“What more delightful avocation than to take a piece of land and by cautious experimentation to prove how it works. What more substantial service to conservation than to practice it on one’s own land?”
Aldo Leopold. Unpublished Manuscripts from Leopold Archives
Much of the research conducted on the Welder Wildlife Refuge is accomplished by graduate students through projects usually completed in 2-4 years. Foundation directors and staff conduct ongoing, long-term research on the Refuge. These longer-term projects focus on habitat management techniques and research on individual wildlife species and communities.
The Welder Wildlife Foundation’s graduate research program is focused on M.S. and Ph.D. research conducted in association with universities throughout the United States. The Foundation funds exemplary graduate students working on projects that address critical ecological and management questions. Rob Welder’s will directs that our focus be predominately on wildlife research conducted in land-use environments. Although we have funded projects throughout the United States, the majority of research supported by the Foundation currently occurs on the Welder Wildlife Refuge or in south Texas. Much of the research has been conducted on the interaction of wildlife, cattle grazing, and the effects of invasive brush and grass species. Our goal is to prioritize research on contemporary subjects of importance to landowners, wildlife, and land managers.
Apart from graduate student research projects, staff research over the years has encompassed work on individual species such as bobcats (Lynx rufus), Rio Grande turkeys (Meleagris gallapavo), and black-bellied whistling ducks (Dendrocygna autumnalis). Other research has focused on broader topics such as population demographics of breeding bird communities, impacts of rotational grazing patterns on wildlife, and predator-prey interactions. Vegetation surveys have been conducted on the Refuge since 1960. Ground and aerial white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) surveys were initiated in 1963. Surveys of rodents (Rodentia), eastern cottontail rabbits (Sylvilagus floridanus), javelina or collared peccary (Tayassu tajacu), and Rio Grande turkeys are conducted to maintain information on population trends. Graduate student studies conducted through the years have provided information on most of the wildlife species on the refuge.