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Harlequin Ducks WT.jpg
Photo Credit: Wes Timmerman

Next Program co-sponsored with Teton Plants
Tuesday February 13, 6:00 pm

Advancing Harlequin Duck Research in the Northern Rockies with eDNA & Camera Traps

Holli Holmes

Master's Candidate in the Wildlife Biology Program at the University of Montana

Come join your friends and colleagues for a Watch Party to view the Zoom presentation - social time starts at 5:30 pm!

Long term monitoring in Glacier National Park in Montana, near Jasper and Banff National Park in Alberta, Canada, and on the Lochsaw River in Idaho have shown a decline in breeding populations of Harlequin Ducks (HADU) over the last twenty years. In fact, breeding HADU populations in the contiguous United States are considered imperiled or critically imperiled depending on the state. Apart from these well monitored streams, biologists and land managers across the HADU breeding range in the Northern Rockies (Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, and Alberta) have struggled to understand the status and trends in breeding populations. Previous survey methods have primarily relied on direct, in-person observations. These ground surveys are limited in the information they can provide, and counts can be highly variable because of factors outside the observer’s control. Working with non-game biologists across the Northern Rockies, it is clear there is an interest and need for more effective survey methods of the HADU. Two increasingly popular methods for surveying wildlife occurrence that have not yet been used on stream-residing waterfowl, environmental DNA and camera trapping, could help address these concerns. For her master’s research, Holli Holmes will be evaluating what sampling effort is required to assess occupancy state using different sampling strategies of these non-invasive methods. Holli will also be building a predictive occupancy model for HADU in the Northern Rocky Mountain region that can be used as a management tool. Holli’s work is focused on laying the foundation for building a new monitoring program for HADU across the Northern Rockies.  This work will serve as a basis for building a regional monitoring program that aims to identify and address the drivers of population declines of this iconic mountain species.


Holli is a master's student in the Wildlife Biology Program and the University of Montana and the recipient of the 2023 Glacier National Park Conservancy - Jerry O’Neal Student Research Fellowship for her study of Harlequin Ducks.  "My interest in birds began in my undergrad at Colorado State University when I “accidentally” stumbled upon the Ornithology Club. After my undergrad I worked 8 different wildlife jobs across the intermountain west with different agencies. Five of those seasons were spent in Glacier National Park where my interest in Harlequin Ducks blossomed. While working in Glacier in 2021 I began collaborating with non-game biologists, both in the national park and across the region, to gain support to build a pilot study for what is now my Master’s work at the University of Montana.  

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