Joshua Osborn

M.S. Candidate






American black duck (Anas rubripes) populations have decreased by close to 60% since the 1950s (Conroy et al. 2002, Black Duck Joint Venture [BDJV] 2008).  Loss of breeding and wintering habitats, hunter harvest, and interaction with mallards (Anas platyrhynchos) have been implicated in declines (Conroy et al. 2002).  To date, most black duck habitat-use studies in the migrating and wintering regions of North America have been focused on the Atlantic Coast populations.  However, significant numbers of black ducks also spend winter in the interior United States.  Over 40% of all American black ducks observed during mid-winter waterfowl surveys in the Mississippi Flyway occur in Tennessee, and the majority of these birds (>75%) use habitats associated with the Tennessee National Wildlife Refuge (TNWR) and Cross Creeks National Wildlife Refuge (Sanders et al. 1995).  Given the importance of these refuges, information is needed on black duck habitat use and selection in order to guide management and conservation efforts in Tennessee.


In 2010, Kira Newcomb (Mississippi State University) began evaluating habitat use and winter survival of female black ducks on TNWR using radio telemetry.  My research will complement Kira’s research by adding details to the mechanisms that drive habitat selection.  In particular, I will be estimating food resources and comparing energetic carrying capacities between habitats used and avoided by wintering black ducks.  I also will determine whether herbicide control of alligatorweed (Alternanthera philoxeroides) improves wetland conditions for black ducks.  Results from Kira’s and my research will provide guidance to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the BDJV on the types of habitats that should be managed and conserved for black ducks wintering in Tennessee.


The objectives of my M.S. research are to:


1)    Estimate proportional use of 6 habitat types by black ducks and make inferences on selection according to availability.

2)    Estimate energetic carrying capacity for each habitat type and relate habitat use and activities to temporal change in food availability.

3)    Determine the impacts of herbicide control of alligatorweed on moist-soil habitat quality and use by black ducks and other waterfowl.


Collaborators:  Black Duck Joint Venture, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture, and Mississippi State University.



Black Duck Joint Venture (BDJV).  2008.  Triennial report to the North American Waterfowl Management Plan Committee.

Conroy, M.J., M.W. Miller, and J.E. Hines.  2002.  Identification and synthetic modeling of factors affecting American black duck populations.  Wildlife Monographs No. 150.

Sanders, M.A., D.L. Combs, M.J. Conroy, and J.F. Hopper.  1995.  Distribution patterns of American black ducks wintering in Tennessee.  Proceedings of Southeastern Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies 49:607-617.






I grew up in Burnsville, Mississippi, a small town just a stone’s throw away from Tennessee and Alabama.  After a six-year stint in the Navy as a Nuclear Propulsion Plant Operator, I enrolled in the Wildlife Science program at Mississippi State University.  In 2011, I graduated with a B.S. in Wildlife Science.  During my B.S., I worked one semester and one summer as a wildlife technician with Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries, and Parks.  Additionally, I worked two summers studying nest success in relation to predator management of upland nesting waterfowl in Minnedosa, Manitoba and Egeland, North Dakota.  This work was part of an ongoing study conducted by Delta Waterfowl to determine the effectiveness of predator control in areas with less than 10% grass cover.  I have been an active member for The Wildlife Society since 2009 and served as the Vice-president of the MSU Bulldog Chapter in 2010-2011. I also served on the Bulldog Chapter of Ducks Unlimited (DU), which won the Duck Bowl trophy in 2010 and 2011 and was a DU Sweet 16 Chapter in 2011.


My interests include hunting (waterfowl and deer), fishing, reading, and enjoying the outdoors.  My time in the Navy made me realize how much I missed nature and belonged in the wildlife field.  I also enjoy teaching youth about hunting and fishing and how important they both are in conserving our natural resources.  My professional goal is to work for a state, federal, or non-profit organization to further our knowledge of waterfowl and wetland conservation.


Contact Information



Phone: 865-974-3897



UT Wetlands Program


UT Department of Forestry, Wildlife and Fisheries