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Cooperative Wildlife Research Laboratory

Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research and Graduate Dean

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Dr. Mike Eichholz

Research Interests

Earlier in my career, my primary research interests were habitat selection and how it influences vital rates and the evolution of life history traits in waterfowl. As I pursued these research questions I realized factors other than habitat (e.g., predation and competition) influenced waterfowl habitat selection, and my primary research interests were in reality questions in community ecology. Since that realization, although my primary taxa of interest is still avifauna, I have extended my research activities to consider broader questions of community ecology by studying the influence of abiotic and biotic factors on community structure of multiple taxa at a variety of scales. As a researcher, I feel strongly that results of my research should advance our basic ecological understanding while having direct management applications. Or conversely, applied research should be based on sound ecological theory. Fortunately, questions in community ecology often allow for a strong link between basic and applied research. The goal of wildlife managers and conservation biologists is typically the management of vegetation (often termed habitat) in a way that is beneficial to an individual or suite of taxa. Thus, research needed to fill information gaps of wildlife managers and conservation biologist often leads to research on the development of wildlife communities across various vegetation communities at a variety of scales.

Research Projects

Foraging Behavior of Ducks during Spring Migration in the Wabash River Floodplain

Bottom-up effects of invertebrate productivity on the nesting and brood-rearing ecology of wood ducks

Duck behavior and distribution during spring migration

Testing the ideal free distribution of spring migratory waterfowl along the Wabash River, Illinois

The application of light-level geolocation for waterfowl ecology and management in North America

Currently, my students and I are studying avian community structure during 2 distinct components of the annual cycle, spring migration and breeding. One group is studying the influence of biotic and abiotic factors on the community structure of spring migratory birds by studying waterfowl community structure in riparian wetlands of the Wabash River drainage systems in Illinois and Indiana. In this study, to better understand how abiotic and biotic factors influence behavior and distribution of migratory birds, we are manipulating food availability on 0.4 ha plots among 3 habitat types (open wetlands, wetland dominated by emergent herbaceous vegetation, and wetland dominated by woody vegetation). On these plots, with the help of collaborators form the Illinois Natural History Survey, we monitor abundance and behavior of five species of ducks throughout the spring migratory period at 3 distinct scales.

Another group of my students is studying the biotic and abiotic influences on breeding community structure of avifauna by conducting studies of grassland nesting avifauna in the US and Canadian Prairies and cavity nesting avifauna in forested wetlands in Southern Illinois. In the prairies, our primary interest is whether local habitat characteristics or the regional pool of species have a greater influence on local richness and diversity. More specifically we are modifying vegetation communities to either to monotypic stands of vegetation commonly used to produce biofuel, species poor stands of exotic vegetation (commonly termed dense nesting cover and planted by wildlife managers for the production of ducks), and species rich native vegetation. We are strategically planning the establishment of these vegetation communities, allowing us to address questions on the influence of biotic and abiotic factors on the development of avifauna and mammalian communities. Results from some of our recent research in prairie grasslands indicates while local predator densities may impact avian community development, community structure of the local vegetation appears to play less of a role in developing avian community structure than the composition of the regional bird community.

Courses Taught