Horned Lizard in eastern New Mexico

Songbird Research

Focus of Research


Golden-winged Warblers [Minnesota]

   Primary Investigators: Dr. David Andersen, Dr. Henry Streby and Sean Peterson

   Minnesota Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit

  -  Golden-winged warblers are an early successional forest bird and this project aimed to further understanding of breeding demography, nest site selection and fledgling survival.  To locate nests, we captured and fitted females with radio transmitters to track females to nests, and we also searched for nests opportunistically.  Nestlings were fitted with radio transmitters and tracked from fledgling through independence daily.  In 2012, I was crowned the nest searching champion, locating 23 nests opportunistically.


Trans-gulf Migratory Bird Survival - Swainson's Thrush, Wood Thrush, Gray Catbird and Ruby-throated Hummingbird [Alabama]

   Primary Investigators: Dr. Frank Barnwell and Dr. T.J. Zenzal

   The University of Southern Mississippi

  -  Many songbird species migrate across the Gulf of Mexico, yet very little is known about the the ecology of this phenomenon.  Using a set of automated telemetry towers, we captured and placed radio transmitters on four species of migratory songbirds, to calculate how long trans-gulf travel takes and to estimate survival.  Specifically, I assisted with operation of a long-term banding station on the Fort Morgan peninsula in southern Alabama and I attached radio transmitters to Swainson's thrush, wood thrush, gray catbird and ruby-throated hummingbirds.


Passerine building collisions during migration in Minneapolis/St. Paul [Minnesota]

   Primary Investigator: Dr. Bob Zink

   University of Minnesota - Twin Cities

  -  While pursuing my undergrad, I worked as a lab technician for a project monitoring the number and species composition of migratory songbird mortalities relating to building collisions.  Birds were collected from routes throughout downtown Minneapolis/St. Paul by a dedicated group of volunteers.


Upland Bird Research

Focus of Research


Lesser Prairie Chicken [New Mexico]

   Principle Investigators: Willard Heck, Jim Weaver and Dr. Charles Dixon

   Grasslands Charitable Foundation

  -  My first field job was part of a long-term study evaluating the role of restored grasslands and shin oak removal on lesser prairie chickens. Lesser prairie chicken have exhibited large population declines due to habitat degradation and are a candidate for listing under the endangered species act.  The ranches we worked with, restored native short-grass prairie and rotationally grazed cattle, consuming a sustainable amount (less than 30%) of available biomass.


Northern Bobwhite [Kentucky]

   Principle Investigators: Dr. Craig Harper, Dr. Doug Keiser, Jarred Brooke and David Peters

   University of Tennessee - Knoxville

  -  Northern bobwhite have exhibited huge population declines throughout the United States. Many natural resource agencies are attempt to determine what is causing the decline and find ways to reverse the negative trend.  This project focused on evaluating bobwhite use of restored vegetation patches on reclaimed coal mines.  During the winter I was on the project, bobwhite used shrub cover almost exclusively.  Note: I have been a huge fan of the singer John Prine for years and our study site was conveniently located on Peabody Wildlife Management area, which served as inspiration for his song Paradise.


Columbian Sharp-tailed Grouse [Idaho]

   Principle Investigators: Dr. Kerry Reese, Dr. Gifford Gillette and David Musil

   Idaho Department of Game and Fish

  -  Columbian sharp-tailed grouse live in similar areas as sage grouse in the western US and rely heavily on CRP land and sage-steppe environments.  With the large conversion of CRP grasslands to agricultural lands, biologists were interested in comparing sharp-tailed grouse productivity in CRP and sage-steppe environments.  We captured females and radio tracked individuals over a 30 mile by 10 mile study area!  We monitored nest and brood survival, evaluated an aerial infrared lek survey technique and evaluated micro-habitat selection using anemometer (wind variability) measurements.


Spruce Grouse [Minnesota]

   Principle Investigators: Dr. Mike Larson, Wes Bailey and Grethcen Mehmel

   Minnesota Department of Natural Resources - Forest Wildlife Research Unit

  -  Very little is known about spruce grouse distribution and densities throughout the lower 48 states.  Biologists are concerned with determining the affects of climate change on spruce grouse, as other boreal dependent such as moose, are in decline.  We found that spruce grouse are difficult to detect and are spatially distributed on habitat parameters, we do not fully understand.  Biologist Dr. Charlotte Ray has continued monitoring our initial study population, trying to develop a survey technique for spruce grouse.  Despite our low detectability, this remains one of my favorite position and I fell in love with the boreal forest.

Waterfowl Research

Focus of Research


American Blackduck Wintering Ecology [Tennessee]

   Principle Investigator: Dr. Brian Davis and Kira Newcomb

   Mississippi State University

  -  American blackducks abundance in the mississippi flyway has been declining due to competition and inbreeding with mallards.  This study was trying to determine habitat selection of blackducks and mallards on the wintering grounds, in an attempt to prevent blackduck-mallard cross breeding.  (Both mallards and blackducks pair on the wintering grounds and migrate north to breed.)  We captured and radio marked American blackducks and mallards, tracking them both diurnally and nocturnally.  We observed a complete shift in activity patterns and movement patterns after the hunting season concluded.


Canvasback and Redhead Banding [Tennessee]

   Tennessee National Wildlife Refuge

  -  While attempting to capture blackducks, we starting catching migratory canvasback and redhead ducks.  We received permission to band and I quickly became an experienced diving duck bander.  Diving duck feathers get very beat up over the winter and we had to sex and age based almost solely on plumage molt coloration.  And we even recaptured a drake readhead that was banded six years ago in central Canada.

Internships and Volunteering

Volunteering and Related Experience


Fish and Wildlife Service Internship [Arkansas]

   Cache River National Wildlife Refuge

  -  During an internship with the Fish and Wildlife Service, I became familiar with many different survey and management techniques used by biologists.  The majority of my time was spent surveying for American woodcock and conducting moist soil seed estimations.  In addition, I also did furbearer scent stations, waterfowl surveys, deer spotlights surveys, hunter check stations, general maintenance and timber sale marking.




  -  During my travels, I have gained some experience with small mammal trapping, frog and toad calling surveys and I have radio tracked bears, raccoons, box turtles and fish.  Additionally, I volunteer to teach a firearm safety class to help mentor and train the next generation of sportsmen and sportswomen.  I am a very strong advocate of introducing people to hunting, but currently I do not have access to hunting land and my mentorship has taken a hiatus.



Boy Scouts of America [Minnesota]

   Northern Star Council

  -  I was active in both a boy scout troop, a venture crew and earned my eagle scout rank when I was 16.  I shared my passion for camping and the outdoors by working as a camp counselor in the summer and a camp guide in the winter.  During my last few years, I worked in leadership roles as a camp director and an assistant camp director.  I was responsible for hiring 20 staff members, overseeing daily activities and developing programs for youth.  This was an amazing experience and I fell in love with teaching and outdoor education.

Alexander Fish

PhD Candidate

The University of Maine

5755 Nutting Hall

Orono, ME 04469



© 2020 by Alexander Fish

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