Class Year


Document Type

Student Research Paper

Date of Creation

Spring 2022

Department 1

Environmental Studies


In addressing the decline of North American grassland bird populations, it is important to consider the various interdisciplinary approaches that can be employed in their conservation. OECMs, or “other effective area-based conservation measures” encompass a wide array of strategies which can be leveraged to conserve natural landscapes and species. Land easements implemented by the Land Conservancy of Adams County (LCAC) are an example of one such strategy. The LCAC seeks primarily to preserve the rural character of Adams County but has more recently turned their focus toward environmental conservation. In partnering with the Land Conservancy, this case study aimed to identify land easements within Freedom Township, PA that should be prioritized for grassland bird conservation, while also supporting the LCAC in applying for a Land Trust Grant through the Cornell Ornithology Lab. To fulfill these goals, the Eastern Meadowlark was chosen as a focal species. Surveys were then distributed to landowners engaged in LCAC land easements within Freedom Township to gauge their current agricultural practices and willingness to participate in grassland bird conservation. After preparing Eastern Meadowlark occurrence data and selected environmental variables in ArcGIS Pro, the software MaxEnt was used to produce models expressing the predicted probability of Eastern Meadowlark presence in Adams County, Pennsylvania. The first model used land cover data to identify where the birds were likely located, and the second model used crop cover data to relate presence to certain crops. By integrating these models with survey responses, we identified parcels (1) containing suitable habitat for the Eastern Meadowlark, and (2) owned by landowners interested in bird conservation as priority conservation parcels. The results of this study indicated that the Eastern Meadowlark was negatively correlated with tree cover and crops unfavorable for nesting, including soy and corn. A stronger presence was predicted on easements that self-reported growing crops conducive to nesting, such as grasses, wheat, or hay. Based on these findings, we make several recommendations for the focus of future grassland bird conservation efforts within Freedom Township.


Written for ES 400 Senior Seminar.