Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science




Biology (MS)

First Advisor/Chairperson

John Bruggink


The Black Tern (Chlidonias niger) population has markedly declined over several decades in northern North America, the causes of which are still largely unknown. I monitored nest success and wetland use by Black Terns in three colony sites in northern Michigan throughout 2017 and 2018 and used traditional survey methods coupled with nest cameras to document Black Tern nest success and mortality events. Colony sites included in this study were experiencing invasion by non-native plant species including Phragmites, hybrid and narrow-leaved cattail (Typha spp.), and European frog-bit (Hydrocharis morus-ranae). Statistically significant differences (P < 0.05) were observed between the average percent cover of submerged aquatics and floating aquatics near nest sites and random points, which suggests that Black Terns may be avoiding areas with high levels of floating and submerged aquatic plants. While Phragmites and invasive cattails can degrade the overall structure of the marsh and limit suitable nesting habitat, European frog-bit and other invasive floating aquatic plant species may pose a greater threat to nest success by reducing the amount of open water at nest sites and preventing incubating terns from defending their nests from aquatic predators. I documented nest disturbance and predation events including an instance in which a common snapping turtle (Chelydra serpentina) depredated an entire brood of chicks. This study is the first to document snapping turtles as a predator of Black Terns. My results provide further insight into potential factors limiting Black Tern chick survival in the Great Lakes region and the use of nest cameras to monitor nest success.

Access Type

Open Access

Justification for Restricting Access

I will be submitting each chapter of my thesis as stand alone manuscripts to the peer-reviewed journal "Waterbirds" with expected publication dates in 2019 and/or 2020. Manuscripts will be submitted for review in May or June 2019.

Marsh_Embargo_Form.pdf (54 kB)
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