Wildlife benefits are determined by surveys of both specific species of interest and general indicator species, which include those that may be of no economic interest, but whose populations indicate a healthy habitat.
Initial baseline surveys were conducted on every plot, and subsequent surveys have followed. Developing each technique and protocol required collaboration with the respective wildlife experts. Examples of these sampling techniques and procedures are shown here.
Nest searches were conducted during the first two seasons of this project. Data collected from nest searches is used to identify and quantify bird species that use the prairies as nesting grounds and the success rate of those nests. In addition, trail cameras were set up to capture images of animals as they hunt or forage within the plots. Artificial nests were set up in front of the cameras to attempt to photograph predators such as coyotes or raccoons.
Catch-and-release Sherman traps a are set in a 7 X 7 grid in every plot with each trap 15 meters from one another. Trapping continues for four or five consecutive nights in the fall of late summer. Relative abundances of small mammals are compared between plots with different refuge shapes and sizes. By identifying the different species of small mammals we are able to observe the grassland ecosystem, the invertebrates and plant species.
Reptiles & amphibians
Reptile and amphibian population data is collected using pit-fall traps and funnel traps arranged around a fence array. Each array is made of aluminum flashing and extends with three legs. A pit-fall trap is buried at its center and at the end of each leg. Two funnel traps areattached to either side of each leg.
Avian data are collected in spring or early summer. Field technicians identify bird species visually or by audio as they walk transects, or specified paths, within the plots.