November 9, 2018
WATCH: McGraw Funds Research Using Drones
The McGraw Center for Conservation Leadership is providing seed capital for an innovative program using drones and thermal imaging to locate duck nesting sites in the Prairie Pothole Region of Canada. The technology holds huge potential for wildlife management in general and duck management in particular.

In this video, Delta Waterfowl Chief Scientist Frank Rohwer explains the research and how it is already changing concepts and understanding of waterfowl breeding.

Illinois Has
a Home Where Buffalo Roam
By Brian Kahn/Gizmodo
Photo by Bryan Jones/flickr
When white settlers first arrived, a large swath of the U.S. was blanketed in tallgrass prairie. But turmoil came to the landscape shortly thereafter, as those settlers mowed down the bountiful biodiversity to get at the fertile soil beneath. Of the 170 million acres of tallgrass prairie that existed, only four percent of it remains today, ghosts among the cornfields.

It wasn’t just delicate grasses and wildflowers that were wiped out. An estimated 30 million bison roamed the Lower 48 before an extermination campaign brought that number down to around 300 by 1884. The animals have since rebounded somewhat in the the forests of the West and plains of the South, but the remaining tallgrass prairies in more northerly latitudes like Illinois, Minnesota, and Indiana are largely devoid of the grass-munching, mud-wallowing ungulates.

That started to change four years ago, with the introduction of bison to Nachusa Grasslands, a 3,500-acre preserve just 100 miles west of Chicago managed by the Nature Conservancy. It’s the first conservation-oriented bison program east of the Mississippi and the results could inform prairie management around the country.

Africa’s National Parks Face Severe Threat: No Money
By Rachel Nuwer/The New York Times
Photo by Wild in Africa/flickr
As if illegal mining, logging and poaching weren’t bad enough, Africa’s national parks face another dire threat: They’re vastly underfunded.

According the most comprehensive analysis of conservation funding to date, 90 percent of nearly 300 protected areas on the continent face funding shortfalls. Together, the deficits total at least a billion dollars.

Failing to address this deficit  will result in severe and ongoing declines of such iconic species as lions , researchers warned in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Some parks will likely disappear altogether.

“The assumption is that parks are just fine because they’re designated as protected,” said Jennifer Miller, a senior scientist at Defenders of Wildlife, a conservation group, and co-author of the report. “But in many cases, they don’t have the resources to do conservation. They’re just paper parks.”

Bunker Mentality: Baitfish Netting Ruins Angler’s Hopes
By John Gans/TRCP
Photo by robposse/flickr
I look forward to fall fishing all year long. It is a little cooler, the days a little shorter, and the convergence of baitfish and predators feeds the fabled fall blitz and takes over my imagination. A few weeks ago, I headed out ready to fish the fall migration with coolers full, sandwiches made, and strong reports of striped bass, false albacore, and bluefish in the area. A Long Island Grand Slam was on our agenda.

We couldn’t get out there fast enough when we saw what every angler wants to see: birds dive-bombing the water above a huge pod of bunker. These Atlantic menhaden support pretty much every sportfish we care about. And they’re so critical to the ecosystem that anglers up and down the East Coast would like to see them managed with their value as a forage fish in mind.

Through binoculars, we saw an even larger flock of birds indicating some action in the distance, so we got the boat up on plane and gunned it to see what was going on. But we were not prepared to see a 200-foot purse seining boat vacuuming up millions of bunker.

Industrial Agriculture Causes Most Forest Loss
By Emma Bryce/Anthropocene
Photo by Benjamin Pender/flickr
Over the past decade-and-a-half, industrial agriculture has caused almost one-third of global forest loss–all of which is permanent, finds  a new  Science  paper . It’s the first study to weigh up the impacts of different forest loss drivers, and while its findings are sobering, they could also go a long towards increasing transparency in the supply chains of major global foods.

The new study relies on satellite data–which has become invaluable for watchdog groups and governments trying to visually map and track deforestation around the world. But what’s not usually reflected in these visual maps is precisely what’s causing the loss. Using a new analytical model the University of Arkansas-led researchers were able to bring in this new dimension, and to show that compared to all other causes, industrial agriculture and ranching was responsible for the largest portion of permanent forest loss between 2001 and 2015–27% of it, to be precise.

This far outstripped all other drivers of forest loss, like wildfires, commercial forestry, and urbanisation. In fact, urbanisation–another culprit behind permanent deforestation–surprisingly accounted for less than 1% of global loss.

“(I)n my search for symbols, I found no motif within the boundaries of the United States so distinctive as the American buffalo or bison.” 

- James Earle Fraser, designer of the Buffalo nickel
To read past McGraw Reports click here.