BIODIVERSITY RESEARCH INSTITUTE RESPONDS TO NEW WILDLIFE HEALTH CONCERN
Avian Malaria in Common Loons Signals Serious Environmental Changes
Portland, ME — In response to news of the first confirmed mortality of a Common Loon due to avian malaria in the Northeast, Biodiversity Research Institute (BRI) has initiated a crowd funding campaign to investigate the scope of the finding. Through innovative wildlife research and analysis of long-term data sets, BRI and collaborators are investigating the potential impacts of climate change on loon populations.
“Loons are true bellwethers of how we’re treating the world around us. It’s imperative that we act on their behalf,” says David Evers, BRI’s executive director and chief scientist. “Our ability to investigate the extent of this new threat on loon populations depends on immediate action and private funding.”
The crowd funding campaign, Protecting Common Loons of the North Woods, kicks off today and will run for two months. The campaign goal is to raise $30,000 to cover the costs of organizing and managing a team of volunteers for loon monitoring, comprehensive health assessment and disease surveillance of live loons, supplies and travel costs for field biologists, and examination of deceased loons in BRI’s Wildlife Health and Pathology Lab and the New Hampshire Veterinary Diagnostic Lab.
A changing environment brings increased risk of infectious disease for both humans and wildlife. Pathogens that are spread by mosquitoes such as Zika virus, malaria, Eastern Equine Encephalitis (EEE), and West Nile Virus are just a few of the diseases that are becoming a greater concern for both people and animals.
To mobilize resources in New England, BRI is collaborating with the Loon Preservation Committee (LPC) to perform a rapid assessment of known loon territories in order to identify sick or dying loons, dovetailing with existing monitoring efforts.
“It is important to note,” says Evers, “that LPC has launched a new initiative to measure impacts of climate change on loons and the viability of New Hampshire’s loon population given predictions of increasing temperatures and precipitation, and has an established network of volunteers and staff monitoring lakes to be able to detect and transport loons for necropsy. This makes our efforts more effective.”
In addition, both BRI and LPC are working with Northeast Loon Study Working Group (NELSWG) to maximize coverage throughout the Northeast.
“We need to look more closely at the health of individuals to better understand and protect wildlife in our changing environment,” says Michelle Kneeland, DVM, director of BRI’s Wildlife Health Program. “At a time of unprecedented environmental change, this work is more urgent than ever.”
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 has been conducting scientific inquiries for private sector and government clients nationwide and globally since 1998. Using both traditional and innovative approaches, our researchers collect, analyze, and interpret scientific results on how ecological stressors impact living systems. (www.briloon.org)
The Loon Preservation Committee (LPC) was created in 1975 in response to concerns about a dramatically declining loon population and the effects of human activities on loons. LPC’s mission is to restore and maintain a healthy population of loons throughout New Hampshire; to monitor the health and productivity of loon populations as sentinels of environmental quality; and to promote a greater understanding of loons and the larger natural world.
The Northeast Loon Study Working Group (NELSWG), organized in 1994, is a consortium of federal, state, nonprofits, and industry organizations dedicated to applied loon research. The Group was created because of widespread concerns about the health of loons in the Northeast. With input from participating members, NELSWG coordinates cooperative research and other actions on issues beyond the scope of any one of its member organizations.
Vermont Center for Ecostudies (VCE) promotes wildlife conservation across the Americas using the combined strength of scientific research and citizen engagement. VCE’s Vermont Loon Conservation Project, conducted in coordination with the Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department, has seen the state’s Common Loon population grow from only seven pairs three decades ago to more than 70 breeding pairs today. Utilizing the strength of this partnership, in assistance with a corps of dedicated volunteers, VCE conducts loon monitoring, management and outreach to secure a future for loons in Vermont.
Michelle Kneeland, DVM
Director, BRI’s Wildlife Health Program
Lake placid, NY
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Weather ForecastTuesday 05/31 10%Partly CloudyPartly cloudy. Lows overnight in the low 40s.Wednesday 06/01 0%Partly CloudyIntervals of clouds and sunshine. High 76F. Winds E at 5 to 10 mph.Thursday 06/02 20%Mostly CloudyPartly cloudy skies during the morning hours will become overcast in the afternoon. High 81F. Winds S at 10 to 20 mph.Friday 06/03 30%Chance of RainA shower or two around the area in the morning, then partly cloudy in the afternoon. High 76F. Winds WSW at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of rain 30%.Saturday 06/04 10%Partly CloudyPartly cloudy skies. High 77F. Winds NW at 5 to 10 mph.