Matthew McClanahan

M.S. Candidate






My research focuses on the habitat use and bioenergetics of wintering waterfowl communities in western Tennessee. This project is in collaboration with the Black Duck Joint Venture (BDJV) and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, with the primary goal of improving management in Tennessee for wintering waterfowl, especially the American black duck (Anas rubripes). Additionally, I will be investigating the effects of mechanical disking and subsequent millet planting on wetland carrying capacity and waterfowl use. Refuge personnel frequently perform mechanical manipulations in wetlands to set back plant succession; however, the effects on wintering black ducks are unknown. My study is taking place on the Duck River Unit of Tennessee National Wildlife Refuge (TNWR) and on Cross Creeks National Wildlife Refuge (CCNWR).

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

1)    Compare proportional habitat use among 6 habitat types for wintering waterfowl communities using habitats associated with TNWR and CCNWR,

2)    Relate waterfowl habitat use to energetic carrying capacity (i.e., the amount of available metabolizable energy for ducks and geese relative to daily energetic demands), and

3)    Quantify the effects of disking and subsequent millet planting on wetland carrying capacity and waterfowl use.


My study will include the use of scan sampling in over 30 plots distributed among 6 habitat types to estimate waterfowl use and activities. In each habitat type, I will estimate biomass of seed and aquatic invertebrates, which will be used to estimate the available energy (kcal/ha) and duck-energy days (DEDs). I will use ArcGIS and FRAGSTATS to quantify landscape characteristics (edge, patchiness, connectivity, etc.) associated with each sampling plot, and determine the effects of landscape variation and configuration on waterfowl habitat use. I will use control plots that have not been disked alongside those that have been disked and planted with millet in order to assess the effects of disking and supplemental planting on waterfowl habitat use.


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







I grew up in a small town in western North Carolina in the Smoky Mountains, and my father, a USFS wildlife biologist, raised me with a deep fascination and appreciation for wildlife and nature from a very early age. My primary interest is avifauna, particularly waterfowl and neotropical birds. I am an avid waterfowl hunter and sportsman and, having that role, I feel a responsibility and fascination for the things I hunt, observe and enjoy. There is something magical in my mind about waterfowl and their habitats, and my goal is to secure a wildlife biologist position where I can help continue the waterfowl conservation legacy for future generations of hunters and other conservationists.


I received my B.S. in Wildlife and Wildlands Conservation with a minor in GIS from Brigham Young University, and I am pursuing my M.S. under the guidance of Dr. Matt Gray in the UTIA Wetlands Program. I am a teaching assistant for WFS 101 (Current Topics in Wildlife Health) and WFS 340 (Wetlands Ecology and Management). I enjoy teaching and sharing share my knowledge with others. Educating the public and future generations of wildlife students is a key to conservation!


In my spare time, I enjoy fishing and hunting for waterfowl, turkey and deer. I also like to birdwatch, play guitar, and I do a little art on the side (carving, wood burn etching, drawing/cartooning). One of my goals is to make my own duck decoys and, perhaps, waterfowl calls one day.


Contact Information



Phone: 865-974-3897



UT Wetlands Program


UT Department of Forestry, Wildlife and Fisheries