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MSU graduate student honored for duck study

Kira Newcomb and Scott Bearden release female black ducks fitted with high frequency radio transmitters.
Mississippi State University graduate student Kira Newcomb, left and technician Scott Bearden release female black ducks fitted with very high frequency radio transmitters on Feb. 3, 2011, at the Duck River Unit of Tennessee National Wildlife Refuge in New Johnsonville, Tenn., as part of her research on the ducks’ declining population. (Submitted Photo)

MISSISSIPPI STATE – A Mississippi State University graduate student in the Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Aquaculture recently took second place in a competition at an international symposium.

Kira Newcomb won for the delivery of an oral presentation on black duck winter survival and habitat use at the sixth North American Duck Symposium and Workshop held Jan. 26-31 in Memphis, Tenn.

Since 2010, Newcomb’s research has focused on female black ducks in the Mississippi Flyway, and specifically on the Tennessee National Wildlife Refuge, an important wintering area for black ducks in the flyway. American black duck populations have been in decline since the 1950s, but the observed rate of decline has been much greater in the Mississippi Flyway than in the Atlantic Flyway.

Newcomb’s research will be used to guide future management and research on the refuge.

“This study will help us better understand how black ducks select habitats at one of the species’ most important wintering sites in the flyway,” said Brian Davis, assistant professor in MSU’s Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Aquaculture and researcher in MSU’s Forest and Wildlife Research Center. “Information from this study will help refuge managers identify the most beneficial resources for black ducks in these areas.”

Newcomb is working with Davis, Rick Kaminski of MSU’s Forest and Wildlife Research Center and Matt Gray of the University of Tennessee-Knoxville.

After she received her bachelor’s degree in biology from Centre College in Danville, Ky. Newcomb worked as a threatened and endangered species intern at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune in North Carolina. She was employed by Virginia Tech as a shorebird technician on a Wilson’s plover project and as a technician assisting red-cockaded woodpecker researchers at Camp Lejeune. In addition, she worked as a research specialist for the University of Tennessee on king rail and shorebird studies at the Tennessee National Wildlife Refuge.

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Released: March 6, 2013
Writer: Keri Collins Lewis
Contact: Dr. Brian Davis, (662) 325-4790

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