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K-State Today

March 25, 2011

A feather in the cap: Research that led to reintroduction of rare bird species earns best paper award

By Julie Fosberg

Research on a rare bird has earned a Kansas State University professor and one of his former graduate students a best paper award. The paper is based on a project that was successful in reintroducing a rare bird species to an Alaskan island.

"Demography of a Reintroduced Population of Evermann's Rock Ptarmigan in the Aleutian Islands" received the Edwards Prize as the best paper published in The Wilson Journal of Ornithology in 2010. The prestigious award was announced at a recent joint meeting of the Association of Field Ornithologists, Cooper Ornithological Society and the Wilson Ornithological Society in Kearney, Neb.

The lead author of the article, which appeared in the March 2010 issue of the journal, is Robb Kaler, a K-State graduate who earned his master's degree in biology in 2007. Co-authors include K-State's Brett Sandercock, associate professor of biology; Steve Ebbert, a wildlife biologist with the Alaska Maritime National Wildlife Refuge; and Clait Braun, a grouse expert.

Sandercock said the paper is based on Kaler's field project about the conservation biology of Evermann's rock ptarmigan, a rare subspecies of grouse found only in the western islands of the Aleutian archipelago of Alaska. The project's goal was to reintroduce the birds to an island where exotic predators has wiped out the local population.

Kaler and his research team spent summers in 2005 and 2006 living on remote Agattu Island to study ptarmigan demography. The translocation project was a success, and the rare bird now has breeding populations on Agattu and Attu islands.

During his project, Kaler also discovered breeding sites for one of the rarest seabirds in North America, the Kittlitz's murrelets. He is currently working as a seabird biologist, studying Kittlitz's murrelets for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The paper is available online at http://www.bioone.org/doi/full/10.1676/08-099.1.

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