How does the health and behavior of loons wintering in a pristine, uncontaminated winter environment compare to loons wintering in the Gulf of Mexico, a region impacted by the largest offshore oil spill in North American history?
In April 2010, the Deepwater Horizon oil spill dumped hundreds of millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, impacting many species of wildlife in the region, including the common loon (Gavia immer). For four years, Earthwatch teams collected data on the health and behavior of loons along the coast of Louisiana, an estuary near the mouth of the Mississippi River. They found that high internal concentrations of oil residues in loon blood affected their body mass and red blood cell volume.
Now, to better understand loon health and behavior, scientists are studying wintering loons in Lake Jocassee, South Carolina – a clear, freshwater ecosystem. You’ll join researchers in this pristine environment, which National Geographic listed as one of the world’s last great wild places, to listen to the haunting, low-pitched call of loons as you capture and tag them at night to assess their health and condition.
Help scientists measure differences in the foraging behavior of loons in a coastal versus freshwater ecosystem, which will enable researchers to better predict and understand what factors might influence their winter survival.