New Loon Study Announced

loonThe Biodiversity Research Institute (BRI) of Gorham, Maine announced yesterday that it will begin the largest loon conservation study in North America.

The announcement was made in Wyoming, an interesting choice, since it is not exactly a hotbed of loon activity. Wyoming is, however, home to one of the many ventures of the study’s funder, Joe Ricketts. BRI was awarded a $6.5 M grant from the new Ricketts Conservation Foundation for the study.

A press release about the announcement sent to Society of Enviromental Journalist members said: “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.” (The website says, among other things, that Ricketts is a part owner of the Chicago Cubs.)


The press invitation also says: “The loon is a key bioindicator of aquatic integrity for lakes and near shore marine ecosystems. These iconic birds are becoming more exposed and susceptible to serious threats from type E botulism, mercury pollution, lead poisoning, oil spills, and over development.”

Visit the BRI website’s loon program page, here.

Photo: Loon, courtesy of the State of Minnesota, where the loon is the state bird.

Getting the Lead Out

lead - periodic tableTwo stories today focus on two different states’ efforts to get lead out of the environment.

An article in the Portland (Maine) Herald Press literally goes behind the scenes of the recent legislative ban on lead fishing gear in Maine, which was passed earlier this year, but won’t totally ban the lead gear until 2017. It goes into the lab of Mark Pokras, a Tufts University professor of wildlife health, who played a role in encouraging that legislation. Pokras has been studying lead poisoning in loons for over 20 years.

Pokras says that lead poisoning is responsible for the deaths of over a third of the loons that find their way to his lab in Massachusetts.

Read the story in the Portland Herald Press, here.

In Minnesota, studies show that a bad shot with a lead bullet (such as one that hits a hip bone), can cause lead to splinter throughout a white tailed deer’s flesh to the extent that it would be difficult, or impossible, to remove all of it. For the sake of public health, and also for the sake of the state’s bald eagles, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources encourages deer hunters to voluntarily use copper bullets.

The article details some of the differences between hunting with copper and lead bullets, which implies that a different technique may be more effective when using copper bullets.

Read the story in the Minnesota Conservation Volunteer, here.