Maureen Frank

PhD candidate Wildlife Biology

Utah State University


Maureen Frank is a PhD candidate in Wildlife Biology at Utah State University.  Her dissertation research investigates the effects of invertebrate availability on the ecology of migratory waterbirds that use Great Salt Lake as a stopover location.  Maureen received her B.S. degree in Wildlife and Fisheries Sciences from Texas A&M University.  Her professional interests include outreach, human-wildlife interactions, and avian ecology.

Title: Phalarope Reliance on Brine Flies and Concomitant use of Bioherm Habitat

11:40am - Wednesday, May 11th

Abstract: Wilson’s phalaropes (Phalaropus tricolor) and red-necked phalaropes (Phalaropus lobatus) use Great Salt Lake (GSL) as a staging area every year. GSL has long been known to provide critical resources for phalaropes, which stage on the lake in numbers representing a significant proportion of their total continental populations. We analyzed specific factors related to habitat use for both phalarope species. We also studied the types of prey consumed by phalaropes at GSL. We found that Wilson’s and red-necked phalaropes frequently use areas of the lake that are underlain by microbial bioherms. Additionally, we found that both species rely heavily on brine flies (Ephydridae) as prey. Phalaropes eat both larval and adult flies. Areas of GSL that have microbial bioherm substrate are likely to have higher densities of both larval and adult flies and therefore serve as profitable foraging areas for phalaropes. In recent years, many bioherms have become exposed due to falling lake levels and therefore no longer support brine fly production. Microbial bioherms should be maintained as habitat for brine flies to support the successful staging of both phalarope species at GSL.