Ross School - Senior Project 2008-09

Student: Thomas Stelle

Mentor: Greg Drossel

Title: North American Black Duck

For my Senior Project I worked with fellow senior True McDonald to conduct an environmental study on the decrease of the American Black Duck. We wrote a paper about the Black Duck and its distribution, habitat, and diet. We also included the history of parks on Long Island, and their effect on the island. Our study incorporated a portion about our observations and findings that will be the included in the more scientific part of the paper. The goal of our study was to find out what has caused this decrease in the Black Duck population. We want to get more people involved in this study, and eventually determine what has caused this decrease.



Final Paper

For my senior project I did a study on the North American Black Duck. Growing up on Long Island I have been surrounded by the ocean, bays, woods, and beautiful nature in general. It has truly turned me into an outdoorsmen and made my love for nature grow. Since a young age my father has taken me fishing, camping, hunting, and has advocated me to spend my time outside. Mentors like my father, Jack Knoll, and Mr.Drossel have been one of the reasons I have grown to love nature and decided to do a senior project based around it.

The basic Idea for my project was to do a scientific study on the decline of the Black duck population. We were going to trap black ducks and place Global Positioning Systems (GPS) on them in order to track their movements and migrations. Another component would be doing at least one other small project because of the extra time we had. The basic idea for our product would be a paper about our findings and observations.

The goals for my project were to acquire the skills to conduct an actual field study at Flanders Property, to observe the Black duck in its familiar environment, to attain the Natural History of the Black duck, and finally to conduct a project that would be beneficial to not only the black duck but also the wildlife in general.

Senior project started last spring when we started to brainstorm what we were going to be doing for the next 8 months. Originally I thought that I would continue my M-term, a project on Green Business and Production. This changed when Mr.Drossel approached True and I to do a nature-oriented project. We were granted the Flanders Nature Reserve and started to think about what we would do our project on. It came down to the reproduction and hatching of Striped Bass or the decrease in Black duck populations. It was obvious that the Black ducks were in more danger, so we decided it on them. At first we were going to observe and test the Black ducks in their familiar environments as well as trap Black ducks and place GPS transmitters on them. This soon changed because of the late of arrival of the ducks as well as the overlap with hunting season, which meant we could not trap the ducks. For our small project we decided that we would make a pamphlet asking hunters if they have taken or seen any Black ducks, to supply us with simple information. Also if they would be willing to help us more, send us the esophagus of the duck. We placed this pamphlet at stop points, handed it out but did not get any feedback. This was annoying because we worked so hard on it. We could tell that the project was transitioning from hands on scientific study to a paper. The final breakdown of the project was going to be that I would do the Natural History of the Black duck and True would do the cultural history of the Black duck and its impact on Long Island, as well as Sportsmen’s Clubs on Long Island.

The final subjects of the paper were Introduction/Distinguishing Characteristics, Cultural History: Water Fowling and Decoys, Distribution, Habitat, Diet, Migration, Vocalizations, Behavior, Reproduction, Lifespan and Diseases, and Conclusion.

During senior project I experienced many challenges. One being time management and procrastination. The time frame of this project was quite large and I hard to learn to manage this time in an efficient way, breaking the time into small periods. Another challenge was working with a fellow student on such a big project. We worked at different rates, had different schedules, and had to learn how to work with each other. It took time but we both got accustomed with working with and around each other’s schedules. The biggest challenge I encountered during this time was maintaining focus, motivation, and interest as project evolved from a field study to a scientific paper. This was definitely disheartening because we thought that we were going to be working in nature most of our time but ended up researching and writing. It took a little time but we both learned to appreciate the project for what it was.

I learned many skills and acquired a huge amount of information between last spring and this winter. Some of the skills were collecting quality hands-on information outside of the internet, understanding the natural history of the North American Black duck, creating and citing a formal paper, and maintaining motivation and drive to meet all deadlines. I found out that if I just looked past the Internet, and reached out to professors and professionals that I could find great, insightful information. Studying the Black duck for 8 months gave me a great understanding of the Black duck as a whole. I learned so much during my senior project and found out that I wanted to stay involved with this project. This spring we have the chance to do an internship, and I think that I will be working with Ducks Unlimited on the Flanders Nature Reserve if all goes well.

I would like to give a special thanks to Greg Drossel, Patty Lien, John Coluccy and Craig Kessler my outside consultants, Mom and Dad, Hugh McGuinness, Devon Parkes, and the Suffolk County Parks Department.

Works Cited

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Community Member (Details)

Craig Kessler- Regional director of Ducks Unlimited

John Coluccy- Manager of Conservation Planning and Head biologist of Black Duck research initiative.