Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)



First Advisor

Letitia Reichart

Committee Members

Melissa Wuellner, Aaron Mittelstet, Pricila Iranah


Piping Plovers;Platte River Recovery Implementation Program;Systems Dynamics;Systems Thinking;Wildlife Conservation;Wildlife Management


Anthropogenic changes in land use, exploitation of natural resources, climate change, and habitat loss create difficulties managing and conserving species of concern. Managers are often forced to make decisions with incomplete information and much uncertainty. Unsuccessful attempts to manage for and conserve species in the past, may have resulted from failures to recognize the complexity of systems, resulting in actions that may have had unintended consequences. Thus, applying Systems Thinking and System Dynamics is appropriate for understanding what factors influence species success and evaluating what management actions may be implemented to help achieve conservation targets while minimizing negative impacts to other parts of the system. This study models the dynamics of a Piping Plover population in the Central Platte River Valley, Nebraska, and the factors that influence fledgling success. Historical nesting areas on river sandbars have been flooded or eroded away due to natural and artificial variations in river hydrology. In response to this, the Platte River Recovery Implementation Program, a program established to improve habitat use and productivity of Piping Plovers on the Central Platte River, began acquiring and constructing land to provide nesting habitat at off-channel sites. However, despite management efforts productivity has declined overtime. A systems approach was applied to: 1) identify and understand the interactions and impacts of various factors and management actions on Piping Plover productivity using a Systems Thinking approach; and 2) develop a System Dynamics model to evaluate Piping Plover fledging success under various management strategies. A model was created that incorporates all the life stages of a Piping Plover annual cycle; however, the model needs further refinement to test management scenarios. The presented model is a baseline template that can be used for any population in the future to help identify leverage points in the system to increase fledging success.



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