Date of Award:

2013

Document Type:

Dissertation

Degree Name:

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department:

Wildland Resources

Advisor/Chair:

Michael R. Conover

Abstract

I designed a suite of studies in coordination with Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (UDWR) to evaluate waterfowl use of the GSL in winter and ecological aspects associated with GSL use. These studies provided insight into key information gaps previously identified by UDWR regarding management of GSL resources. Population surveys indicated total duck abundance was low when GSL surface elevations were low and wetland resources diminished because of persistent drought in the system. Also, ducks appear to use hypersaline parts of GSL more when freshwater habitats are limited from either drought or ice conditions. Common goldeneye, northern shoveler, and green-winged teal exhibited the most use of hypersaline areas. Dietary evaluations indicated all three species feed on hypersaline invertebrates from GSL to meet energetic and nutritional needs in winter. Brine shrimp cysts were important foods for northern shoveler and green-winged teal. Fat levels of ducks are important determinants of survival and fitness. Fat reserves of goldeneye were generally lower in the winter when both GSL and wetland habitat resources were lower. Results suggest brine fly larvae productivity, freshwater habitat availability, and temperature and wind speed likely play a more prominent role in goldeneye fat reserves than osmoregulation. Also, common goldeneye and northern shoveler using the GSL apparently accumulated biologically concerning amounts of mercury and selenium during winter. However, further research is needed to evaluate the effect of these elements on GSL ducks.