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
- BRI’s Wildlife Health Program provides veterinary services to governmental and nongovernmental organizations, universities, and research facilities. Our Wildlife Health and Pathology Lab includes our in-house necropsy facility for post-mortem examination of wildlife, and enables in-house processing of samples for routine health evaluation such as hematology and parasite examination. (www.briloon.org/wildlifehealth)
- BRI’s Center for Loon Conservation is dedicated to assessing current and emerging threats to loons, and to collaborating with the many agencies and organizations that work to conserve loon populations across the Northern Hemisphere. Our research and conservation projects contribute to understanding basic ecology and strive to unravel the impacts of ecological stressors and how they can be lessened. The Center is also actively involved in assisting state and federal conservation and management agencies in monitoring efforts that include the capture, banding, sampling, and tracking of individual loons and their populations. (www.briloon.org/looncenter)
- BRI’s Adirondack Center for Loon Conservation conducts scientific research, conservation, and outreach to provide wildlife managers and other decision makers, as well as the general public, with the information needed to ensure that Common Loons remain an integral and vital part of New York’s wildlife heritage. (www.briloon.org/adkloon)
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.