Ross School - Senior Project 2008-09

Student: True McDonald

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 County Park 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 County Park, and now run by Ducks Unlimited.


Final Paper

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 and Ohio.   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.  

Works Cited

"Archaeological and Historical Perspective." Compo Suffolk County Historical Society. 7.

"The South Side Sportsmen's Club of Long Island." Ed. Richard P. Baldwin .

Comp Richard P. Baldwin. Patchogue, 17 February 1997.

Burnett, Kessler. Cobb's Island. 31 July 2000. December 2008<>.

Cobb, Gary. Old Flanders. East Hampton, November 2008.

Cotroneo, Nicole. "Virus to Cause Closing of Historic Hatchery." New York Times 10 October 2008.

County of Suffolk. "Hubbard County Park." Compo Lillian Fais. West Sayville:Department of Parks, Recreation and Conservation.

Dowling College. South Side Sportsmen's Club. 21 April 2008. December 2008. <http://www.dowli php/LISSHistorylSouthSideSportsmensClub>.

Ducks Unlimited. DU. 2008. December 2008 <>.

Fais, Lillian. ""Flanders Club"/Smithers Park Timeline." Compo Lillian Fais. West Sayville.

Field, Van. Old Time Duck Hunting on Long Island. 2008. November 2008. <http://longislandgenealogy.comlWireless/DuckHunting.htmI>.

Klausen, James. "Marshes Are the Start of the Food Chain." (1977): 1Times 10 October 2008.

Silver, Roy R. "Lake on L.I. Estate Plays Host to Thousands of Migrating Fowl."New York Times 12 October 1959: 1.

Smithers, Adele. Compo Lillian Fais. Mill Neck, 8 January 2008.

Stelle, Thomas. "American Black Duck (Anas Rubripes)." East Hampton: Ross School, 2008. 14.

Suffolk County Parks. "Hubbard County Park: Land of Transitions." West Sayville: Suffolk County Parks.

Sears Bellows County Park. 2008. December 2008. <

The Christopher D. Smithers Foundation Inc. R. Brinkley Smithers, Founder 1907-1994.23 December 2003. November 2008. <>.

The Flanders Club of Long Island. "Constitution of the Flanders Club of Long Island." Compo Lillian Fais. Flanders, 1918.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. FWS. 2008. December 2008.<

Community Member (Details)

Craig Kessler

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

From Ann Arbor Michigan