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Platte River Ecology Study

Major Contributors to the Report

The sandhill crane received the most attention in these investigations because of widespread concern for its well-being as a result of marked change in habitat conditions during recent decades in the Platte River Valley. The distribution and abundance of sandhill cranes were determined from aerial and ground surveys. Ed Ferguson, Flyway Biologist of the Office of Migratory Bird Management, developed a photographic census technique to estimate population size. Chuck Frith visually estimated number of cranes in the channel by 0.8 km (0.5 mile) segment during early morning aerial surveys, and Craig Faanes compiled the visual estimates made by a ground survey team to delineate crane diurnal distribution in the Platte River Valley. Home-range characteristics and habitat-use patterns of sandhill cranes were determined with the aid of radiotelemetry. Gary Krapu, Erik Fritzell, Wayne Norling, and Mia Hay participated in these investigations. Crane feeding ecology, fat deposition, and population energy requirements were studied by Ken Reinecke and Gary Krapu. Cheryl Boise collected data on cranes in Alaska.

Information on whooping crane use of the Platte River Valley was prepared by Kurt Johnson and is based on findings from his research supported through the Office of Endangered Species as part of a Master's degree program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Waterfowl investigations focused principally on studies of mallards and white-fronted geese. The research on winter and spring staging ecology of mallards was conducted by Dennis Jorde, a candidate for a Master of Science Degree at the University of North Dakota. Mia Hay and John Cochnar assisted in these investigations. Information on food habits and fat deposition in white-fronted geese were collected by Gary Krapu, Dennis Jorde, Ken Reinecke, and Riley Atkins.

Raptor investigations dealt principally with the distribution of wintering raptors in the Platte and North Platte River Valleys and the feeding ecology of bald eagles both studies were conducted by Gary Lingle. Craig Faanes conducted the studies on breeding birds. Wayne Norling assisted in both raptor and breeding bird research.

Research on vegetation, including development of a habitat classification system and studies of factors controlling establishment of woody vegetation, was conducted by Paul Currier, a doctoral candidate in plant ecology at Iowa State University, and Russell Kologiski. Dick Pillmore was responsible for interpretation and preparation of detailed maps depicting habitat conditions along each reach of the 203-mile river channel from Kingsley Dam to Chapman.

Gary Krapu served as project leader for the Platte River Ecology Study and supervised preparation of the Special Research Report. Doug Facey was employed under the Cooperative Ecological Internship Program between the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Institute of Ecology to help facilitate preparation of the Report. He also participated in research on roost-site selection by sandhill cranes and in development of a detailed inventory of habitat conditions on crane staging areas. Chuck Frith, in addition to participating in research, was stationed Grand Island and coordinated field research planning efforts between research team, landowners, and various other entities in Nebraska.

Mavis Meyer and Mia Hay prepared most of the drawings presented the Report. Mavis Meyer, Ray Thielman, and Gary Krapu developed the cover design for the Report.

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