© 2017 The Quail-Tech Alliance

About Quail-Tech

In an effort to stem the decline of Bobwhite Quail and Scaled Quail in Texas, the Quail-Tech Alliance and Texas Tech University have designated a 38-county research area in west central and northwest Texas, an area that encompasses more than 22 million acres or roughly 10 times the size of Yellowstone National Park.

Within each of the counties, one ranch will be designated as an anchor ranch to serve as a field research or demonstration site for five years. Each of the anchor ranches will host a specific research or demonstration project during one year of the five-year period.

“This five-year initiative will produce one of the largest collections of quail data ever generated in a program of this kind,” said Charles Hodges, one of the founders of the Quail-Tech Alliance. Among the historic ranches already on the list are:

        • Pitchfork Ranch
        • W.T. Waggoner Ranch
        • Mill Iron Ranch in Collingsworth County
        • Circle 'A' in Archer County

“We plan to use cutting-edge science to attack the problem of quail decline,” said Brad Dabbert, research project director and associate chairman of the Department of Natural Resources Management, voicing the need for a much better understanding of the multiple factors that influence quail population growth.

“Our goal is to increase the acreage of suitable quail habitat throughout the region,” he said. Quail numbers across the state are down, primarily because of disappearing habitat and land fragmentation.

Dr. Dabbert said the broad research area was specifically designed to study multiple areas with diverse weather patterns and habitat characteristics. And by working with the ranchers to develop customized research projects, the needs of the individual ranch operations will be better served.

The Research

The Quail-Tech Alliance will conduct research and demonstration projects on an array of topics, including:

        • Investigating the potential benefits or detriments of supplemental feeding.
        • Factors that influence over-winter survival of adults and summer-to-fall survival of the brood.
        • Refining the use of burning, brush modification, and livestock grazing as tools of habitat management.

Separately, research results will be relayed to each anchor ranch immediately, and a “Quail Management Manual” is scheduled to be printed at the end of each 5-year project cycle.

The research program begins Jan. 1, though the group indicated it will be enlisting ranches and personnel this fall. As part of the project, several Texas Tech doctoral, graduate and undergraduate students will be employed.

“This project provides a very exciting opportunity to study the decline of bobwhite and blue quail populations and their habitat requirements,” said Ron Sosebee, a professor emeritus with the Department of Natural Resources Management. “The diverse environmental conditions throughout the Rolling Plains of Texas provide excellent conditions for detailed field research and demonstration projects.”

At the end of the multi-year project, the Texas Tech researchers hope to have a greater handle on ways to increase and sustain quail populations. “The opportunity to increase quail populations and improve their habitat is exciting and has great promise,” Sosebee said.

The Quail-Tech Alliance is a partnership between the natural resources management department and Quail First, a non-profit organization that has a founding board of six members and an advisory board which is still being formed.

Quail-Tech FAQ

How can a ranch be part of research in one of five years and the research be good research?

This is a great question! Research is good science when it helps to support or refute a hypothesis. Poor science often occurs when the results are confounded because the experimental design failed to control extraneous factors that confuse the ultimate conclusion. Poor science can also occur as a result of a lack of adequate replication. This problem (lack of replication) is the heart of the question posed above. Replication of experiments is required because a single result can occur by chance alone and not be the result of a biological process. Replication can occur either by time (repeated more than one year) or by space (repeated in more than one place). Though acceptable, experiments replicated by time in the same space (more than one year on one ranch) lead a sound researcher to question if this result can be extrapolated beyond the current space (ranch). Experiments replicated by space in one time period (multiple ranches for one year) lead a sound researcher to question if this result can be extrapolated beyond the single year. Research or the inference resulting from research is stronger as replication occurs in time and space concurrently. This inference grows stronger as the time period and the geographic separation of the replicated experiments increase. Field experiments conducted as part of the Quail-Tech Alliance will employ both types of replication. Though a single ranch will host an experiment for only a year, the experiments themselves will be replicated on multiple ranches (space) and for 2 - 5 years (time). The design of the Quail-Tech Alliance Anchor Ranch Program strongly supports this approach, because it provides the potential for experimental replicates to be placed in the central, northern, southern, eastern and western areas of the 38 county research area (approximately 22 million acres). Several Quail-Tech Alliance studies (e.g., economics of quail management, genetics, population dynamics, and food variability) will attempt to collect samples from all 38 anchor ranches for all 5 years of the study.

What does "Report of quail recruitment into the fall population on the ranch mean?"

Recruitment is defined as survival of young-of-the-year individuals until they can be considered members of the fall population (some would say until they are capable of breeding). Recruitment is measured as the young-to-adult ratio and these data can be obtained by aging a sample of birds. Northern bobwhite and scaled quail are aged using specific characteristics of their wing feathers. Successful recruitment is indicated by a relatively high young-to-adult ratio. High young-to-adult ratios can be achieved when there is some measure of success in breeding hen survival, egg laying, nest survival during incubation, egg hatching, and chick survival to enter the fall population. A low young-to-adult ratio indicates a failure in one or more of these components of the life-cycle.

From how far away should weather records be kept?

Anchor Ranches should attempt to record precipitation and temperature data from within 5 miles of the center of their research property. The closer to the research site, the more reliably one can correlate weather data to quail population changes. The Quail-Tech Alliance will work with individual anchor ranches to assist them with obtaining the necessary weather monitoring instrumentation as needed.

To whom would we be providing access? For what purposes?

The Quail-Tech Alliance requests access for their investigators, graduate students, and undergraduate technicians for the purpose of gathering data for experiments designed and conducted in consultation with individual landowners. In a separate request, the Quail-Tech Alliance may ask for landowners to participate in a field day by allowing Quail-Tech Alliance personnel and the general public to tour research areas of their property as a member of the field day tour. However, granting access for field days is not a requirement for participation in the Quail-Tech Alliance program.

What does it mean to adhere to study guidelines and how can I agree to that if I do not now know what they are?

Research projects will be designed in consultation with individual landowners. No research topics and no specific protocols will be forced on any landowner. However, once study guidelines are agreed upon between the Quail-Tech science team and an individual landowner, we ask that landowners do everything within reason to adhere to these guidelines.

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