Biodiversity Research Institute (BRI), a nonprofit ecological research group based in Portland, Maine, conducts innovative wildlife science worldwide.
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Gorham, ME— Biodiversity Research Institute (BRI) will announce its findings about the status of Wyoming’s Common Loon population at a special presentation on June 12, 2014 at the Wyoming Game and Fish Department (WGFD) regional office in Jackson. Presenters will include David Evers, executive director of BRI and Tim Fuchs, Jackson Region Wildlife Supervisor of WGFD. A highlight of the event will be the unveiling of a loon diorama gifted to the state by Joe Ricketts, founder of the Ricketts Conservation Foundation (RCF). The presentations begin at 11:00 a.m. MDT.
The loon is a key bioindicator of the health of lakes and wetland ecosystems across North America. Yellowstone National Park and the Wyoming Game and Fish Department have been monitoring the presence of loon pairs and fledged chicks in Wyoming since 1987. In 2013, BRI expanded on this effort as part of the RCF-funded scientific initiative Restore the Call to strengthen and restore loon populations within their existing and former range. For the first phase of the study, which began last summer, BRI increased monitoring of pairs, nesting, and productivity, and began to capture and band adult loons. In total, field biologists identified 14 territorial pairs in Wyoming, 11 of which nested. These pairs hatched 13 chicks and 11 of these chicks survived.
“This loon research in Wyoming is part of our larger loon restoration and recovery project that spans territories across North America,” says Evers. “There is a sense of urgency in Wyoming because we suspect the small, isolated population in this state may be declining. Loons are poor colonizers—if we lose them from an area, we may not see them return for a very long time.”
As part of the Restore the Call initiative, Evers organized collaborative groups of scientists to study and identify key threats in each state (e.g., mercury pollution, avian diseases, lead poisoning, climate change) to existing populations and to create scientifically-based solutions for reducing those threats.The Wyoming Loon Working Group comprises researchers from Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, the U.S. Forest Service, and BRI.
“We are grateful for this opportunity to advance our understanding of loon ecology and to help restore the integrity of ecosystems where loons once thrived,” says Susan Patla, nongame biologist, WGFD. “And we are thrilled with the loon diorama because it presents a vivid way to foster public awareness of the Common Loon.”
As part of the June 12 event, which is open to the general public, Ricketts will present a unique loon diorama to the state of Wyoming to be kept on permanent display at the WGFD’s Jackson offices. This diorama, the product of a world-class ensemble of craftsmen and artists, showcases nesting and feeding loons in a regional landscape. It includes a four-foot hand engraved granite plaque depicting the iconic Teton Range. Contributors to this project include taxidermist Mark Dufresne (Gray, Maine), artist Adelaide Tyrol (Oliphant Studios, New York City and Plainfield, Vermont), engraver Ed Epstein (Northfield, Vermont), and cabinetmaker Brian Miller (Jackson, Wyoming).
In 2013, through a generous grant from the RCF, BRI began the largest Common Loon conservation study to date (www.briloon.org/restorethecall). Research efforts focus in three key breeding population centers from the western mountains to the Atlantic seaboard. The study region encompasses national parks and other state and federal lands in the West (Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho), the Midwest (Minnesota); and the Northeast (Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Maine).
Components of the five-year initiative include implementation of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Conservation and Management Plan and development of state-specific working groups to create a restoration plan for the loons. The three-pronged approach for the Restore the Call initiative includes: 1) loon population assessments; 2) outreach and conservation; and 3) development of methods to translocate loons to former breeding areas.
Funding for this project has been provided by the Ricketts Conservation Foundation, which was formed by Joe Ricketts to support the conservation of wildlife and natural resources. Underlying the Foundation’s mission is the reality that government no longer has sufficient resources to deal effectively with the growing environmental challenges we face. As a result, private individuals and corporations must increasingly shoulder the responsibility of conserving our wildlife and wilderness areas. 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 preservation. 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/loons
The Wyoming Game and Fish Department is dedicated to maintaining the health and diversity of the state’s natural environments and native species. One such species is the Common Loon, an iconic symbol of wildness. Loons breed on freshwater lakes; populations are small and isolated in this region. Conservation efforts by the state focus on safeguarding loons as part of Wyoming’s wild heritage.
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