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Sandusky, Ohio Field Station

photo of birds on runway


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) 625-0242
(419) 625-8465 fax



The primary focus of research at the NWRC Ohio Field Station concerns animal-vehicle collisions, especially 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. Wildlife strikes have claimed over 219 lives and over 200 aircraft since 1988, and cause many millions of dollars in damage annually in the U.S. and abroad. 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 Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the U.S. Department of Defense, 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.

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 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-access 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 can exceed 2,000 individuals. Field station facilities include indoor and outdoor aviaries, several large bird-traps, drying and processing rooms for field samples, shop space, a video laboratory for behavioral experiments, a 5-acre fenced pond for waterfowl research, and conference rooms. The field station also leases from NASA 40 acres of farmland immediately outside the fence for wildlife damage studies.

Further information about the research conducted at the Sandusky, OH field station can be found on the research project page (Understanding, Preventing, and Mitigating the Negative Effects of Wildlife Collisions with Aircraft, Other Vehicles, and Structures).

History Feature on the Station

Field Station Research 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