Nationally known wildlife researcher Jim Fraser and his research team leaders Lawrence Houghton and Jonathan Cohen (both ’05 Ph.D. in fisheries and wildlife sciences) received the 2011 Wildlife Society Publication Award in the monograph category. “I felt very honored and surprised to learn that we were getting the monograph award,” noted Profesor Fraser. “It is, of course, always gratifying to be recognized by your peers for your work. It would not have happened without the fine work of Larry and Jon.”

Their monograph, “Nesting density and reproductive success of piping plovers in response to storm- and human-created habitat changes,” follows the repercussions of a massive 1992 storm that devastated the island community of West Hampton Dunes, N.Y., while at the same time transforming the area into an ideal habitat for piping plovers, a species listed as threatened since 1986.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers was required by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to monitor post-storm plover populations on the island during rebuilding efforts. Fraser, who had been studying the piping plover’s decline for years, applied to conduct research while monitoring the birds for the corps at the site. Over the next 12 years, Fraser and his team — including Houghton as head of field operations from 1996 to 1999 and Cohen in that role from 2001 to 2004 — investigated the plover population’s response to changes in the quality and amount of habitat available on the island as well as the effects of predation and rebuilding on plover chick survival rates.

Since both humans and plovers prize the same beachfront habitats, it is essential to understand exactly what habitats the plovers need. The results of the study, published in the journal Wildlife Monographs, provided wildlife managers with the tools to create more favorable conditions for the birds and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service with the data it needs to legally defend its conservation practices. “It is a great source of satisfaction that the results of our work have been applied to shorebird conservation up and down the coast,” said Fraser.