Waterbird Responses to Iowa's Shallow Lakes Restoration Program


Principal Investigator:

Stephen Dinsmore

Student Investigator:

Rachel Vanausdall (M.S.)


Mark Gulick, Iowa Department of Natural Resources

Todd Bishop, Iowa Department of Natural Resources


August 2015 to December 2018

Funding Source(s):

Iowa Department of Natural Resources and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services

Goals and Objectives:

  • Monitor migratory and breeding waterbird use at active shallow lakes restoration projects (pre-restoration, drawdown stage, and 1-5 years post-restoration) in Iowa during each of the two field seasons (2016 and 2017).
  • Link waterbird responses to specific metrics of wetland condition and management actions to provide feedback in an adaptive resource management framework.
  • Relate timing, rate, and duration of drawdowns to vegetation response that affects breeding and migratory bird use.



A total of 30 hallow lakes were monitored in 2016, located within 12 Iowa counties. All surveys were conducted by Rachel Vanausdall and a summer technician. Migration surveys focused on waterbirds, such as shorebirds, waterfowl, wading birds, and other wetland-associated birds, using the wetlands. Passerines (Passeriformes) and raptors were not included in the surveys. Waterbirds were identified to species. Breeding bird surveys incorporated both waterbirds and other wetland associated birds, such as passerines, utilizing the wetland. Unlimited-distance point counts were used to measure the abundance of breeding birds. To better describe the vegetation community and assess potential food sources (e.g., submerged plants) for birds, line transects were used to survey vegetation at each site.


Future Plans:

We will complete a second year fieldwork in 2017. This will consist of weekly migration surveys at ~30 wetlands from mid-March through late May and then breeding bird point counts at all wetlands between late May and early July (2-3 visits per point), just as was done in 2016. We will also sample vegetation at each wetland in early summer. After fieldwork is complete we will begin data analyses and complete a M.S. thesis.

08/01/2015 to 12/31/2018