From 2002-2006, I partnered with the Chelan County Public Utility District to lead an assessment of merganser habitat use on two hydroelectric reservoirs along the Columbia river. During two 5-month field seasons, myself and a crew of biologists conducted river surveys, foraging behaviour studies surrounding the dam and on the reaches, as well measured the efficacy of bird scaring wires in the spillway.
My dissertation research on the common merganser (Mergus merganser) addressed habitat use and diurnal patterns of behaviour. Mergansers are large, piscivorous ducks that occur throughout North America. Despite the name, relatively little is known about this species except as it relates to consumption of salmonids. In this research, I was interested in how habitats were selected by females during chick-rearing, if habitat quality was reflected by chick survival rates to fledging, and if habitat selection was spatially or temporally specific or constrained. This research was part of a 3-year project funded by the Chelan County Public Utility District in a grant to my PhD advisor, Dr. Julia Parrish.
The results of these research projects were published in University of Washington Technical Reports and presented at conferences in Canada and the USA. The results of these studies influenced the outcome of permitting for lethal control for avian predators at the dams and along the reaches; permits were not renewed in 2007.