Research to Recover Threatened Waterfowl: USGS Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit Supervisor Receives Prestigious U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Recovery Champion Award

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USGS scientist James “Barry” Grand, Ph.D., has been named a 2016 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Recovery Champion (Region 7) for his exemplary long-term research on two formerly threatened species, the spectacled eider and Alaska-breeding Steller’s eiders.

Dr. Barry Grand, USGS Cooperative Research Unit Supervisor
(Public domain.)

 

USGS scientist James “Barry” Grand, Ph.D., has been named a 2016 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Recovery Champion (Region 7) for his exemplary long-term research on two formerly threatened species, the spectacled eider and Alaska-breeding Steller’s eiders. Recovery is when an improvement in the status of a species improves to the point where regulators decide that listing is no longer appropriate under the Endangered Species Act.

Image: A Male Spectacled Eider in Alaska
A male spectacled eider following implantation of a satellite transmitter in the Colville River delta in June 2009. After breeding numbers of spectacled eiders, a large sea duck, declined by 96 percent at a primary breeding area in Alaska, the species was listed as threatened. Potential risks to eiders include being subjected to increased exposure during storms in winter, changes in foods because of declining ice, and warming temperatures in the Bering Sea.(Credit: Matt Sexson, USGS. Public domain.)

The USFWS noted that research by Grand, a USGS Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit supervisor and research wildlife biologist, was instrumental to efforts to recover these at-risk waterfowl species. In addition, they emphasized that his participation in the 2008 “rapid-prototyping” workshop at the National Conservation Training Center changed the direction of the USFWS recovery program for spectacled eider. The spectacled eider was listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act in 1993 and the Alaska population of Steller’s eider was listed as threatened in 1997.

“Barry Grand is a shining example of a trailblazer in the USGS Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit Program,” said John Organ, chief, USGS Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit.

For nearly 30 years, Grand’s research involved focused on demographic relationships and modeling bird populations. Beginning in 1991, Grand, then a scientist at the USGS Alaska Science Center, was the lead investigator on research efforts to better understand spectacled eider populations, as well as establishing, directing and leading field research on Alaska’s waterfowl populations.

Recently, Grand, as leader of the Alabama Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, co-authored three publications on research that significantly improved the management of these species. One of them, a 2016 monograph in the North American Fauna series, was the culmination of a dozen years of research in western Alaska, and provided new analyses and population models that influenced the management and future listing status of spectacled eider.  Additionally, the unexpected finding by Grand and his colleagues that lead exposure negatively affected adult female survival and local population numbers was essential to the management actions pursued by the USFWS for both waterfowl species.

A flock of Steller's Eiders in the Izembek Lagoon.  Isanotski Volcano in the background.
Steller's Eiders in Izembek Lagoon. Isanotski Volcano in background(Credit: Jeff Wasley, USGS. Public domain.)

In light of plans to begin reintroduction of Steller’s eiders in 2018, the USFWS tested techniques using surrogate species and evaluated the effectiveness of reintroduction sites. To meet recovery criteria, a viable population of Steller’s eiders must exist on the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta in Alaska, a region where the species has been considered locally extinct for several decades. Grand also worked on the team that developed frameworks for evaluating and monitoring disease risk, comparing sites for reintroduction and comparing reintroduction methods based on the likelihood of success and cost.

Grand was a key member of the spectacled and Steller’s Eider Recovery Team. The team reviews and recommends priorities for management actions, monitoring and research.  Earlier this year, the USFWS used results from Grand’s research on Steller’s eider populations in evaluating the listing status of the species. Grand and his team used survey data collected by USFWS and USGS for two sub-populations of the global population to examine whether the subpopulations have met the criteria for downlisting from threatened status.

Grand, who continues to conduct and publish research on waterfowl populations that are of national and international interest, was appointed as the Cooperative Research Unit supervisor of all Southern Units in December 2016. He holds a B.S. in forestry and wildlife from Louisiana State University School of Renewable Resources, an M.S. in wildlife management from Auburn University School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences, and a Ph.D. in wildlife management from Texas A&M University Wildlife and Fisheries Sciences.