Luke Naylor received his MS in Ecology at UC Davis in 2002 with a thesis entitled, "Evaluating moist-soil seed production and management in Central Valley wetlands to determine habitat needs for waterfowl."
Luke is now the waterfowl program coordinator for the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission.
Luke's interest in waterfowl and wetlands started at a young age as he was introduced into the world of duck hunting in his home state of Kansas. His fascination with waterfowl and their habitats, particularly wintering habitats, grew quickly into a desire to pursue a career in waterfowl and wetland management. To learn more about wintering habitat management, Luke worked for 4 years with the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks on the McPherson Valley Wetlands wildlife area. A summer at Delta Waterfowl and Wetlands Research Station in Manitoba, Canada sparked an interest in wetland research. Luke came to UC Davis to pursue a Master’s degree that would combine his interests in waterfowl and wetland management and research.
Luke's research centered on an investigation of waterfowl food production in California wetlands. Over a decade ago, partners in the Central Valley Habitat Joint Venture established wetland restoration and enhancement objectives based on the daily energy needs of waterfowl and the estimated food production of moist-soil habitats. Knowing the amount of food produced in California wetlands is critical to planning for the habitat needs of wintering waterfowl.
During the fall and winter of 2000-2001, he sampled moist-soil seed availability in private and public wetlands in both the Sacramento and San Joaquin Valleys. To understand how waterfowl utilize wetland food, he collected samples during the entire wintering period, from the arrival of waterfowl in the fall to after the majority of waterfowl left the Central Valley. Results indicated that the amount of food available in California wetlands is less than previously thought, food availability varies greatly among sites, and a large portion of available seed is depleted during winter. This suggests that Central Valley wetlands may not be providing sufficient energy to meet the needs of target populations of waterfowl.
Although average moist-soil seed availability is lower than previously assumed, the high variability in production and the fact that some sites produced large amounts of seed suggests that wetland management activities may affect food production. With that in mind, he compared management actions such as timing and rate of drawdowns, summer irrigation, and disking to seed production. These comparisons would identify the most effective moist-soil management strategies in the Central Valley, enabling managers to make efficient use of limited resources to produce food necessary to support desired populations of wintering waterfowl. Cataloging this information will facilitate dissemination of information to a broad range of interested persons, particularly private-land managers who may not have ready access to the scientific literature.
Wetland managers need a simple method to monitor wetland food production on a large scale. This information is necessary to determine the carrying capacity of wetland habitats and to evaluate management efforts. With the Department of Fish and Game, he was developing a simple field method to quantify food production in wetlands. This technique will be useful to predict overall seed production within a wetland, offering managers a simple method to track temporal changes in food availability, estimate wetland carrying capacity and evaluate management actions.
Read more about Luke's moist-soil management project.