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Wildlife & Ecosystems

Loon Conservation in South Carolina

Help scientists to study the health and behavior of common loons wintering in a freshwater ecosystem, which has never before been investigated.


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The facts

Why the research is important

Why the research is important

This is the first study to examine the wintering behavior of common loons in freshwater environments.

By studying common loons in a pristine environment, scientists can better understand the factors that influence their health and survival in the winter.

Capture and record data on loons before releasing them back into the wild.

Capture and record data on loons before releasing them back into the wild.

Scientists are eager to expand our understanding of the health and condition of wintering common loons, and how it is impacted by a contaminated environment. Although loons typically winter in marine environments along coastlines, some use freshwater reservoirs. Roughly 150 to 200 loons winter in Lake Jocassee.

In addition to loons’ health, the foraging behavior of loons in Louisiana is likely to be very different to that of loons in South Carolina, largely because of the inherent differences between the study sites. Louisiana’s site is a coastal estuary with shallow, turbid water as compared to Lake Jocassee with its deep, clear, and pristine water. The wintering behavior of loons in a freshwater environment has never before been studied. It’s possible that loons at Lake Jocassee will spend more time foraging in groups than in Louisiana, as clearer water would allow them to more easily find schools of fish such as herring.

The results of the research will be used to raise awareness about the likely importance of reservoirs as wildlife habitat, and how to best monitor and manage them. The data will also help to uncover the effects of pollution on the health and condition of loons, which can be used to inform our understanding of the true environmental impact of an oil spill in the future.

About the research area

Lake Jocassee, South Carolina, United States, North America & Arctic

Daily life in the field

Itinerary

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The Scientists

MEET THE LEAD SCIENTIST

James (Jim)
Paruk
Associate Professor, Biology Department, St. Joseph’s College

ABOUT James (Jim) Paruk

Dr. James “Jim” Paruk is the Senior Scientist at the Center for Loon Conservation at the Biodiversity Research Institute. Jim is investigating the health and behaviors of loons in Lake Jocassee, South Carolina in order to better understand common loon wintering behavior in freshwater and compare it to four years of data Earthwatch teams have collected from loons along the coast of Louisiana.

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