Date of Award

Summer 8-2020

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science in Fisheries and Wildlife Science


Biological Sciences


College of Natural & Health Sciences

Committee Chair

Dr. Thomas Nupp

Second Committee Member

Dr. Christopher Kellner

Third Committee Member

Dr. Douglas Barron

Program Director

Dr. Thomas Nupp

Dean of Graduate College

Dr. Richard Schoephoerster


The Interior Least Tern (Sternula antillarum athalassos) is an endangered shorebird that primarily nests in colonies on barren riverine sandbars on many major river systems throughout the central United States. Water resource development projects such as damming and channelization have altered the natural flow regimes of these systems leading to a decrease in sandbar quality and quantity, and as a result this species is dependent on management to ensure their recovery. Managers within Arkansas have been applying a variety of management approaches to improve sandbar nesting habitat and success of this population intermittently since 2002, with increased intensity since 2015. My study sought to evaluate the current population status and trends within the McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System, and investigate the impact on sandbar nesting habitat these management actions may be having. The population appears to be stable, and on a slight upward trend with an average of 490 adults present over the past six non-flood years, and the success rate of individual colonies within this study area is also trending upwards. Regression analysis failed to attribute any significant effect to management actions regarding fledging success, but found managed sandbars are more likely to be nested upon. I make recommendations for managers to potentially improve the effectiveness of their efforts as they continue to manage for the improvement of Interior Least Tern habitat quality, quantity, and fledging success to meet their legal obligations.