For more information on Science within the Complex, visit Alligator River Science.

Tundra Swan Productivity

During the month of December, biologists at Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge conduct productivity and recruitment surveys of the overwintering tundra swan population.  Biologists look for number of young swans (cygnets) in family groups, the total flock size, and the number of cygnets in each flock. This data is combined with data from other national wildlife refuges and state lands in North Carolina, along with seven other states in the atlantic flyway to help determine the productivity of northern breeding grounds.
Wood Duck Boxes
Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge provides wintering, breeding and migration habitat for wood ducks.  Wood ducks nest in tree cavities, but due to deforestation on Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge prior to refuge establishment, and wildfire, there are few trees available on the refuge that meet wood duck nesting needs. To assist the wood duck population, wood duck boxes are maintained all over the refuge. These boxes are checked monthly during the spring breeding season, and data is collected on productivity. This helps refuge staff understand the population of wood ducks on the refuge. 
Wood Duck Banding
Each year, biologists at Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge band wood ducks in the summer months. Wood ducks are captured using rocket nets at a baited banding site. After capture, the ducks are banded and data is recorded on each wood duck. This data is used to inform refuge staff about wood duck population trends on the refuge. Monitoring the population is important because maintaining habitat for wood ducks is part of the refuge’s primary purpose.
Hydrology Restoration
The primary purpose of Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge land outside of the Pungo Unit is restoration and maintenance of the natural processes and biodiversity of a functional pocosin wetland. Over time, the implementation of the refuge’s hydrology restoration plan will promote peat accumulation and restore the functions of a healthy pocosin and other peatland ecosystems.   Peat accumulation is expected to provide an added benefit of sequestering tons of carbon. Currently, the refuge has installed water control structures to intensively manage water levels. Water levels at the structures are monitored bi-weekly. This water level data provides information for immediate management as well as showing long term water level trends.
Migratory Waterfowl Monitoring
The Pungo Unit’s main objective is waterfowl management. Waterfowl surveys are essential to informing management, and biologists conduct ground and aerial surveys during the peak use months of November- February.  These surveys have been conducted since the unit’s establishment in 1963. Ground surveys are conducted once a week, covering Pungo Lake and each of the five waterfowl impoundments. Aerial surveys are conducted several times during the winter months. The ground survey data is also used as part of the Integrated Waterbird Management and Monitoring (IWMM) Initiative.  The IWMM uses data from conservation partners along the Atlantic Flyway to inform management efforts at refuge, state and flyway levels. 
Invasive Plant Species
Currently, Pocosin Lakes National Wildlife Refuge is part of a project to study the effects of herbicide on the invasive plant species Phragmities australis. This species is very aggressive, and can take over wetland areas, outcompeting native plants. This is especially concerning on the Pungo Unit, where Phragmities can take over areas of important waterfowl food sources.  Refuge staff photographs stands of Phragmities before and after herbicide application, in an effort to determine the best methods of eradicating the species.