Science-Based Conservation

Ducks and geese straight ahead!” Excited chatter on the headset interrupts the steady drone of the engine, as the small single-prop plane reaches the extensive wetlands at Grand Pass Conservation Area. Through the early morning haze, a virtual sea of birds—tens of thousands of waterfowl on their yearly migration—comes into view below.

For the next pass, the pilot banks and drops low. MDC Resource Scientist Andy Raedeke cranes his neck and begins counting the incredible moving mass of birds. The plane follows a grid flight pattern for half an hour. His final calculation: 70,000 mallards, 15,000 green-winged teal, 10,000 pintails, 4,000 gadwalls and widgeon, 1,000 coots, and 500 ring-necked ducks. Raedeke’s aerial counts help biologists learn how many waterfowl visit Missouri, when they migrate and where they stop to eat. The information helps set hunting seasons and lets wetland managers know how much habitat to provide.

Raedeke contributes to waterfowl conservation efforts not only in Missouri, but efforts that span from Canada to Mexico. He also helped write the 2012 North American Waterfowl Management Plan.

Rooted In Science

Raedeke and countless other Department resource scientists create the foundation of science and research that continue to advance the Department’s mission to conserve the state’s fish, forests and wildlife. Since the Department was founded in 1937, using science rather than politics to guide decisions has been at the heart of science-based conservation.

“One of the tenets of science-based conservation is using facts and data to assist in making wildlife management decisions,” says Dan Zekor, MDC research center unit chief. “Science served as the foundation for our conservation efforts 75 years ago, and that tradition continues.”

Most Missourians would assume this is ‘business as usual,’ but many other states “struggle to get their best information on the table for consideration,” says Zekor. “We are fortunate that good science and public input guide fish and wildlife management.”

Pioneer In Science-Based Conservation

The Conservation Commission, even in its infancy in the late 1930s, placed high value on the need for solid information to facilitate decision-making. The first Commissioners wrote, “Regarding research, the Commission recognizes that it cannot perform an intelligent job of enforcement, regulation or management without sound basic facts. Fact-finding and research are therefore essential before the Commission reaches any conclusions on important matters.”

Put simply, science and research provide the information needed to address a host of natural resource management issues. Many of the