Protecting Whooping Cranes and Coastal Habitats in Texas
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Wildlife & Ecosystems

Protecting Whooping Cranes and Coastal Habitats in Texas

Join scientists along the Gulf Coast of Texas to study the endangered Whooping Crane and help to uncover how a changing environment is impacting the coastal marsh ecosystems these unique birds call their winter home.


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The facts

Why the research is important

Why the research is important

Understanding how this coastal ecosystem works ecologically as a Whooping Crane habitat could help scientists and wildlife managers to bring the population of cranes from a fragile 300 to a more stable 1,000 or more.

Saving this species would not only be great news for the Whooping Crane; it could inspire efforts to protect other endangered species worldwide.

Teams conduct vegetation surveys to better understand the Whooping Crane habitat.

Teams conduct vegetation surveys to better understand the Whooping Crane habitat.

At a height of five feet and with a wingspan of over seven feet, Whooping Cranes are the tallest birds in North America. But due to human-induced factors such as habitat loss, unregulated hunting, and scarce food resources – this majestic bird is listed as “endangered”. This project represents a unique, ecosystem-based approach to examine the birds and the greater coastal ecosystem through a wide lens – studying how environmental shifts and the subsequent ecosystem responses impact Whooping Crane location, behavior, and food choices.

Whooping Cranes migrate each year from Canada’s Wood Buffalo National Park, their nesting habitat, to the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge in Texas, where they spend their winters. Biologists have said that the population of cranes must reach at least 1,000 birds (from its current population of roughly 300) before their conservation status can change. But to improve the health and welfare of the species, it is critical to understand their habitat and how they interact within the complex coastal ecosystems along the Texas Gulf Coast.

The Whooping Crane has become one of the most well-known endangered species in North America – a symbol of human interference with nature. Bringing back these cranes from the brink of extinction would not only be a conservation success story; it could provide inspiring lessons for how to protect other endangered species around the world.

About the research area

Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, Austwell, Texas, United States, North America & Arctic

Daily life in the field

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The Scientists

MEET THE LEAD SCIENTIST

Jeffrey
Wozniak
Assistant Professor, Biological Sciences, Sam Houston State University

ABOUT Jeffrey Wozniak

Dr. Jeffrey Wozniak, an aquatic ecosystem ecologist, is currently studying the coastal wetlands in and around the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge along the Texas Gulf Coast to assess how these coastal habitats are responding to a wide range of environmental changes and the subsequent impacts on the endangered Whooping Crane.

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