Jun 20, 2013 — For 15 years, researchers have been keeping an eye on loons in the Adirondacks to make sure their nests stay safe. But a funding shortfall means much of that monitoring may not happen this summer.
The Adirondack loon program has had different names and sponsors over the years. Today it's called the Adirondack Center for Loon Conservation, and it's run by the Biodiversity Research Institute.
But for more than a decade, there have been a couple constants. Coordinator Nina Schoch's been involved. And Schoch says she's generally hired field staff every summer to keep a close eye on loons and their nests.
"By monitoring the individual birds on a weekly basis and the lakes and ponds on a weekly basis, we really get a good indication of if the birds nested, if eggs were laid, if the eggs hatched, if chicks survived to fledging age."
This summer Schoch won't be able to hire those loon monitors, because the program's $35,000 short. Schoch says she only got half of a grant she expected from the state's energy and research agency.
Loon populations have exploded across the Adirondack Park since the 1980s. But Schoch says it's important to continue to monitor them – not only to protect loons themselves but because of what they tell scientists about the rest of the environment.
"Loons are one of the top predators in the aquatic ecosystem in lakes and ponds, and so toxins that accumulate up the aquatic food web do so to high levels in loons. So what's going on in loons is very reflective of what's going on in the lakes that they breed on."
That information can be influential in public policy. Research about the presence of mercury in Adirondack loons was used to help write New York's law controlling mercury emissions from power plants.