Greg Smith:  Well, good evening, everyone. Thank you all for coming out this evening.

My name is Greg Smith. I’m the Director of the USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, just a short drive around the beltway. 

There is no such thing as a short drive around the beltway. I know you live in Northern Virginia here, most of you, so you should know that already. I actually did work in this building so I can make those comments. But the Patuxent Wildlife Research Center is located in Laurel, Maryland. And it actually isn’t that far.

And I’m sure our speaker tonight will invite you, but as the director of Patuxent, I certainly invite you to our Center at your convenience.

So, thank you for coming tonight. I’d like to welcome you. And this lecture series—this evening lecture series here at USGS—is all about sharing with you the work of USGS scientists, the work that is meaningful in your day-to-day lives. And it’s about local to global; we cover the entire geographic spectrum.

Now, tonight, our speaker is Dr. Matthew Perry. Matt is an internationally renowned biologist and serves as my Senior Advisor at Patuxent and has worked for us for…

Matthew Perry: More than 40 years.

Greg Smith:  Matt has conducted numerous research projects mainly on water fowl and nutrition, Chesapeake Bay ecology and in the management restoration and creation of wildlife habitat.

His most recent researches dealt with nutritional studies of seaducks in Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic flyway and included work with both captive ducks and dive tanks that I think we’re going to see tonight. As well as satellite telemetry studies, a fascinating technology that we use in wildlife research. 

Matt has a Ph.D. from the University of Maryland and hold a Masters Degree from Virginia Polytechnic University.

So ladies and gentlemen, Matt Perry and the USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center: 75 Years of Wildlife Conservation Research. 

Thank you, Matt.



Matthew Perry:  Thanks, Greg. Thanks for the introduction. It's a pleasure to be here.

Tonight, I’m hoping I can give you a much better understanding of Patuxent Wildlife Research Center where I have spent few years.

And I think, first thing you need to realize, it's only been the last 15 years that we’ve been with the US Geological Survey. So a lot of the slides I’m going to show are going way back into its 75 years.

So, I want you to see the creation of it because it is so unique in the fact that it’s not just a building with a bunch of scientists in it. It’s a huge parcel of plant and had dealt with a lot of land research in the early years. And so I’m wanting, hopefully, have you get that concept early on in my talk.

So I'm going to talk a lot about creation of Patuxent, then get into some of our great findings that we had over the years and then finish up with some of the work we’re doing right now.

And I'll be happy to answer questions when I get through.

First of all, I want to go back in time a bit and think of what the country was like when the first Europeans came here. And a lot of the people that are learning about wildlife were people like John James Audubon and other naturalists who had really been paid by Europeans to come over here and find out what we have in this country. And I think one of the things that all the people thought originally was how much tremendous amount wildlife we have in this country.

Stewart L. Udall in his book "The Quiet Crisis" talked about the Myth of Super Abundance, suggests the fact that we have so much wildlife in this country that nobody really was concerned about. So we went for a long time in the early century of our country having this feeling that there’s so much wildlife. And in fact, somebody from the period, in the late 1800s, when we have what was called market hunting. The people were living off the land.


So when you think back of our early ancestors and the culture that we had, it was definitely living off the land. And some of that mentality is still in existence, actually, which is a lot different than some of the other cultures in the world. But we closely were associated in the 1800s with market hunting where people were killing wildlife and then selling them on the market.

And of course, there were some sport hunting that cause some problems especially with the passenger pigeon that became extinct because of market hunting and sport hunting combined. And of course, a lot of our waterfowl populations were greatly affected by these two things.

Migratory Bird Treaty Act in 1918 stopped all market hunting and the also put regulations on what birds could be harvested. And across to this day, we at Patuxent are very closely aligned with the Fish and Wildlife Service in setting regulations that allow hunters to kill certain species of birds.

So that’s some of the early history that we had. Well, when you think of the 1930s, when we were settled, on 1936, President Roosevelt signed the land that created Patuxent Research Refuge, an executive order. That’s why this year we’re celebrating our 75th anniversary.

When we first got the land, the only building we have is Snowden Hall. This is not the old picture, this is only about 20 years old when this picture was taken. It looked a lot more dilapidated back when we first got the land. That was the major building in Patuxent when the land was first gained.

It’s only 2,670 acres, and now up to 13,000 acres and I’ll mention a little more about that later.

But this was at a time when there was a great conservation movement going on in the whole country. Because the country came out of the Depression, we came out with the dust cold air, we had major drainage and a lot of wildlife on wetland areas and our populations had gone down substantially. So there was a major change going on in the country which allowed a lot of the things that we were doing at Patuxent to happen because there was tremendous support for it.


Patuxent is unique in the fact that it was an old slave plantation that the Snowdens had. So for many years, it had been operated as a slave plantation and when the administration proclamation came along, the Snowdens had to sell a lot of their land to maintain their lifestyle. And so when the government bought what is now Patuxent, there were many different parcels of the land. The Snowdens, at one time, owned the land all the way from Laurel, Maryland, all the way to Minneapolis. And that kept out over the years, so it was a big change. 

Anyway, the slave quarters had gotten destroyed when the government took it over. Now, there's community of 850 men in there and talking a lot more about slavery. There's a lot of interest in what the conditions were like back in those times. Unfortunately, we don’t have too much information or material from that period.

John Snowden was the last person that lived at the Snowden Manor. The Snowden Manor, by the way, was the small home in some of the Snowden estates that... and probably Maryland's couple of big names, Montpelier Mansions some other mansions that the Snowden family own. But he was the last resident of the Snowden family on our land. He died 1928.

So from 1928 to 1936, the land was in fairly disrepair  until the government bought it over, as part of the Resettlement Act trying to get farmers who were on peated soil to move up and get a new start on life.

One of the major people that was involve with getting Patuxent land established as a wildlife area was Ding Darling. Ding Darling was the first Chief of the Bureau of Biological Survey. Well, he was the chief, not first chief, but he was the Chief of Biological Survey under President Roosevelt. And he was a cartoonist in Iowa who was very interested in conservation.

And he really poked fun at the government, poked fun at a lot of people in his cartoons and that's what attracted him to Washington. He was a very enthusiastic person. He wanted us to have a research facility in Laurel, Maryland. He also established the Natural Wildlife Federation at that time. But you can see in the 1930s, there was a lot going on.

Well, he actually resigned and went back to Iowa before we were dedicated but his good friend and his assistant who took over when he left was Ira Gabrielson. And Ira became the Chief of the Biological Survey and then later, he became a director of the Fish and Wildlife Service and he was one of the founders of Patuxent Wildlife Research Center.


So we got our land in 1936 and one of the things that was interesting, the reasoning why this land, was because of the Patuxent River and the beautiful floodplain we have. We got flora and fauna in Mayapple which now you cannot see because of the deer population. When Patuxent was found, there was no deer whatsoever on our facility. So deer came in later. They ate a lot of the Mayapples.

But the other thing that was interesting was we had some monster trees. Some of the people thought this was actually a virgin forest. They've never been cut, certain parts of it. Because of the river being braided in certain areas, there was no way to get heavy equipment and cut the big trees.

The tree in the middle is an overcup oak. At the time when I first came to Patuxent, that was the largest tree in the United States of its specie. So we had several other national trees, ridges of trees. But this one fell down, unfortunately, shortly after I came so no longer standing. But I think we might still have a lot of overcup oak in Maryland.

Our first Superintendent was Dr. Morley from 1936 to 1948. He made his headquarters in a log cabin that's still standing in our facility that was built in the 1920s. So he was the Superintendent, wasn't considered a director, because we had a Director of Research that was working up in Washington. And so, Dr. Morley was really responsible for getting the grounds established and he was the one responsible for a lot of buildings that we had today.

So we got the land in 1936. It wasn't until 1939 that we got it dedicated. And that was a big affair because that was really the beginning of Patuxent. We had Ira Gabrielson. You see in the middle right there. That's Ira Gabrielson, and two scientists on both sides of him, and Senator Pittman and Senator Robertson, Congressman Robertson. And if you're familiar with the Pittman-Robertson Act which is an act that gives a lot of money to the states, those were the two people that established that. So they were both at our dedication ceremony.


And the person that gave the address was the Secretary of Agriculture because at that time we were within Agriculture. And that was Henry Wallace who gave the speech that day.

Ding Darling was not there, but like I said, Ira Gabrielson and Ding Darling were the people mainly responsible for the formation of Patuxent.

It's interesting to think of little of the history that was going on at this time. We were part of Agriculture, the US Department of Agriculture, the Biological Survey. But then in 1940, we got transferred to the Department of Interior. And so that's a major change that was taking place in the country at that time.

Before 1940, when we were in Agriculture, a lot of the people—people in Washington DC, but people throughout the country—look at wildlife as a problem to humans. After this change, when we went from Agriculture to Interior, people were becoming more aware of the problem humans were to wildlife.

So it was a major change that took place in our country in 1940. So we left Agriculture and all the wildlife research went over to the Department of Interior. And at that time, we were designated as a Fish and Wildlife Service. It wasn't until 1956 when it became a full-blown agency that's called the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

This is an early picture of a road leading into our area. You can see the map of Laurel on the left. Over the years, we got a lot of controversies with our different directors and different administrators in Washington and I suppose even in Reston on how the appearance of the facility should look. And so we've gone with people  who were thinking it should be just left for wildlife, while other people think it should be well-groomed.


During this period, the early years, the step into well-groomed, that they were keeping the mountain free of honeysuckle and other vines and it was an attractive place at that time.

These are three buildings that were first built in 1939, when we got our funds, after we got dedicated. This is Merriam Lab, Henshaw Lab, and Nelson Lab and these three buildings were built between 1939 and 1941 by the Works Progress Administration. So there was a big program going on to get people back to work, after the Depression, and they were working at Patuxent and they created three of our major buildings that were built during that period.

But the other thing that was taking place at that time was the fact that we had Conscientious Objectors to the World War II, after we got started with World War II. Then they actually worked at Patuxent; they built Snowden Pond. So this picture was taken in the mid-40s. So you can see we had a dirt road at that time going through our facility. But Snowden Pond had just been built by the Conscientious Objectors.

And they were stationed in Snowden Hall and also in Merriam Lab and they did work projects throughout our facility. And then there was also another camp that was over at Agriculture that were doing conservation projects because these people weren't part of the Public Services Program and opposed to fighting in World War II.

In 1956, we had our name changed and this becomes an interesting thing that's sort of confusing to a lot of people when they visit Patuxent Research Refuge, because we're also known as Patuxent Wildlife Research Center. And of course now that we're with USGS, we're USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center. The land area is still Patuxent Research Refuge and it always has been and always will be. So now, we got two agencies, we have USGS running the research program and Fish and Wildlife Service that runs the land program, the management program.


And the reason this is of interest is the fact the land itself that we do a lot of our research on is protected by Act of Congress. An interesting thing happened during the Reagan Administration when the government was looking at ways they could get rid of some of what they call "surplus" government land. And we were asked at Patuxent what land we would give up and some of the administrators came with certain parcels of land that we could give up.

Fortunately, a Congressman Pete Lawrence said, "Wait a sec, this is a refuge. Even though it's called Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, it's a refuge." Patuxent Research Refuge and we could not give up any land unless Congress voted on it. It was not an act to Executive Branch to deal with it, it's an act of Congress. So it's an interesting point in our history, 1956. So we still maintain the two names, Patuxent Research Refuge and Patuxent Wildlife Research Center.

And in all the years, we had a person that worked in Washington from 1924 until he came to Patuxent in 1940. That's Dr. Francis Uhler. He was well-known internationally and throughout the country for his work on snakes, for his work on food habits. He was involved in just about everything you can think of. He lived on the Research Center and he worked seven days a week and heavily involved in a lot projects.

I'll talk a little more about him. I first saw him and worked with him when I first came to Patuxent. And I heard some of the interesting stories, about some of the live snakes that were actually shipped through the mails and that didn't make the Postal Service too happy when they found out that they have live snakes.

Fran was also involved with fur research that was going on during World War II. Because of the fact that we have a lot of wildlife at Patuxent, and because that there were servicemen that were fighting in Northern areas that we haven’t flown in before and they were working up in the Arctic and then in northern areas of Alaska, they were looking for better insulated product properties. We don't think too much of that today. We like furs and some people like to wear furs but we got some artificial insulation these days that we don't think about that that much. But that was an important program that Patuxent was involved during World War II.


Fran was around 40 years old but he was one of the few people, few biologists, that wasn't drafted to fight the War at that time.

Couple of other big names that were involved in Patuxent in the early years were Chandler Robbins and Durward Allen. They were part of the farm game program that was testing different practices on the land that will be good for wildlife. And you can see them here with two different plants, Chan touching a burberry and Durward Allen is in the midst of highbush lespedeza.

So these were two good wildlife plants that they were experimenting in Patuxent. They were heavily involved with a lot of that was part of farm game program and were actually creating hedgerows and then testing which practices were best.

Lot of plants that you see now that are going exotic and invasive. They are exotic plants but a lot of these were foreign plants they were bringing in. They became invasive like autumn olives that you see alongside the roadside in the summer time. And beautiful smelling plant, some people have a lot of problems with it.

Even a multiflora rose and a lot of the other plants came in as beneficial plants that time but we now sometimes regret that we brought them in. But they're great wildlife plants except they're not the best for humans and we'd like to get rid of some of these.

The actual amount of hunting programs at Patuxent covers some of the quail there. Nowadays, you can't even find a quail at Patuxent. It was one of the mysteries of what happened. Habitat hasn't changed that much but a quail haven't been seen at Patuxent in many years. We got involved with quail surveys and people go out as volunteers. Just like we do now with rare bird survey and you can list the quail. Very rarely you'll find quail anymore. 


One of the things that buy interest about Patuxent is most of it was forest early on. So we're 90% forest and there were no natural wetlands. Two of the things they wanted to create at Patuxent were meadows and wetlands. And so, on the first thing, there were a lot of tree hubs that was going on. A lot of these trees were cut with some of the unique saws they had in that day, just coming up new chainsaws.

And then they didn't have bulldozers like we have nowadays. So they blew up a lot of Patuxent with dynamites. They actually had a dynamite shed where they actually store the dynamites.

And they plowed up the land, even lined it at that time. They were aware they had acid wetlands so they wanted to line. They lined the fields and then the line went in to the fields to decrease the pH.

They had animals, stock animals, mules and horses on the ground they use for agriculture and some knee hoe tractors that they used for harvesting the corn and the wheat, and that's all stored in the site.

We had a fur program going for a long time. This is a tranquilized fox that our scientist is inspecting and putting a tag in its ear. There are a lot of projects going on with mammals early on as part of our Farm Game Program in farm management.  And so we're looking at predators as well as some of the preys.

At that time, we didn't have a lot of traps and we actually were making our own traps and there's a handmade trap with a mink inside.

What's nice about the Patuxent River because it's so unique and it still is unique throughout the facility… And this is the Duvall Bridge which is a historic bridge that goes over the Patuxent River and now a part of the River on our property. And Duvall Bridge was named for Duvall family. It's a family going back to colonial base in that time. They did not parcel the land just like the Snowdens did at Patuxent and we're just now engaging species there.

But the area was very unique because of it being a floodplain so there's a lot of interest in the plants in that area. But the other thing that's unique about it, the only waterfowl species at that time that existed at Patuxent was the wood duck. The wood duck was a natural for the Patuxent River but no other waterfowl existed at Patuxent.


So, one of the first things that Patuxent got involved with was creating wetlands to attract more waterfowl. The country was so depleted with waterfowl because of the dust from all drainage of a lot of the wetlands. So they decided creating wetlands and made islands in the middle of some areas, hauled clay around for creating the dikes. They excavated certain wetlands and other ones they built up creeks to make up a ravine.
Then they made these artificial concrete structures for water level control. Quite unique in the days, we were leading the nation in some of these techniques and a lot states adapted a lot of the techniques that we worked out in Patuxent in the early days.

The man on the right is Frank McGilvray, was one of the brilliant biologists we had in the 60s and 70s. He still works at Patuxent as a volunteer. Very active in the waterfowl program we had at Patuxent.

This is what a finished impoundment looks like. This is one that created the dike. So the clay was laid down first and Patuxent River gravel was laid down on top of that and then the sides were vegetated. And this is what some of the wetlands had look like when they were first created.

And of course, once you have created these wetlands, then you got to invite bureaucrats in Washington out. This is Gustav Swanson, who is Chief of Research at that time and it’s interesting that the Administrator from Washington is, dressed in field coat, the director of Patuxent, Arnold Nelson. It was super tight because the boss was coming up.

Arnold Nelson used to work in Washington. He was the one that was Head of Research when Dr. Morley was superintendent of the Refuge. But then he became our Director from 1948 to 1959 and was involved with a lot of our early programs, with the creation of wetlands.

This is what under the areas looked like – the Knowles Marsh Complex and Narrow Pond from the air. Then these are the Uhler Marshes. They were originally called Island Marshes for obvious reasons and what he was doing is he was studying the design of islands in these marshes.


The new islands were important because of the fact that if you create an island, just like a lot of natural islands that exist in areas in the prairies of the United States and Canada, birds prefer the islands because there's less predators, fewer predators in those areas.  So the fox don't like to go to islands. So typically, ducks and geese will nest the islands.

And then we thought, if you created a different design, you might attract more. So they had these star design which had four peninsulas compared to the oval one that had just two and then we create more territories so you had more dense bird populations in those area.

Fran Uhler was heavily involved with introducing a lot of the plants that became part of our area. He was always interested in planting wild celery but fortunately, I was helping in this day when he put it out. Never took at Patuxent; it's a plant that exist more in freshwater areas of estuary systems. So Chesapeake Bay has a lot of wild celery, runs into freshwater areas that might be at Patuxent soil sometimes a year but we didn't grow it in Patuxent.

But what did grow in Patuxent, luxuriantly, was wild rice. And wild rice was very common further down the river. Where we were, up in that wooded areas, we didn't have wild rice naturally. He brought it in. You can see he's standing in hues of wild rice and he was responsible for that. Unfortunately, we lost that rice population. I'll talk to you more about that later. It was another project we had going on.

We were heavily involved with creating wood duck boxes. And originally, we used the Bellrose design which should come out of the Illinois from Frank Bellrose. We’re trying to keep raccoons out of these boxes.

So Clark Webster came up with an interesting idea. He got a pet raccoon, kept it in a cage and then he used different techniques to keep the raccoon out of the box. So he actually initially fed the raccoon inside the box but then he put various predator guards on the boxes like you see in this situation here and to see if the raccoon would get in. 


So these were predator guards. We had great advances since these early days because essentially if you kept a raccoon out, it was so often that there weren't many birds that escaped. So this predator guards are only, they look good at first, they didn't really work out that well. And we had since other guards that worked a lot better.

But Franklin Hillbury was also involved in an interesting program of imprinting birds on artificial nest structures. The only birds that time that were in artificial nest boxes were wood ducks. And what we wanted to do was to get other species use boxes because if we could get them off the ground, we get them elevated, then we could get them better protection from the predators. Raccoons and these predators are at our facility but there are a lot of other predators like mink and other mammals and also some avian predators that were causing problems with waterfowls.

So we decided to build up a population of waterfowl in the area. He had gotten concerned about some of the predations going on in that area.

This is one of the boxes on the spot that were surrounding the wetland. And then this is another box on the right where Frank McGilvray was working on. And you got a tape around there because this was considered a starling deterrent box. It had a diamond shaped opening. So the opening was small enough to allow the wood duck to go in and out, would not allow a raccoon go in because it's small enough to keep the raccoon out but it also deters starlings.

The starlings were major problem and they still are on wood duck boxes. Because they take over a box, they'll peck on the duck eggs, destroy the eggs and sometimes, they'll actually put a nest on top of the eggs of the wood ducks.

So I mentioned impoundment management program but the other thing that goes along the impoundment management program was the moist soil management. If we drain the wetlands in the spring, we figured around June 16th was the best time to drain the wetlands after the young ducklings had hatched and were going on their own feeding in other areas.


We could create excellent wetland conditions for the migrating birds in the fall because we still had a lot of birds. Even though we had a resident population worked off, we had migrants that were coming in every year.

We web tagged some of the early birds. This is a wood duck. It has little web tag so we can identify it later, put a band on it.

Then, we also did some of the early telemetry projects on the center. And some of you would remember the old compendium. Remember that spring that we had at the government presence. That spring became a very useful thing in our early transmitters. We actually built its way to Patuxent before the days when we had so many contractors who were actually after our business.

This is the last nest box that Fran Uhler put up in the early 1980s and it was a horizontal box that was built so it could be used by wood ducks, mallards and black ducks. So, it was a big breakthrough to get three species of ducks using an elevated nest box like this.

The first Canada goose came to Patuxent in 1948. It came from Blackwater. We brought them in, clipped their wings and then the problems. Apart from that as a lot of you know, moved over here in Virginia to cross country. At that time, there was a lot of pressure from hunting groups to increase the population of Canada geese.

We knew what we were doing at that time but we didn't know the longer term ramifications. Because as suburbanization took place in the area, more golf courses and other things like this, we started having more problems with what we call our resident geese and it's still a problem with the geese. Tremendous population of resident geese and just recently, we had another plane hit a bird and there's planes in New York that have hit bird.

So it's a big problem for our aircrafts. It's a problem for golf course and golf courses and a problem to some of the suburban areas. And so,  the resident geese had not been as popular as they were originally but we had a lot of research that was done on. So good compromise, history was tied up with making neck-to-neck promises for these birds and then we could monitor their movements and all. We got some interesting papers on this.


But one interesting thing was when Dr. Stickel became Director and I'll talk more about her in a little while. She found out that heat were identifying our birds because they had new powders on them. So it's pretty easy to… Somebody had called up the golf course to say, "Come get your birds." He said, "They had net powders on." So she asked us to stop putting net powders on the birds.

Here's a goose on this, just getting ready to hatch and here's the female that was crawling the young ones into the water. And one of the things we did with the geese, we knew exactly when they want to hatch. We put a wire around the nest. The female would fly in and incubate but then in the morning, we'd go there, we'd catch all of the young gooselings and put a web tag on. Then if we caught them in the future, we'd know exactly what nest they came from, we can put a band on. That's called web tag.

This is what a typical brood looks like. You're all familiar with this, a gooseling following a gander and the goose. The gander having the longer neck, the bigger bird, is usually closer to the danger. So you can easily see that the male is closer to the danger. Usually, the female's carry them through the legs.

One of the things we have at Patuxent, you've probably seen it around in all suburban areas, is what's called the gang brood. Doesn't occur too often in the wild, it does occur in a population when you have a resident group of birds very closely to each other. Ducklings seldom been mixed up in a different broods but geese for some  reason do get mix up if there's a loud noise, back fire from a car or something. All the geese or the gooselings will scatter and go to the closest goose.

And so, sometimes you can have a whole brood go to the wrong parents and the right parents walk away. They don't even know what happened, they lost their gooselings, and so you got this gang brood built up. And sometimes, there's been as many as 40 in the brood. Not a very successful situation when it happens. We had a goose roundup, so we catch them and band them every year. We're still doing some of that at Patuxent with a lot of volunteers.


When an impound has got too much vegetation like this picture shows with water lily and water-shield, they had too dense of vegetation, it's not good for the wildlife. So we had what's called a drawdown. This is an impoundment drawdown and we worked out the schedule that now is used not only just throughout North America and also on a lot of estate areas. It's a bigger program that we're involved in.

Once the water is being drawn down, a lot of shore birds and wading birds benefit by the wildlife, while the fishing birds are exposed. But then in the summer time, we had this tremendous growth of plants. This is the umbrella sedge, a cyperus that grows in great abundance. We also got smartweeds that grow in abundance. And then we flood it in fall. It's attractive to a lot of waterfowl that's migrating to our area. They have tremendous amount of food.

We did a lot of botanical studies and Dr. Neil Hutchkins was in our province for many years, wrote many papers on the plants at Patuxent but then also plants throughout North America.

We had a huge herbarium at one time that we recently transferred to Smithsonian and we just recently sent some to the herbarium in Delaware. So we've been finally cutting back on some of our collections that we don't do as much potential work as we did in the old days.

This is a picture frame. Uhler on the left had been on a big study on snapping turtles because a lot of people are concerned that snapping turtles were eating too many of the ducks and the gooselings. But the study show that there were pretty small amount of predation that was going on by snapping turtles.

We had a lot more going on with black snake in the middle which is over eggs. And then, Bill Stickel on the right did a big study on black snakes at Patuxent. We had a good number of them.

In the 1960s, Bill Stickel was involved with the powerlines. PEPCO came to us. They wanted to put a powerline through our land. There's a lot of resistance to it because typically power companies use aerial spraying to maintain their vegetation. We were opposed to that.


Bill Stickel ran a campaign, convinced PEPCO that if they're going to put that powerline on our property, they had to use a different management technique. So they came up with a program that was called selective basal spraying. Instead of spraying an aerial spray which we thought could be a problem to a lot of our captive birds. And to get... the power company had to go in and spray individual trees that will grow up to be a problem to the powerlines causing arcing which we sometimes have a problems. The trees get too hot.

So every five years, the power company hires    contractors to come in and they only kill the trees that grow to be tall, poplars and the maples and the other ones. They leave all the brushes and small trees like the holly and the dogwoods and all the berries that are very beneficial to wildlife.  So that was a big program that we had and still maintain that program at Patuxent.

One of our other big programs was a bird problem program that we had. We dealt with problem birds like blackbirds and crackles that cause problems throughout the country. This was with our program for a long time. During the Reagan Administration it was transferred to Agriculture because it come from originally because agriculture back in the old survey days was involved in a lot of farming wildlife species.

So during the Reagan administration, they thought it would be good to put it back into agriculture and they can deal more directly with the agricultural problems. So you have a lot of blackbirds that were killed in huge numbers, thousands at a time, that were posing problems in agricultural areas.

And that program, it was a very big program at Patuxent and people like Brooke Meanley and other people who were heavily involved with banding birds and catching birds in decoy traps that someone... And the whole program went to Agriculture back in early 1980s.

This is the first beaver lodge we had. I mentioned that there were no deer in Patuxent area. There was also no beaver. It's hard to imagine now. We have so many deer and beaver and there were none when the area was first build.


This lodge was found in 1974. I remember the date well because it was pretty exciting. Everybody said, "We have beaver." And nobody ever thought we had it and later on we learned about some of the problems.

Hope there's no safety people in the audience. That's not the safest thing these two guys were doing. But they were trying to get rid of the vegetation that the beaver clogged up with the dam here to get the water flowing and again.

We had a lot of fish created on our area and we had stock other areas without fish population but then we also had a fishing program open to the public. We had some huge large amount of bass there.

We were heavily involved with Chesapeake Bay work in the early 40s and 50s. And then picture on the left was Bob Stewart who did a huge study in Chesapeake Bay. This is Bob Stewart, Sr. Some of you might know Bob Stewart, Jr who's been with US Geological Survey for many years. But this is his father who was heavily involved with waterfowl studies in Chesapeake Bay as a Patuxent scientist before he finally transferred up to Northern Prairie.

And Francis Uhler was the person that's doing a lot of food habits work tied in with the food availability studies that Bob Stewart was working on. So both of these people worked very closely together in the 50s and the 60s.

And then in the 1970s, Fran was heavily involved with a big study we did on the food habits of canvasbacks. At that time, Rogers C. B. Morton was Secretary of the Interior. We always kid him whether his middle initial C.B. was for Chesapeake Bay or maybe it's for canvasback. It was a big joke that we had at Patuxent. But he was very interested in canvasbacks and he gave us a big amount of money at that time, $200,000. We thought we were walking on air with that kind of money. That was big bucks at that time.


So we did a big study with canvasbacks in the 70s and it's always been a specie… Because it's so significant in Chesapeake Bay, it's a specie that we've been involved with quite a bit over the years.

We used to have a disease program at Patuxent and that was eventually transferred to Madison, Wisconsin where they are now. But at that time, we were actually raising sheep to get blood from them as part of cultures that they weren't creating in Patuxent, making their own cultures.

1959 to 1963, Dr. Buckley who was a  director of Patuxent was on the left. He was talking here with man named Herb Dome who was head of Dowe Chemical Company. We were heavily involved with studies on chemicals early on.

In the 1940s the work started by Stickels go back to the World War II era when we were working with DDT but it went on for many years, and started increasing a lot in the lot in the late 50s and 60s. We had a lot of pesticides studies going on. We never had the attitude that all chemicals were bad. We were looking at which chemicals were bad for wildlife. We're trying to be objective in our studies.

And so, it was interesting when I first came to Patuxent that we had people from the industry who were coming to Patuxent. I mean, one day, a whole bunch of executives from DuPont came down and we had a photo op with them with some of our peoples and all. They gave us $50,000. I thought that was pretty measly for the fact that there were so many executives they had sent down in three-piece suits and limousines and I thought we should have gotten a little more money.

But that was the association that we had at that time with some of the chemical companies. Of course, a lot of that changed in the late 60s and the 70s. And also,actually in the early 60s when we got more involved with some of the problems that were creating for pesticides.


We had what we call the worm plots that were established on our facilities. The worm plots were treated with three chemicals, DET, Dielder and Heptachlor. They were only treated once. But every year, scientists went up there and dug up earthworms and had them analyze. Twenty years later, earthworms in those plots still have residues of those chemicals that were put down in the land 20 years earlier.

And so that was a major finding to show the persistency of those organochlorine pesticides like DDT, Dielder and Heptachlor. In 1972, they were banned from use in the United States. A lot of research that we were doing at that time were very influential in banning those chemicals. And the worm plots were a major study that's going on at that time.

Of course, a lot of people recognize Rachel Carson. She's a major person who got into pesticides. She wrote the book, "Silent Spring", in 1962. At that time, she did not understand why wildlife population were declining. And we didn’t understand at that time.

We've been studying pesticides from since the 1940s. But it wasn't until 1969 that we published the first paper that showed what eggshell thinning was doing to fowl populations. So DDT in the food chain was being converted to DDE in the birds causing problems with the birds putting calcium on their eggs. So we were ending up with this phenomena called eggshell thinning. And it was a major issue, some are being laid without any eggshell whatsoever. So it wasn't so much that DDT was killing birds outright but it was affecting their reproduction.

And it was a major study that our scientist found in Patuxent. The two people leading that study was Lucille and Bill Stickel and they were major players that worked for Patuxent for over 80 years until they retired.

Interesting story about Lucille Stickel, because during World War II, Bill is drafted. They both came to Patuxent with their Masters degree. Bill was drafted for World War II to go fight the War, like most of the younger men in Patuxent were drafted. Lucille took the opportunity to go back to college for her PhD. She came back, they both came back, after the War, worked closely together.


She moved up in the administrative circles and became Director of Patuxent for many years and also one of the most highly decorated people in the department, highly decorated females that we've ever had in the Department of Interior. Very interesting history on herbal life.

At that time, we started out with bald eagles and we're hoping to do some contaminant part with eagles but we were having trouble getting them to breed initially. So the program eventually turned out to be more of an endangered species program. We'd worked more on just releasing eagles to the wild. So a lot of states who have "no-eagle" problems benefited from our establishing their population with eagles.

In 1963, 1972, our Director was Dr. Eugene Dustman and he was heavily involved with a lot of the contaminant work. Lucille Stickel was his assistant. She was in charge of all the contaminant work but then decided working with species that we could breed in much greater number. We were working with the screech owl and also the kestrel, the American kestrel, because we could raise these birds in large numbers and we could use them on some of our sublethal programs that we had at Patuxent.
So we could see what effect sublethal chemicals have on the birds' ability to lay eggs.

And a lot of those studies proceeded for many years.  We also did studies with black ducks with Jerry Longcore, who is the first person I worked with when I came to Patuxent, working with a DDE studies on black ducks. And those were the specie that was used on the first report in 1969. So you could see, by raising these birds with sublethal diet, you could see what effect that had on reproduction.

We also did a lot of work with smaller pens, or what we call the meter square pens. And back in the 80s, we were involved with agriculture drain water problems that some of our first studies were being done with arsenic, boron and selenium. These weren't problems so much in the East but they were major problems in California and some of the great water barriers.


We did a lot of work at Patuxent at that time. One of our scientists, Dr. Chris Grue, had an interesting study going with starling and boxes of starlings, taped his wooden boxes very fast. He put a camera in there and he did record the food that the birds will bring back to the boxes all the time.

We did a lot of work with methylmercury. One of our scientists, Dr. Gary Heinz, is a leading expert on methylmercury which is a natural mineral, natural element, that comes in certain flooded areas. So that can build up in certain amounts.

We did studies where we'd actually take a large number of eggs, we'd go drill a hole in and put a chemical in it, seal them up with a wax and then incubate them to see what level of chemicals, what level of mercury, would affect their reproduction and ability of the embryo to live in that eggs. And these studies were very influential in EPA-establishing guidelines on how much mercury is bad in the environment.  So a lot of that early studies that we did, and we still continue some of the studies with methylmercury, are very important from a national perspective.

A lot of our work was done with birds that were feeding high in the food chain, white-tailed eagle, the ospreys and the night herons and a lot also returns because a lot of these groups are feeding on fish. And so, through bio-accumulation, they were starting to show the effects of the contaminants that were in the environment.

We started our program with endangered species in 1965 with our first whooping crane called Canus. Because of the fact that it was named for Canada and the United States, the two countries that worked so closely with the whooping crane. Dr. Ray Erickson was the person that established the program.

When that time, because we were getting the endangered species program, we started attracting people of high importance and we had a visit from Prince Charles. And this is David Eisenhower and Dr. Lucille Stickel had to go out of her office that day to show them around. Dr. Stickel saw this shot, she didn't that like these PR days so much like this and I'm sure she wasn't too excited when she was being interviewed by half of Congress that day.



This is what our endangered species whooping crane area, a small part, looks like through the years. This is some of the area where we had covered pens where we raise whooping cranes. This is no longer existing in that area but that was the area where we had Indian condors back in the old days.

We've had some disease problems with cranes over the years and sometimes we had to give them a forced feeding or gavage feeding with one of our vets. We had very small vet hospital   originally and we had a new one built in 1994, courtesy of Baltimore Gas and Electric. That was a nice new facility that we had. 

And this actually shows you some of the issues we were dealing with propagating whooping cranes in the wild. Now, the original population went from Wood Buffalo, breeding way up to Northern Alberta, down to Aransas, Texas. So tremendous long migration.

We established a shorter run by putting eggs underneath sandhill cranes. Well, the eggs hatched, the birds lived but they didn't reproduce. It's a big issue because the birds didn't realized that they were whooping cranes. They had been confused because they were being raised by gray birds.

So we started what's called the costume rearing program. And the costume rearing program has been a lot more success because the caretakers were always dressed in white costumes and they never talk. The only sounds of birds they hear are the sound of their specie that's  recorded that they can here.

So the birds are raised in costume rearing and it's been successful in propagation now in Florida and Wisconsin. And now this past year, we just recently released the birds into Louisiana and getting a new population established down there where these bird had been costume reared.


And now, we're even going back further. Because it is still a very slow process, it takes a lot of time. We're trying to do more with letting the adult crane rear their own birds. In the past, they don't want to do that. In fact, we're originally doing a lot of artificial insemination and we did natural insemination but then we were still taking the eggs to the birds and hatching them in artificially or with sandhill cranes.

The issue of course is, birds should be raised by their own species. It gets a little confusing when they are being hatched up by a chick and on a sandhill crane. So going back to the more natural way we've done in the past.

We've done some work with a program called Operation Migration. We actually train birds to fly behind ultralights. And this is one of the ways we've established migrations.

This is some of the sandhill cranes of being flown behind a truck. After we got them established we have find behind the truck and they fly behind an ultralight. And now, it's going to try itself a program for several years that we've been migrating birds to new areas. 

I mention the condor program. We never had California condors but we worked with Andean condor. And then we got involve with releasing Andean condors back into South America. They're from South America originally. We raised so many at Patuxent, we were able to put some back in the South America in areas where there were longer none.

Our California program, California Condor Program, was all done in California. We ran that program for a long time, eventually turned it over to San Diego Wild Animal Park in Los Angeles Zoo. And they were successful in eventually releasing some of the birds they took into captivity back into the wild.

Now, it's a big controversy that we're involved with because a lot of people did not want to take California condors out of the wild. But because of the problems we were dealing with, with lead poisoning and other issues, we've made the decision to bring them on in captivity. And it turned out that it was probably the right thing to do because didn't lose the species. Even though we lost them for like the wild, we eventually got them back into the wild and now, we have a growing population of California condors in California.


I'll just mention some of the migratory bird program. I mentioned Garbrielson early on. We eventually dedicated the lab to him in 1969. This is the dedicating tent up in front.

We were heavily involved with a lot of studies like the September Dove Hunt which was very controversial. People did not want to be shooting dove in September when they were possibly nesting. We did extensive studies at Patuxent. We found every nest at Patuxent where dove were nesting, and dove nests in a lot of crazy areas like buildings. This one is a 50-foot nest way up in the tree. We used telescopic poles so that we are on the end of it to see the egg in the nest.

A lot of our programs were a duck program. We've also done a lot of waterfowl surveys in the Bay, working very closely and scheduling with USGS biologists. We're proposing a Fish and Wildlife Service biologists.

We're heavily in acid rain studies, built some unique pens at Patuxent were we raised ducks in different conditions. And we're heavily involved with black ducks because that was the specie that was impacted a lot.

This is a scientist in the ditch here. This is the maintenance person on the ground but Mike Haramis was responsible for designing and building all these facilities that were used for acid rain studies.

This shows the range of black ducks and wildlife people thought it was major problem for the black duck population.

Lot of you probably know Dr. Chandler Robbins. He's heavily involved with Patuxent since 1946 when we celebrated our 65th anniversary. He'd been there for 60 years. He started the Breeding Bird Survey, the Maryland Bird Atlas, a lot of forest fragmentation work and also a big Latin American program with migrants.

He still comes in everyday. He's 92 years old, volunteers everyday at the Research Center. He sets the standard for all of us who would try to achieve. I don't think I'll try to do it though.


We got a lot of raptor research that was involved in migratory bird program but also in the contaminant program. We worked heavily in Chesapeake Bay. I mentioned Rogers C. B. Morton who was involved with the big money that we got for the study of canvasbacks in Chesapeake Bay.

Also, here are some work that we did on the Bay with nutria. Nutria had been a big problem especially the Blackwater where they come in and destroy the marshes. Mike Haramis has been working on this nutria problem for a long time. And recently he's put GPS transmitters inside the nutria and so the nutria, wherever they move, are being tracked on some exact GPS location. The problem is you have to capture the animal to get all the data because it doesn't transmit out as an internal transmitter. This is some of the data from one of the animals that Mike had instrumented. You can see the movements.

The interesting in this project, because the state has a program to eradicate nutria from Maryland as an exotic specie—not just reduce the population but eradicate—they want to find every last nutria in the state of Maryland, in Chesapeake Bay and especially at Blackwater. And to do this, one of the things they're doing is to use a transmitter to know exactly where some of these when released the animals, you know where the animals are located, you can track them, find out where they are. And these are considered sort of Judas nutria because they lead researchers to the area where the population is. They're communal animals and so they're considered the Judas animals taking the researchers and the trappers to the area where the wet animals are.

Jim Nichols was one of our research scientists and Rob Heinz was his assistant for many years working on a study that's related to birds and forest fragmentation. But through, this study, it’s a modeling study, they used a meadow vole, like microtus rodent, and also in a meadow environment.  So it's a very unique modeling study where they were looking at birds in a forest but they were studying mice in a field. And it's a beautiful study that was done with tremendous replication for many years.


One of the interesting thing about it is that it put ear tags in all of microtus and they knew every individual animal. They knew what their population was exactly, through a trapped and be trapped situation. And then they could fragment the population by going in and plowing the middle of the area that could separate them into two areas and see what fragmentation did on that operation.

And then, years later, they worked with cardinals where they actually threw us back in there and they connected fragmented habitats. So, lot of interesting studies that came out of this early work that Nichols did.

We were heavily involved in lead shots. Steel shots   studies are to be honest, was a study we did in Patuxent River marsh where we actually went in and shot birds rails. And then with one year, with steel and the next year with lead. And we proved it was a shot that was shot that year, it was being picked up by the birds.  And the industry at that time who did not want to give up on lead shots for hunting shot, they were saying, "Oh, the lead is going to be up there a long time so there's no need to stop because there are already tons of it out there." But this study showed that the birds that were getting lead were picking it up that season that the shot was being shot that year.

We found a lot of other lead studies since there's some swans that were killed by lead poisoning that was in sediments. And then, we boost the wing survey that's gone to Patuxent. As it takes some of those samples of the wings and analyze them for contaminants, like heavy metals and some of the pesticides. So it becomes a very nice study design to use that.

Mr. Harold O'Connor's was the Director from 1987 to 1995. We went through a changing period that time where we're getting heavily involved with environmental education.  There was a lot of push in creating a Visitor Center and that was one of his main drives when he was Director.


But the other thing that happened at that time when he was the Director was the Disabilities Act which passed the United States. We built this huge fishing pier that was totally accessible for person with disabilities. And because it was such a major event, we got the person who sponsored the legislation, Congressman Steny Hoyer to come up and also at that time, our County Executive Parris Glendening who eventually became the governor of Maryland.

During Howell's administration, we built the National Visitor Center. And this was a major $50 million facility that's on our property and this was built for researchers. It's built to tell the story of research.

But what happened at that time is we were being consolidated, all research, by the Secretary of Interior, Bruce Babbit. He consolidated into the National Biological Survey. And so we were in a period of flux that time. We had this Research Visitor Center that was being built but we were getting transferred on into a new agency. And then eventually, we were transferred into US Geological Survey. And so, we left the Research Visitor Center stayed with the Fish and Wildlife Service as it is found today.

We have a very close association with the Refuge people in the Fish and Wildlife Service and they do a great job in telling story about research that we have still going on in the USGS and a lot of stuff we didn’t asked. We had people like Jim Fowler who get involve with our Visitor Center and also a lot of anniversary events that we had in the past.

In the early 90s we have a major transfer of land from Fort Meade that came to us, 8100 acres. We built a new contact facility for the hunters and also for the public in that area. We took on a major deer program because the north side of the 8000 acres was a major hunting area. We took that on.


During the administration of Dr. Kushlan, we're heavily involved with cowbird research. You will see a cowbird egg up there , irrigation of wetland areas down here and also a lot of other studies dealing with reptiles and amphibians.

Mike Haramis was involved with exclosure studies trying to keep Canada geese out of wild rice marshes. And this is what Canada geese will do. They'll destroy an area like this and we didn't realize how bad we're destroying it until we put exclosures out where the geese could not get to. And this is the damage that geese were doing in an area, the same thing we see exotic mute swan in a lot of areas.

When Judd Howell was the director between 2002 and 2007, we started a lot of satellite telemetry. Here's Glenn Olsen, one of our vets, doing a satellite telemetry in the field, involved with one of his mute swans. We created some diving duck facility set up that I will talk about.

Our president came up and visited us many times during the administration of Judd Howell because he was interested in our area as not only a nice wildlife area but it's where he jogged and where he rode his bicycles. So we got a lot of visits from the President during that period and a lot of people in this area didn't realize it. But he was coming out into our facility quite commonly and quite a big event.

And this is the director and also the refuge manager on one of his visits where he came out and talked about migratory birds.

And I want to briefly show some of the work we've done with satellite telemetry. One of the big problems was capturing birds in the wild. We developed some new techniques in Chesapeake Bay. It's what we call a capture net gun where we go at high speed at shoot the gun to capture our seaducks which are very difficult to capture any other way.

So that's one of the techniques we developed, took a long time. It's a very intense, time-consuming work. A lot of the locations that we've had from the satellite telemetry that we've done in Chesapeake Bay and also in the Nantucket, a lot of this work was providing a tremendous amount of information on the movements of the birds.


And you can see the birds going up the coast in the spring and coming back down in the fall. We did this for five years in Chesapeake Bay and also up in the rest of those river in New Brunswick. And then, in the late 2007 to 2010, we were working in Nantucket and we were  working with long-tailed ducks. We will see them then subarctic area where they breed.

So we got a huge amount of data on satellite telemetry and we worked with a lot of different projects. And now, we've done a lot of telemetry in regard to avian influenza. We got a research that are working China, where they instrumented birds in China to see the interaction that wildfowl have with domestic animal. Because there are so many domestic animals in China and we’re concerned about avian influenza transfer. But we've also worked in many other countries.

And so these are some of the wildlife tracking results of researches from Patuxent Wildlife Research Center. We've helped other studies, other researches, instrument birds.

We studied a captive colony when we had Dr. Alicia Berlin who was working on her PhD. Here she is in Canada with a Cree Indian, getting out into remote area where we got some eggs and also involved with selenium study with eiders at Patuxent. And then she did a lot of diving work with captive colony, recreated diving pools that were nine feet deep and then half the birds are trained to go down and feed on organisms that we put on the bottom in trays.

And so here, you can see surfs go that are feeding on mussels that are attached to oyster shells just like they would be in the wild. And we compare the energetics that was required to feed on mussels, tearing them off oyster shells to other surf storers that were feeding in sand on clam in Chesapeake Bay.

This is a Mulinia. So, when they're feeding on the clamp it's more of a search pattern. You can see they're going through the sand and trying to find it. We've been trying to figure out different patterns that animals use for feeding because it's such an important part of our program.


Dr. Greg Smith that you met earlier became our director last year. And since that time, we've been involved with interesting projects with sea level rise, with this instrument here on the left that we're using in a lot of areas throughout the world. Including Vietnam, who were very concerned about a lot of sea level rise issues that could affect their crops of rice in the delta.

But then we've also been working with researchers in other countries in trying to detect animals that are low in numbers. And some of our researchers who were heavily involved with modeling and understanding detection rates are using cameras and other techniques.

They've just a written a book, co-authored by one of our researchers, on some of the techniques to determine what animals are found in the wild and the rates that they're out there, the populations.

We're continuing our work on the dive tanks under Dr. Smith's administration. Here's some long-tailed ducks that we're using as part of our telemetry study. We're testing transmitters around the birds and looking at their foraging energetics to see what effect the transmitters might have under ability to see in a captive situation.

We've also done extensive food habits work as part of The Seaduck Project. It is a gullet and a gizzard. And then we get this analyzed in the lab. We can keep reference collections to see what food is being fed on by the various species. And so far, just in the last decades, we've analyzed over 1800 ducks that are often collected by hunters. They're not for our projects but they were all hundreds of birds that we got from them.

But one of the interesting things that's happening in Chesapeake Bay and lot of other areas is the population of oysters just dropped out of site. I'm sure a lot of you are aware that the oyster population in Chesapeake Bay is now 1% of what it was to start with.


Well, the seaducks that we've studied feed extensively not on oysters but the organisms found within the oysters that are on the oysters' shells and all. So this is a major concern that we have from a population point of view with seaducks while we're  working with a university and some of the people that's studying oysters in Chesapeake Bay.

I want to finish up with a couple of studies that we're working on. This is one with the Smithsonian Institute where we're testing the electrosensitivity of ducks sensing food organisms. All organisms give off electric charge. We think the Ruddy Duck has very broad bill and has the ability to pick up electric charge from an organism when it's feeding.

And we determine, this is going to be a big through, because we've known this before but we have Ruddy Ducks that are trained to go down to the bottom and feed. And we first trained them on mealworms and then we took the mealworms away. What we've been doing is putting electrical charge, very very minor electrical charge under this board that we put in different places. We find that the birds go to the area where this minor electrical charge is coming from.

And we don't have enough data to prove this yet but we think we're on the right track. We think, we're pretty sure, that they do have the ability to sense an electric charge. So if we prove this, it's going to be interesting because we can look at other ducks and see if they're using this to find food organisms.

Because one of the things that people always wondering is when birds dive at 20 feet down Chesapeake Bay, how do they see what they're feeding on down there? Is it just that they're just randomly searching for food or do they have other search patterns that they might be using?

And I'll end up with this slide with another study that we're doing with hearings, underwater hearing, that could be closely tied with alternative energy. Because as we build more alternative energy in Chesapeake Bay and other areas like Nantucket  Sound, we're putting up tremendous towers. We had to construct these towers and then the towers are there for a long time. They could be putting out sound in the water that could be impacting birds.

And so we're doing what is called Underwater Hearing Study with scaups. What we're doing is just tied up with University of Maryland Science where she's working on her PhD. But she's got these birds trained to feed for sound. And so initially she's just using a flipper, used for dog, or clicker and she's feeding them on the surface when they do the right thing. They have to poke that life thing to get a food reward.


And now that they've been trained to do that, she's working with just the sound that's going to be underwater and they will only feed if they hear that sound. So the sound can be changed in decibels and in volume so they can see what sounds are actually being picked up by the birds.

So it's an interesting study that we're doing. And over the years, we feel like we could do a lot more studies like this with our dive tank and our live seaduck fowl. One of the things that's unique about Patuxent is not only that we have a huge land area but we also have tremendous pen facilities to do a lot of research studies in our facilities.

And I'll end up with these pictures showing some of the studies that we've done 75 years. We're really proud of our science that we've done over the years and we hope to be keep doing for another 75 years.

Now, I'll just mention that the next speaker is April 6th, at 7 to 8pm and the Treasures of the USGS Library.

And I thank you for your attention and I appreciate you're here to hear me talk. Thanks.