Ross School - Senior Project 2008-09
Mentor: Greg Drossel
Title: A Cultural History of the Black Duck, Wetlands Conservation, and
SportsmenÕs Clubs on Long Island
I worked on my conjoined Senior Project with
fellow senior, Thomas Stelle. Our original plan was to do a scientific
study on the Black Duck (of which there has been a 60% declination rate in
recent years) to be conducted at Hubbard
in Flanders, specifically the area operated by
Ducks Unlimited. Due to time constraints (we would have had to do it in
February, after the hunting season), we decided to write a paper about the
situation and divide it into two parts, one to be done by Tom, and the other by
me. Tom is focusing on the actual scientific aspects of the Black Duck, as well
as speculating as to why the declination has occurred. I, on the other
hand, wrote a paper about the cultural, political and economical aspects of
sportsmenÕs clubs on Long Island, specifically about the Flanders Club, which
is located in Hubbard
and now run by Ducks Unlimited.
Ever since I was little, IÕve always loved
the outdoors. As long as I can remember my love for the outdoors has
manifested itself in a number of ways, from boy scouts to family campouts, to
just hanging out in the woods with friends. Now, as of last April, I had
no idea as to what I was going to do for my senior project. Then, one day
in late April, I was approached by Mr. Drossel who told me about a project
being conducted by Ducks Unlimited (a conservation organization that has
preserved over 12 million acres of land) called the black duck research
initiative. Mr. Drossel, after talking to Craig Kessler, a regional
director for Ducks Unlimited, proposed a joint senior project, between Thomas
Stelle and myself. It was to be the first-ever joint senior project in
the history of Ross
School. In recent
years, the American Black duck has declined by as much as 60% in traditional
wintering areas, and in order to combat this Ducks Unlimited has launched a
project called the Black Duck Research Initiative. The Black Duck Study,
as it came to be known, is being conducted in New Jersey,
New York, Virginia
The goal of the project is to determine, local habitat use, food supplies, and
migration habits The researchers, lead by Dr. John Coluccy attach GPS collars
on black duck hens in an attempt to track their movements and determine why
theyÕre going to where they are, instead of their traditional wintering
areas. Thus far, the general consensus is that the ducks are migrating to
more extreme locations (some as far north as Quebec,
and as far south as the Carolinas), mostly due
to habitat loss in the normal wintering areas. Initially, Tom and I
thought it would be awesome to be able to go out in the field and work with a
real scientific research team, trapping ducks, attaching the GPS collars, and
then tracking the ducksÕ movements. Unfortunately this was not possible.
Due to time constraints (the collars would have to be placed on the ducks after
the hunting season, in February, because it would be pointless to tag a duck,
only to have it get shot down the next day), it was decided that Tom and I
would have to do something a little less time consuming. At first, it was
suggested that we contact hunters and request esophagi samples, which we would
then collect and then analyze, in hopes of learning what the black ducks were
currently eating, then applying that to the Black Duck Study. We then
realized that this wasnÕt a feasible idea, mainly because we relied completely
on the hunters, which put the project at great risk. What we finally decided
on was a two part scientific paper, each section ten pages long; one of us
would handle the scientific aspects of the black duck (such as food habits,
migration chronology, etc.), and the other would focus on the cultural aspects
surrounding the black duck, mainly on sportsmenÕs clubs on Long Island,
specifically the Flanders club (which is where the black duck study is
currently being done) but a large amount would also focus on the other aspects
such as conservationism, governmental involvement and historical hunting.
We decided that Tom would take the scientific portion of the paper, and I would
take the cultural portion. Some of the challenges I faced throughout the
entire process was the issue of gathering information. This project was
unlike any other research paper I have ever done. Never before have I had
to use historians, or sort through an entire file cabinet at the Suffolk County
Historical Society. Some of the places I found my information were
extremely obscure, in the sense that, some of my sources were intended to
pertain to a subject wholly different from mine, yet I would still managed to
extrapolate at least a decent sized portion of useful information.
Another one of the challenges I faced was time management, better known as procrastination.
For the most part, I put off writing until the last minute, mainly because I
believed that I still didnÕt have enough information, when it reality I
did. Another problem I faced was finding the time to meet with my outside
consultants. Craig Kessler was in the middle of some family issues, and
John Coluccy lives in Michigan.
Luckily, Tom and I were able to meet with Mr. Kessler several times throughout
the course of the project, and Dr. Coluccy was kind enough to make time in his
schedule for us when he came out to Southampton
for a conference. One of the bigger challenges I faced was integrating my
paper with TomÕs. Because our papers were basically opposites, we had to
find several common grounds without infringing or repeating the others
work. Overall, I feel that I have learned a great deal, and not only
about writing a research paper, or even giving a speech. I have learned
about the plight of the black duck, as well as the vital importance that
wetlands play in our world, and just how necessary they are to the ecosystem.
In the future, while I do not plan to make a career out of wetlands
conservation, I will certainly always be a supporter, backer and activist, and
hopefully, a lifelong member of Ducks Unlimited.
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Community Member (Details)
Regional Director of Ducks Unlimited
(Conducts Ducks Unlimited operations on a day-to-day basis in Rhode
Island, Connecticut and Long Island)
Dr. John Coluccy
Regional biologist for Ducks Unlimited