Franklin College gets $250k to research Canada geese

Canada geese have long been a nuisance when they take up residence in a subdivision or outside a strip mall, but they were once believed to be extinct.

Now Franklin College is using a $250,000 research grant, the college’s largest ever, to study their behavior and increasing population.

With the grant from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that the Indiana Department of Natural Resources administered, the college’s biology students will develop research methodology, analyze data and present their findings over a four-year, which started on Jan. 1. For every three grant dollars, the college will contribute one dollar, associate professor of biology Ben O’Neal said. He is leading the students.

The Department of Natural Resources reimbursed the school for its work earlier this year, he said.

The grant money will pay for field equipment and technology, and will pay eight to 12 students for their research. It will also pay fees for students to publish their work in national and international journals and to travel to conferences around the country where they will present their findings, he said.

“Franklin is a teaching college and we’ve identified research as a powerful tool for developing and teaching students,” O’Neal said. “The goal is this work will be presented at national and international conferences and peer reviewed journals. That’s the goal of any good project including this one, (that) the work here in Indiana will be used to help guide management of Canada geese all across the country.”

Canada Geese were presumed extinct in the 1950s before a population of them were found in Rochester, Minn., according to the fish and wildlife service.

Soon afterwards, captive breeding brought the population back to life, and now they are thriving, O’Neal said.

Franklin will work closely with Ball State University, which also received grant money from the fish and wildlife service, and the Indiana Department of Natural Resources on the project. Together, they will research how Canada geese populations have increased, and how to resolve issues of conflict between humans and the geese, he said, which will help wildlife officials in Indiana and across the country learn unique strategies in dealing with that growing goose population.

“There are two sides to the coin with deer and geese. They’re important as a hunting resource and a cultural icon, but they’re also highly problematic and sometimes hated. Geese are protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. They are protected by federal policy and because of that you cannot farm or kill or remove Canada geese without a license or a permit to do that,” O’Neal said.

Along with the paid students, students in O’Neal’s ornithology and ecology classes will have the chance to partake in research, albeit unpaid, as part of their classwork, he said.