Field Station Leader: Dr. Travis L. DeVault
Supervisory Research Wildlife Biologist
National Wildlife Research Center
Ohio Field Station
6100 Columbus Avenue
Sandusky, Ohio 44870
(419) 625-8465 fax
The National Wildlife Research Center (NWRC) Ohio Field Station, established in 1968, is located 4 miles south of Sandusky, OH, and Lake Erie at Plum Brook Station, a 6,000-acre, fenced facility in Erie County operated by Glenn Research Center, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). The restricted facility contains native grassland, reverted farmland, marsh, and woodland adjacent to intensively farmed land and urban settings outside the fence. Abundant wildlife populations can be found on the facility; for example, the deer population inside the fence often exceeds 2,000 individuals. The field station also leases from NASA 40 acres of farmland immediately outside the fence for wildlife damage studies.
Ohio has the highest breeding season population of blackbirds and starlings of any state or province, and marshes along Lake Erie are traditional late-summer congregating places for these birds. One of the largest nesting colonies of herring gulls on the Great Lakes is within 8 miles of the field station. A major proportion of the continental population of ring-billed gulls, a species that along with herring gulls is often involved in safety hazards at airports, concentrates along the south shore of Lake Erie in spring and fall. Large concentrations of fish-eating birds such as double-crested cormorants also congregate on Lake Erie during migration. Thus, considerable field research on birds associated with wildlife damage can be conducted within 60 miles of the field station.
The primary focus of research at the NWRC Ohio Field Station concerns wildlife hazards to aircraft. Aircraft collisions with birds and other wildlife (wildlife strikes) pose a substantial safety and financial threat to civil and military aviation worldwide. The estimated cost (direct and indirect expenses) to civil aviation worldwide is over $1.2 billion annually. In the U.S. alone, 89,727 wildlife strikes (97.4% involving birds) were reported to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA; 1990–2008) and represent a maximum of U.S. $603.7 million annually in direct and indirect losses. Recent estimates indicate that the U.S. military incurs losses of over $100 million each year. Wildlife strikes have claimed over 219 lives and over 200 aircraft (civil and military) since 1988. As one dramatic example, in 1995 a U.S. Air Force $190 million AWACS plane crashed, resulting in the death of 24 crewmembers and the destruction of the plane after the aircraft hit geese on take-off at Elmendorf Air Force Base, AL. The "forced landing" of US Airways Flight 1549 in the Hudson River on 15 January 2009 after Canada geese were ingested in both engines on the Airbus 320 demonstrated to the public at large that bird strikes are a grave concern to aviation safety.
The NWRC Ohio field station has worked with the FAA and WS biologists to develop management strategies to reduce wildlife hazards to aircraft and produce science-based recommendations, policies, and procedures to control hazardous wildlife on airports and other locations where they present a hazard to aviation safety.
“Development of Management Strategies to Reduce Wildlife Hazards to Aircraft” is the title of the official "Research Project" that describes the primary focus of research performed at this NWRC field station. The project web pages, in turn, describe goals, objectives and accomplishments of the research.
Feature on the Station
More on Sandusky, OH, field station staff:
Travis L. DeVault, Research Wildlife Biologist, Field Station Project Leader
Bradley F. Blackwell, Research Wildlife Biologist
Brian E. Washburn, Research Biologist
Thomas W. Seamans, Wildlife Biologist