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Jackson Hole, WY—Biodiversity Research Institute (BRI) will hold its annual meeting of the Wyoming Loon Working Group in Jackson Hole, Wyoming on May 24. Collaborators from state and federal agencies, nongovernmental research and conservation groups, and local universities will meet to discuss the status of Common Loons in the state. These meetings are an integral part of Wyoming’s conservation efforts regarding loons.
“Common Loons in Wyoming are rare, isolated, and threatened,” says Vincent Spagnuolo, wildlife research biologist and project lead for BRI’s loon study in Wyoming and western North America. “Our objective for this working group is to bring together all stakeholders to make well informed decisions about loon conservation in this state.”
The Wyoming Loon Project is part of BRI’s broader loon conservation study funded and initiated by the Ricketts Conservation Foundation. Restore the Call is a five-year scientific initiative to strengthen and restore loon populations within their existing and former range. An important aspect of this study is to assess lesser-known loon breeding populations at the southern edge of the species range. BRI researchers thoroughly documented the distribution, population size, breeding propensity of Common Loons, as well as potential threats to these loons, in an isolated and disjunct breeding population found in northwestern Wyoming.
The Wyoming Game and Fish Department lists Common Loons as a Species of Greatest Conservation Need. With only 21 observed territorial pairs, the Wyoming loon population is one of the smallest in the species range. This population is not only the most southern loon population in the west, but it is also isolated from contiguous populations to the north by more than 220 miles.
To address loon conservation concerns, BRI formed the local loon working group in 2013 in collaboration with: Wyoming Game and Fish Department; Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks; and Bridger-Teton and Caribou-Targhee National Forests. Since its initiation, the working group has expanded to include members of the Wyoming Wetlands Society and the Trumpeter Swan Society, as well as independent researchers and graduate students.
The Restore the Call study area encompasses national parks and other public lands in the West (Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho), the Midwest (Minnesota); and the Northeast (Maine, Massachusetts, and New York). When the study began in 2013, researchers focused primarily on surveying populations in these regions. Population assessments help researchers identify sources of ecological stressors that may contribute to population declines. “It is important to identify key human-driven threats to existing populations,” says David Evers, Ph.D., BRI’s executive director and chief scientist, “and to create scientifically based solutions for reducing those threats.” Ecological stressors that affect loons include mercury pollution, lead from fishing tackle, oil spills, human disturbance of nest sites, type E botulism, overdevelopment of shoreline property, and improper water level management.
The loon is a key bioindicator of the health of our lakes as well as near shore marine ecosystems across North America. For current news and updates on this project, visit: www.briloon.org/restore-the-call-overview-page.
Funding for the Restore the Call project has been provided by the Ricketts Conservation Foundation, which was formed by Joe Ricketts to support the conservation of wildlife and natural resources. www.joericketts.com
The mission of Biodiversity Research Institute is to assess emerging threats to wildlife and ecosystems through collaborative research, and to use scientific findings to advance environmental awareness and inform decision makers. BRI’s Loon Program, part of its Center for Waterbird Studies, offers an essential resource for local and global communities concerned with loon conservation. Our research studies encompass a variety of ecological stressors: chemical toxins; habitat loss in breeding and wintering grounds and along migratory routes; and diseases. www.briloon.org/looncenter
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