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Technical Background

Not long ago, the call of northern bobwhite (hereafter, bobwhite), bob-WHITE was as prevalent across its range in the USA as blossoming of a range of plant species in spring or leaves turning from summer greens to fall reds, yellows, pinks, purples, and oranges. But that is no longer the case. Bobwhite, a gamebird highly sought after by hunters has been declining across the nation since the 1960s. Number of factors have been associated with their decline (e.g., increased urbanization, changing predator dynamics, fire ants, etc.) among which anthropogenic influence on land use has been the most detrimental to bobwhite's populations. The replacement of open woodlands and savannas by dense forest, the conversion of native grasslands to pastures, and the intensification of agriculture have degraded and fragmented bobwhite habitats at a national scale.

This project is an effort to have a better understanding of distribution of bobwhite population and different environmental drivers associated with their population. The work will help in evaluating the effects of different land-cover management practices (e.g., prescribed fire, forage planting, and brush management) on bobwhite population across the USA. The project will also look into the influence of landscape composition and configuration on their population.

USDA’s Natural Resource Conservation Service has partnered with the University of Georgia, Quail Forever, and state agencies to conduct an extensive study across 25 states of the USA to assess the impacts of management practices on the northern bobwhite population. As part of this project, biologists will be collecting field data like bobwhite counts, and percentage cover of different cover types (grass, shrub, forb, etc.). Apart from these human-collected data, these biologists will also be using Acoustic Recording Units (ARUs) to collect data on bird calls.

Goals Include:

1. Estimate the spatial distribution (i.e., occupancy) of bobwhites using the Breeding Bird Survey, eBird dataset, agency surveys, and other datasets to identify priority landscapes for restoration (i.e., opportunity maps).

2. Estimate the effect of conservation actions on bobwhite occupancy and abundance using data collected from Quail Forever field staff. 

3. Using remote sensing data, identify working forests and pastureland that are opportunities for bobwhite conservation.

4. Develop a web app to provide a common platform to all biologists to upload their ARU data directly to amazon web servers.