits and dowitchers

Estimating population dynamics of Atlantic brant in eastern North America

Atlantic brant are a small-bodied goose that breed in the eastern Canadian Arctic, stage along James Bay and winter along coastal New Jersey and New York. These birds have a fascinating annual cycle—from nesting among the most remote landscapes in the world to wintering in the most densely human populated landscapes in the world.

Working with researchers from Canadian Wildlife Service, New Jersey Division of Fish and Wildlife, New York Department of Environmental Conservation and University of Missouri, we are deploying colour leg bands inscribed with alphanumeric characters on brant to resight individuals throughout their lifespan. This information will help us understand how long the birds live and how many young they have throughout their lifetime. We also can link climate factors and land use change with survival and lifetime reproductive success to understand the extent to which these birds are adjusting their lives in the face of global change.

This work is led by Master’s student Frances DiDonato.

Two brant swimming

Quantifying movement and behavior of American black ducks and eastern mallards

Black ducks and eastern mallards co-occur throughout northern and central portions of the Atlantic Flyway, a region spanning eastern Canada south to Pennsylvania. Over the next four years, in partnership with the conservation community in the Atlantic Flyway, we will deploy more than 1000 tracking devices on black ducks and mallards to understand factors limiting reproductive success, which are believed to drive population size. The units are similar to those used for shorebirds and white-fronted geese.

This work will be led by two PhD students beginning at USask in late 2021.

American black duck, bathing.

Studying population dynamics of lesser snow geese and Ross’s geese in the Canadian Arctic

Collectively, lesser snow geese and Ross’s geese represent some of the largest populations in North America. These birds are colonial nesting, sometimes nesting in densities greater than one million birds over a small space of the Canadian Arctic. Working with researchers from Environment and Climate Change Canada, we have been studying snow goose and Ross’s goose survival, productivity and movements at one of the largest breeding colonies in the central Arctic. This information will help contextualize continental snow goose and Ross’s goose population patterns, as well as range shifts across the breeding range. 

Ross' goose close-up