Giving Back

Scholarship Recipient

Kristen Heath

Kristen Heath

Kristen Heath

Texas Tech University

Year Received: 2018

Graduate Research Assistant in the Department of Natural Resources Management

Population Connectivity of Snowy Plovers on the Southern Great Plains of Texas, New Mexico and Oklahoma

Kristen Heath is a second-year Master’s student at Texas Tech University. Born in Odessa, Texas her
interests have always focused on wildlife and the outdoors. In college, her focus shifted to avian
conservation, a field that has taken her from New York to Panama. Recently awarded the opportunity to
give back to the wildlife she grew up admiring, Kristen returned to West Texas in 2017 to study Snowy
Snowy Plovers are a small, rare shorebird found on coastal shorelines and inland on saline lakes and salt
flats. Recharged by freshwater springs flowing from the Ogallala Aquifer, many saline lakes – important
Snowy Plover habitat – are drying up due to rapid anthropogenic depletion of the water table. In Texas,
Snowy Plovers experienced a near 75% decline in population from 1998-2009. Data from Bitter Lake
National Wildlife Refuge in eastern New Mexico suggest similar declines. Presently, Kristen’s research
focuses on the regional and winter movements of Snowy Plovers between isolated saline lakes on the
Southern Great Plains of Texas, New Mexico and Oklahoma and the role these movements play in the
persistence or deterioration of subpopulations in the region.

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