Study of Interior Least Tern Leads to Symposium Win

Carice Godbey Kimbrell 2022
Carice Godbey Kimbrell at one of the sites where she studied the interior least tern.

Carice Godbey Kimbrell earned first place in the 2022 Arkansas Tech University Graduate Research Symposium.

Kimbrell, a wildlife ecology student from Poplar Bluff, Mo., won for her presentation entitled “How Do Site Characteristics of Arkansas River Sandbars Affect Potential Predators of Interior Least Tern Nesting Colonies?”

Dr. Tom Nupp, professor of wildlife science at ATU, served as Kimbrell’s advisor.

“This exploratory analysis used generalized additive models to identify the relationships of major avian and mammalian predator groups with eight site characteristics and interior least tern reproductive success,” wrote Kimbrell for her project abstract. “Analyses thus far suggest that, while interior least tern conservation management usually focuses on local habitat features, landscape-scale features may be driving predator encounters on Arkansas River sandbars.”

Kimbrell’s research is the continuation of a project that dates back to 2001.

Nupp and his students have routinely studied Arkansas River sites ranging from Alma in west central Arkansas to Pendleton in southeast Arkansas since 2001.

That was when Nupp successfully applied for a grant from the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission to study the interior least tern, which the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service declared as an endangered species in May 1985.

Over a span of more than two decades, Nupp and his ATU students have provided the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers with regularly updated estimates of the adult least tern population on the Arkansas River and that population’s reproductive output.

The estimated population of the interior least tern now tops 18,000, which prompted the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in October to recommend its removal from the endangered species list.

According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, more than 30 groups have been involved in interior least tern monitoring during the span of the conservation effort.

Claire Kerr captured second place in the 2022 ATU Graduate Research Symposium, while Katina Ray collected the third-place prize.

Kerr is a student affairs administration student from Cheyenne, Okla. Her presentation was entitled “First-Generation Students: How This Subculture Chooses Their Higher Education Institution.” Her advisor was Dr. Rene Couture, associate professor of student affairs administration.

Ray is a doctoral student in school leadership from Maumelle. Her presentation was entitled “The Science of Reading Training on the NWEA MAP Test Scores of African American Students in a Central Arkansas School District.” Dr. John Freeman, professor of educational leadership, served as Ray’s advisor.

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