Graduate student named Madison Audubon Society conservation scholar

January 22, 2014

The Madison Audubon Society has recognized University of Wisconsin-Madison graduate student Jackie Edmunds with a Conservation Scholars award, presenting the honor at a program on Jan. 21.

The Conservation Scholars program recognizes young people and educators who are making a difference in habitat protection and bird-related conservation. In addition to pursuing a master’s degree in Conservation Biology and Sustainable Development through the Nelson Institute, Edmunds serves as a wildlife rehabilitation coordinator at Four Lakes Wildlife Center.

Through her work rehabilitating animals, Edmunds noticed a glaring gap in the process: few rehabilitators are able to track the success of their patients post-release. Though banding is a popular method for tracking rehabilitated birds, simple bands often achieve less than one percent on returns and they risk error in individual sightings.

Edmunds has proposed a different solution: GPS tracking. Using red-tailed hawks as the pilot species, she hopes to raise funds for 10 GPS tracking units.

These units can accurately track each bird’s migration patterns and home range, calculate survival rates, and determine causes of mortality. Through this technology, the scientific community may better understand how rehabilitated birds adapt to their environments after release.

When asked why she is so passionate about bird research, Edmunds cites her late grandfather, Leon K. Edmunds, as one of her biggest inspirations and says she has dedicated her research in his memory. Leon taught himself to bird-watch while growing up in Madison and became an avid ornithologist while attending UW-Madison.

The Conservation Scholar award includes a small grant to be applied toward Edmunds’ raptor research.

In November, Olivia Sanderfoot, a UW-Madison junior majoring in biology, environmental studies and Spanish, was also named a Conservation Scholar, recognized for her studies of Willow Creek, a small creek on the UW-Madison campus that plays an integral role in the Lakeshore Nature Preserve and the ecological dynamics of Lake Mendota.