Field Ecology

Field Ecology Department Mission

The Field Ecology Department seeks to safeguard the world's 15 species of cranes by restoring or managing ecosystems that also serve as crane habitat. Our emphasis on landscapes that range from wetlands and grasslands to human-dominated systems such as farmlands enables us to address the wider ecological problems facing the world today, while using charismatic species such as cranes to unite people in a common, well-focused goal.

Our ability to change human attitudes, restore complex ecosystems, or rejuvenate endangered crane populations depends upon continuity of our programs over many years. Field Ecology staff therefore engage in long-term research at multiple social and ecological levels. We emphasize the importance of baseline data collection and assessment as a necessary precursor to international and local restoration efforts. We promote capacity building programs for scientists, landowners, decision-makers, and other citizens concerned with the fate of the ecosystems on which both cranes and humans depend. We further engage governments, NGOs, and local communities in the sustainable management of ecosystems for the benefit of people and wildlife.

Examples of Field Ecology efforts around the world include:

  • Facilitating private landowner involvement in conservation issues, including reducing crane-farmer conflicts on agricultural lands in Central Wisconsin.
  • Demonstrating that managed water flows in the Zambezi River system can be used to restore ecological functions and diversity (including cranes and other wildlife), meet basic human needs and community aspirations, and satisfy national development objectives in Mozambique, Africa.


  • Demonstrating alternative land use practices that are economically viable for local people and provide inspiration and incentives for them to engage in the sustainable management of crane ecosystems in diverse places such as China and East Africa.
  • Using GIS technologies from Wisconsin to Zambia to illustrate the spatial relationships between cranes, people, and ecosystems.


  • Using cranes and other species of large waterbird to help protect wetlands of global significance in Southeast Asia.
  • Identifying the ecological relationships between water, plants, and Siberian Cranes (as well as other waterfowl species) as a means to mitigate the impact of water development projects in China.
  • Creating an outdoor laboratory by restoring native oak savanna, prairie, and wetland ecosystems at ICF's headquarters in Baraboo, Wisconsin, and conducting research on the process of plant community development over time.