Theses and Dissertations

Issuing Body

Mississippi State University


Rush, Scott A.

Committee Member

Bierregaard, Richard O.

Committee Member

Dorr, Brian S.

Committee Member

Morin, Dana J.

Committee Member

Vilella, Francisco J.

Date of Degree


Document Type

Dissertation - Open Access


Wildlife, fisheries & aquaculture

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D)


College of Forest Resources


Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Aquaculture


Raptor nests on human-built structures represent a significant source of conflict as they can result in bird mortality, fires, structure damage, service distribution, or power outages when falling nest materials or animals connect with energized conductors. Power companies, such as the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), wish to mitigate these conflicts to avoid service disruptions. In this dissertation, I present my work towards understanding and mitigating the interactions between Ospreys (Pandion haliaetus) and human-made structures. To achieve this, I explored multiple elements of conflict identification, monitoring, and basic ecology of the target species to better inform conflict mitigation. In Chapter I, I modelled the influence of suitable habitat and transmission infrastructure distribution on the potential risk of nest-infrastructure conflict within the TVA power service area. My integrative model would be most useful to utilities when adjacent (i.e., within 10 km) areas to ‘risky’ zones are also considered when looking at mitigation efforts and pre-development planning. Going forward, similar models for other species and for distribution structures may benefit utilities such as TVA. In Chapter II, I aimed to identify the most suitable nest monitoring technique for Ospreys, as nest information is required to make informed decisions for conflict mitigation (e.g., nest removal). I found that unoccupied aircraft systems, or drones, are less disturbing and more time-efficient than other methods tested. In the last two chapters, I focused on obtaining detailed information on the basic ecology of Ospreys in the southeastern United States, which represent an understudied population. My findings in Chapter III contribute to general migration ecology theory, identify key stopover areas for Ospreys in Florida, provide valuable comparisons for further investigations, highlight areas for future research, and identify possible metrics relevant to conservation and management action. Lastly, I quantified the genetic diversity and structure of southeastern Ospreys to generate hypotheses for future testing and provide valuable comparisons for further investigations. While gene flow appears to be high and sampled regions show little genetic differentiation, more research is required to elucidate patterns of cryptic population structure and provide concrete implications for management decisions (e.g., source population for translocation programs).