June 7, 2005


Bird Surveys Needed In Offshore Great Lakes

Ann Arbor, Mich. — Waterbirds are important indicators of environmental health in the Great Lakes, because they are at risk of exposure to environmental toxins and pathogens through their diets. However, few researchers have gone out into the offshore areas of the Great Lakes to find out where waterbirds frequent.

"We know surprisingly little about the distribution and abundance of waterbirds in the Great Lakes away from breeding colonies and areas close to the shore," states Tom Langen, a researcher at Clarkson University in Potsdam, NY. "Many waterbirds feed far offshore, including species of concern such as the common loon. We would be better able to surmise how birds become exposed to toxins and pathogens like avian botulism if we knew where waterbirds forage in Lake Ontario and the other Great Lakes."

Langen, fellow researchers and students participating in a field course surveyed the abundance of birds throughout Lake Ontario during a one-week cruise on the USEPA research vessel the R/V Lake Guardian in September 2003. This waterbird survey was a component of a university field limnology course focused on measuring human impacts on the Great Lakes. This bird survey was the first-ever conducted on offshore Lake Ontario, and one of the first in the Great Lakes.

Langen and his colleagues tested survey methods that were developed for counting ocean birds from ships, and concluded that these methods are effective for measuring the abundance and distribution of birds on Lake Ontario. During the survey, they found that many waterbirds foraged greater than 15 km from land. Langen and his colleagues concluded that it is necessary to survey far offshore regions of the Great Lakes if managers wish to accurately measure the abundance, distribution and habitat use of waterbirds.

Original Publication Information
Results of this study "Pelagic bird survey on Lake Ontario following Hurricane Isabel, September 2003: Observations and remarks on methodology" are reported by Tom Langen, Michael Twiss, George Bullerjahn, and Steven Wilhelm in the latest issue (Volume 31, No. 2, pp. 219-226) of the Journal of Great Lakes Research, published by the International Association for Great Lakes Research, 2005.

Information on the field limnology course that provided the impetus for this study are reported in the paper "The Lake Ontario Great Lakes Science Practicum: A model for training limnology students on how to conduct shipboard research in the Great Lakes" by Michael Twiss, Tom Langen, George Bullerjahn, Steven Wilhelm, and David Rockwell in the latest issue (Volume 31, No. 2, pp. 236-242) of the Journal of Great Lakes Research, published by the International Association for Great Lakes Research, 2005.

For information about this study, contact Tom A. Langen, Department of Biology, Clarkson University, Potsdam, New York 13699-5805;; (315) 268-7933.

For information about the Journal of Great Lakes Research, contact Marlene Evans, Editor, National Water Research Institute, 11 Innovation Boulevard, Saskatoon, SK, S7N 3H5, Canada;; (306) 975-5310.

The Article (abstract); also Practicum Article (abstract)

Vol. 31(2) Table of Contents

Searchable JGLR Archive

IAGLR Web Site

Since 1967, IAGLR has served as the focal point for compiling and disseminating multidisciplinary knowledge on North America's Laurentian Great Lakes and other large lakes of the world and their watersheds. In part, IAGLR communicates this knowledge through publication of the Journal of Great Lakes Research, available to members in print and electronic form. A searchable archive of the journal is available online and includes the abstracts of articles from the journal's inception in 1975 through the most recent issue. In addition, complete articles are available to members who have signed up for an electronic subscription.