Two Lesser Prairie-Chicken Initiative partners were recently honored for their important contributions to prairie grouse conservation. At its biannual meeting on September 24, the Prairie Grouse Technical Council awarded the Hamerstrom Award to Patricia “Tish” McDaniel of eastern New Mexico and Dr. David Haukos of Kansas.
The Hamerstrom Award recognizes individuals or organizations who have made significant contributions in prairie grouse research, management, or other support programs which have enhanced the welfare of one or more species of prairie grouse.
Tish McDaniel has been a central figure in the conservation of eastern New Mexico habitat and lesser prairie-chickens for more than 15 years. Dave Haukos presented the award to McDaniel and described her conservation impact.
“Very few individuals can match Tish’s depth and breadth of experience, knowledge, and expertise on lesser prairie-chickens in the Sand Shinnery Oak Prairie Ecoregion,” Haukos said. “Within the next 3-5 years nearly every publication on lesser prairie-chickens in eastern New Mexico will be directly linked to her support.”
From 2005-2014, McDaniel managed the Milnesand Prairie Preserve for The Nature Conservancy. During that time, she developed partnerships and conservation practices that resulted in the greatest density of lesser prairie-chickens documented in eastern New Mexico since the mid-1980s.
McDaniel was instrumental in developing conservation easements that protect a number of large ranches from development. She co-coordinated the High Plains Prairie-Chicken Festival from 2002-2012, introducing more than a thousand people to lesser prairie-chickens.
Now a range conservation scientist for LPCI partner organization CEHMM, also known as the Center of Excellence, McDaniel works one-on-one with private landowners and industry in habitat restoration projects that benefit the lesser prairie-chicken.
Weaver Ranch manager Willard Heck has known McDaniel for 15 years. He describes her ability to collaborate with people on both sides of an argument.
“You learn that not everybody has that gift, and getting along with people is the key,” Heck said. “She has a real gift for dealing with landowners. She’s honest and looks out for their welfare and looks for a common ground where it still benefits landowners, and they really trust her in that way.”
In presenting the Hamerstrom Award to Dave Haukos, Dr. Clint Boal described Haukos’ immense contributions to lesser prairie-chicken research.
“Dr. Haukos has authored or co‐authored over 20 peer-reviewed publications that have been published or accepted for publication,” Boal said. Most recently, Haukos co‐edited Conservation and Management of Lesser Prairie‐Chickens, a 17-chapter volume in the series Studies in Avian Biology to be released this fall.
Haukos helped pioneer the use of satellite GPS transmitters on prairie-chickens, providing insights into population dynamics, resource selection, movements, and more. He has served as principle investigator (PI), co-PI, or collaborator in 18 lesser prairie-chicken research projects, supervising post-doctoral and graduate students in four states and three universities.
“Dave has been a pioneer in lesser prairie-chicken research,” says LPCI Science Advisor Christian Hagen, “from his use of distance sampling to his overseeing the deployment of GPS transmitters across multiple states and study areas.
“Without his efforts past and present, there would be gaping holes in our understanding of lesser prairie-chicken ecology,” Hagen adds.
In the nearly 30 years Haukos has worked with prairie chickens, his goal has always been to provide sound research results that can inform conservation planning.
“Landowners and lesser prairie-chickens share the land and are interdependent for their existence, so information and support for land use strategies that benefit both lesser prairie-chickens and landowners has been my primary focus.”
Heartfelt congratulations and gratitude to Tish McDaniel and Dave Haukos for their work on behalf of prairie chickens and the landowners who steward their habitat.