Completed Projects

  • Economics and Impacts of Waterfowl Management

    This project was a three-year effort to review and quantify the expenditure of U.S. taxpayer funds on wetland conservation in prairie Canada. Unprecedented in its scope and ambition, the review identified several ways to improve results reporting and communications in hopes of better informing stakeholders and decision makers of the program’s successes and challenges going forward.

    A White Paper for Sustaining and Improving Waterfowl Conservation in CanadaRead the Final Summary

  • Heartland Waters Initiative
    The team on this longer-term project developed recommendations for efficient, sustained use of financial resources to improve land, water and wildlife outcomes in agriculture. Their work provided educational materials and information about federal agricultural policy as it pertained to the 2018 Food Security Act (Farm Bill).

    Read MoreRead The ReportResults

  • Creating the Model Natural Resources Agency for Illinois

    The mission of this report is to provide a vehicle of transformation for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, elevating the department to its rightful place of leadership, respect and trust in the eyes of the citizens of Illinois, the department’s professionals and the nation.

    View Report


  • Coastal Fisheries

    This project assessed the economic impact of the recreational and commercial striped bass fisheries along the Atlantic Seaboard, in hopes of fostering better and more responsive management policies governing this historic, iconic fish.
    Read Report

  • Hispanic Hunters

    This innovative look at the experiences of Hispanic hunters and their views on hunting was a cooperative effort with the National Shooting Sports Foundation and five state fish and wildlife agencies. We used highly selective case-study research to develop new methods of improving hunter recruitment among all demographic groups.

    Learn More Read the Full Report

  • Reestablishing Bobwhite Quail

    In 2017, the McGraw Center for Conservation Leadership assembled a team of leading specialists to discuss the challenges of sustaining northern bobwhite quail in their traditional range of northern Illinois and to determine the viability of a trap-and-transfer program to boost populations in specific locations.

    Several critical themes were explored, including:

    • Likely causes for declines such as modifications in land use, changing agricultural practices, and increased, unpredictable fluctuations in severe weather events such as snowfall and ice storms
    • The need for greater background research to understand where and why current quail populations exist in northern Illinois
    • The genetic isolation among remaining populations and the potential degradation of genetic health from released, captive-reared birds

    It was agreed that trapping and transferring wild birds holds the greatest potential to fast-track the recovery of quail in a given area. By radio-tracking those birds, we would greatly improve our understanding of what limits or promotes quail survival.

    Further steps were put on hold once it was determined that significant additional resources were needed to conduct the research in a cost-effective manner that would directly improve quail management and increase our understanding of quail ecology.

    Read the Proposal

  • Hunter Education

    An overhaul of the Illinois hunter education program.

    Anticipated outcome: A new path forward for economic and program efficiency to improve the rate of new hunter recruitment.

    Read More

  • Trapping Matters

    Trapping Matters was an educational effort to ensure that professionals from federal and state wildlife agencies recognize the importance of trapping in conservation and wildlife management. The workshops taught the best management practices involving trapping and included communications training to foster understanding among the media and general public.

    View Report

  • The McGraw Dove Symposium

    The purpose of the McGraw Dove Symposium was to assemble a network of leading dove managers and hunters to address statewide population trends in Illinois and to share best practices for managing dove fields and dove hunting. After a series of erratic years in Northeastern Illinois, leaders of the Max McGraw Wildlife Foundation convened the symposium under the aegis of the McGraw Center for Conservation Leadership in hopes of finding a better way forward.

    View Report

Current Projects

  • The Federal Land and Water Conservation Fund

    We will help to lead educational efforts to maximize the conservation and public use value of the Land and Water Conservation Fund, ensuring maximum return on financial expenditures. We are focused on accountability, innovation and increasing the understanding of how private/public partnerships can enhance the financial and conservation/natural resources return to improve outdoor recreation.

    View Report Read The Update

  • Drone Technology in Wildlife Research

    The McGraw Center for Conservation Leadership is providing seed capital for an innovative program using drones and thermal imaging to locate duck nesting sites in the Prairie Pothole Region of Canada.  The technology holds huge potential for wildlife management in general and duck management in particular.

    Anticipated outcome: Better and more efficient ways of locating wildlife in their native habitat, making it easier to conduct population surveys and to manage efficiently.Learn More Watch

  • Predator Management

    A review of scientific data linking foreign economies to North American furbearer populations and their management.

    Anticipated outcome: A study that explains the impact of the world’s economies on furbearer populations, as well as concurrent impact on game and fish.

  • Coyote Ecology in the Chicago Metropolitan Area

    This project began in March 2000, and is currently the longest and largest coyote study to date. Prior to the 1990s, coyotes were only occasionally sighted in the Chicago area, and were not a regular member of the urban fauna. As coyotes have increased in number and expanded their range across North America, they began colonizing urban centers such as Chicago. Our objectives are to determine how coyotes achieve success in urban landscapes and the implications of this success for people and their pets. In addition to uncovering aspects of coyote ecology, we also focus on disease dynamics and the potential pathogens the animals host, and we seek solutions to human-coyote conflicts. We are using the most recent technological advances to uncover the mysteries of these animals, such as satellite-monitored GPS collars for movements, stable isotope analysis for diet, serologic techniques to detect disease, and SNP’s and genomic sequencing for genetic analysis. As the urban coyote population continues to increase in distribution and abundance within the city, we continue to monitor them to determine if there are changes in the behavior, physical condition, genetic structure and the prevalence of disease.

    Learn More

  • White-tailed Deer Population Dynamics and Fawn Survival in Cook County Forest Preserves
    White-tailed deer respond well to urbanization, and often become locally overabundant. At times, their numbers can cause ecological degradation to natural habitats and present a threat to human safety through collisions with vehicles. To manage deer populations, many agencies use mathematical models to make management decisions for local deer populations, but one critical component of those models — fawn survival — is often unknown. With the rise of coyotes within the Chicago region, it is possible that coyote predation may affect deer recruitment in urban preserves. We began monitoring fawns and adult deer in Cook County forest preserves in 2013 as part of a long-term project to estimate survival of fawns and identify the primary causes of mortality.