Craig & Baltensperger

Andy Baltensperger, Ted McHenry Biology Field Research Grant Recipient

Ted McHenry Biology Field Research Grant

Heather Craig studies one of the least-known songbirds in North America, the Smith’s Longspur, a migratory songbird that breeds in the Arctic.

Andy Baltensperger studies small mammals – rodents and shrews – collecting baseline data about their feeding ecology, distribution and interactions with other species.

Craig and Baltensperger are graduate students in wildlife biology at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. The two were 2012 recipients of grants from the Ted McHenry Biology Field Research Fund, grants that provide critical support for field research.

The Ted McHenry Biology Field Research Fund was established in late 1998 by Ruth McHenry to honor her late husband. A longtime biologist with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, Ted received his B.S. in Fisheries Biology at UAF in 1967. Upon his retirement in 1987, Ted and Ruth moved from Seward to the Copper Basin, where Ted died in 1997.

“As a biologist, Ted believed that understanding something was key to saving it,” Ruth McHenry said. “A fund with the aim of better understanding wildlife and their needs seemed like a fitting memorial to him. We also greatly appreciated our years at UAF, the quality of its natural sciences departments, our professors, and the lifelong friends we made there. This made UAF the natural choice as a home for a wildlife scholarship fund.”

Heather Craig, Ted McHenry Biology Field Research Grant Recipient

First-year graduate student Craig is working to fill knowledge gaps about Smith’s Longspurs by studying their breeding ecology and migratory patterns. “This information will be used to inform management agencies so that they can develop appropriate conservation plans for the species,”
Craig said.

Baltensperger is a third year Ph.D. student. He’s using stable isotopes to outline the feeding ecology and spatial distributions of small mammals and study how their niches may shift with climate change and other humancaused impacts.

“Not much research has been done in this area,” Baltensperger said. “Yet small mammals are major food sources for coyotes, fox, marten, and raptors. I am trying to document whether there are changes in distribution or abundance of these small mammals which could affect the health of
predator populations.”

To qualify for McHenry grants, graduate students must be majoring in biology or wildlife and doing research on organisms whose range includes the Copper River Basin.

Each grant recipient receives about $1,500, which can be used for field research, travel, living and other expenses.

“For a student, that’s a huge amount of money. It really helps offset the costs of doing field work,” said Hild Peters, executive officer for the College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics at UAF. “It’s a big deal for students to do their own research, so this really helps fill the gaps.”

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