The focus of this project is to identify the regions within the northeast portion of Lower Michigan that are composed of aspen stands that range from 10 to 15 years of age and are within a reasonable proximity to water. By doing this, the project will have determined the locations of productive research sites for studying ruffed grouse. The methodology to obtain this goal will include the use of Landsat 5 Thematic Mapper (TM) remotely sensed imagery, various Geographic Information System (GIS) data layers, and Global Positioning System (GPS) field work to verify aspen stand locations.

This project is part of a more comprehensive study on ruffed grouse nutritional habits within their local environment. The study will predict if ruffed grouse have the ability to make a physiological decision to supplement their diet with foods that would directly correct any nutritional deficiencies the grouse may have. To attempt to answer this question, research will include a nutritional analysis of ruffed grouse crop and gizzard contents, as well as the nutritional contents of the feces. Analysis of crop material will identify dietary intake within hours of the grouse collection. The gizzard contents will allow an assessment of foodstuffs from several days of feeding. Finally, the examination of the feces will indicate if the ruffed grouse is digesting enough of the various available nutrients to thrive, or if there is a nutritional deficiency in its diet.

If a nutritional deficiency is observed from the feces evaluation and if the grouse can make a decision to supplement its diet to alter the deficiency, we would expect to find the foodstuff that would provide the needed nutrient within the crop of the specimen. If this is the case, analysis of the geographic location of the foodstuffs may help solidify the idea that grouse make a decision to seek out food sources containing the nutrients they are deficient in. This can be done by showing the geographic extent they must cross in order to obtain the needed nutrient while bypassing other sources of food that were more closely located to the grouse’s original position.

The ability to locate concentrations of ruffed grouse, using habitat preferences, should allow us to collect larger sample sizes of grouse and of their food sources. That again is the essence of this portion of the project, to locate potential sites for research by identifying grouse habitat.