North Texas Daily

UNT Quail program making progress in preserving endangered species

UNT Quail program making progress in preserving endangered species

UNT Quail Executive Director Kelly Reyna at the 2014 North Texas Land Scholars camp. UNT | Courtesy

UNT Quail program making progress in preserving endangered species
July 03
00:57 2016

Julia Falcon | Staff Writer


What first started out as a pilot program in 2012, the UNT Quail Initiative has since then worked continuously to conserve the bobwhite quail population in North Texas.

The students and faculty who work with the UNT Quail Initiative focus on the ecology, conservation and management of the northern bobwhite quail. Around 25 to 30 undergraduate students joined the quail saving team during the academic year, including an operations coordinator and an executive director leading the team.

Executive director of the program Dr. Kelly Reyna said they hope to expand their research and help save quails across North America.

“We are concerned with the entire range of northern bobwhite [eastern U.S. and Mexico]. However, we do focus most of our research on North Texas,” Reyna said. “We have joined together with about three million acres of land in North Texas to create what we call the North Texas Quail Corridor.”

North Texas Quail Corridor. UNT | Courtesy

North Texas Quail Corridor. UNT | Courtesy

The program works with North Texas locals in order to get to know the land and area better to get closer and gain better perspective to the quails.

“This large endeavor is only made possible by the great landowners we work with in this area,” Reyna said. “Our habitat model research is centered in Clay and Montague Counties, but the corridor expands across most of North Texas.”

After graduating from Oklahoma State University in 2014 with a Bachelor of Science in zoology, professional science masters in environmental science student Abby Holovach said her interest in cute animals and some sniffing around the UNT website brought her to join the movement.

“I began looking for my next science-related adventure,” Holovach said. “The lab’s goals and research seemed right up my alley, so I contacted Dr. Reyna and expressed interest in becoming a part of his quail team.”

Lex Gomez, who graduated from UNT last fall with a Bachelor of Science in biology, began as a volunteer with the program then became Dr. Reyna’s assistant. He’s now the group’s operations coordinator.

“For me, every day has been a learning experience in some form or another,” Reyna said. “I have had the opportunity to do and learn many things during my time at UNT Quail with regards to research, academia, and administration. While my intended avenue of study is neuroscience, my research experience with UNT Quail has helped me land acceptance to several graduate programs.”


Kelly Reyna, executive director of UNT Quail. UNT | Courtesy

The UNT quail is a comprehensive laboratory, Reyna said. They investigate any factor that could contribute to the quail decline, including northern bobwhite landscape genetics, physiological ecology, toxicology and parasitology.

“We are also working on developing a bobwhite habitat and population model using remote sensing technology to provide better information to the quail conservation community,” Reyna said. “Another large program is our investigation into neonicotinoid pesticides. They have been implicated as a major factor in the bee and butterfly declines across the world, which makes sense.”

Other questions the group works to find an answer to is how large a sustainable quail population is. To do so, they work on developing a habitat and population model and conduct landscape and genetics research.

“Less is known about the effects of them on vertebrate species like quail. We are seeing quite a response of the chemical on developing bobwhites and are now investigating the notion of transgenerational effects,” Reyna said. “So we have a lot going on in the field with data collection in the laboratory with genetic and physiological testing.”

Another focus point of the group is how to restore and expand quail populations, according to Reyna. And although bobwhite quail may seem like a small benefactor to an ecosystem, Holovach said that the bird is very important to it.

“Bobwhite quail serve as ecological indicators for environmental health,” Holovach said. “So by understanding their role in the ecosystem and how it relates to other wildlife, we can better understand how to manage our natural resources to maximize both ecological health and financial considerations.”

Reyna added the group also focuses on answering many questions regarding previous research technology to continue to learn and build quail habitats.

Many accomplishments and discoveries within UNT Quail include the difference in predator response between wild and captive reared breeds of quail.

“Many attempts have been made to restore populations with captive reared birds, and they haven’t worked,” Reyna said. “Our research has determined that how the birds respond to predators has directly contributed to these failures. Captive reared birds actually responds faster to predators than wild birds, but their response is premature, and so leads them to an early demise.”

Holovach said being a part of this group has helped her learn more than she thought she would get out of it.

“What’s great about environmental science is that it is a very wide-encompassing field.  It can relate to animals, the environment and humanity’s relationship with nature,” Holovach said. “Working in the UNT Quail lab has allowed me to gain experience in all three realms.”

Another project conducted by the group was the first to determine that neonicotinoids affect bobwhite quail development. Embryos with deformed beaks, legs, hearts and lungs were discovered, and a cyclops quail was found within the team’s treatment group.

Reyna said that he hopes the quail program stays around and continues to make lasting impacts in North Texas.

“The long term goal is to conduct cutting edge research that leads to solutions for quail conservation,” Reyna said. “We are also collaborating on numerous wildlife projects and working to develop a larger wildlife research presence in North Texas. This may lead itself to a wildlife institute in our future.”

Featured Image: UNT Quail Executive Director Kelly Reyna at the 2014 North Texas Land Scholars camp. UNT | Courtesy

About Author



Related Articles


No Comments Yet!

There are no comments at the moment, do you want to add one?

Write a comment

Write a Comment

The Roundup

<script id="mcjs">!function(c,h,i,m,p){m=c.createElement(h),p=c.getElementsByTagName(h)[0],m.async=1,m.src=i,p.parentNode.insertBefore(m,p)}(document,"script","");</script>

Search Bar

Sidebar Thumbnails Ad

Sidebar Bottom Block Ad

Flytedesk Ad