University, Department, Lab:
Kansas Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit and the Haukos Lab in the Division of Biology at Kansas State University
My passion for understanding the intricacies of nature and for wildlife conservation was born out of bird watching, backyard astronomy, and volunteering for a variety of local wildlife projects. I identified birds, monitored blue bird nests, counted roosting bats, and helped others learn about the stars. It was not all that surprising that when I was a kid, I would tell anyone who would listen that I was going to study wildlife and run away to the rainforest. I made good on my word and ran all the way to Scotland to conduct my masters research on blue-crowned manakins in the rainforests of Ecuador, where I discovered the quirky nature of lek-breeding birds. Leks are an interesting phenomenon where males group together in a particular type of habitat that suits their elaborate displays. It gets even more intriguing, since few displaying males are ever successful in impressing females and no male contributes to parental care. My doctoral research focuses on the concept of leks as a determinant of where lesser prairie-chickens (Tympanuchus pallidicinctus), a lek-breeding bird native to Kansas, can be found throughout space and time.
Current Research Question:
Why do lesser prairie-chicken leks form in the places that they do? What determines if a lek will continue into the following breeding season? What influence do social interactions between males on a lek play in the behavior of males after they are relocated to a new area? How does lesser prairie-chicken morphology, their external body parts such as wings and leg lengths, vary across space and time?
Background on Research:
While leks are fascinating all on their own, understanding lek formation and continuity across years is of particular conservation importance for the lesser prairie-chicken, which was considered for federal listing as a threatened species in 2014. Counts of males on leks provide population estimates and may limit abilities to establish birds into unoccupied parts of their native range.
Overview of Methods Used
My lab captures lesser prairie-chickens in western Kansas using a combination of walk-in box traps (they look a bit like fold-up dog houses) and large nets that we drop down onto birds below. Each bird is then equipped with unique metal and color leg bands, to help us identify individuals, and a radio collar or GPS backpack transmitter. The transmitters help us determine where birds go after release, either by sending GPS points to us directly or through tracking a radio frequency with an antenna. We also collect measurements of their limbs and feathers, morphology, and document their condition. My research uses data throughout the lesser prairie-chicken range, including research conducted by the Haukos lab in Kansas and my field work relocating birds to southwestern Kansas and southeastern Colorado.
Connecting with Carly Aulicky
Connect with Carly by requesting an in-person visit to a classroom or a group, or connect virtually. Carly is also interested in collaborating with teachers on lesson plans.