What is the most interesting aspect of working with loons?
Meeting people who are enamored with them! It never ceases to amaze me at all the “loonatics” out there. They love their loons, and that’s a good thing.
What inspired you to study this species?
I easily could have studied Sandhill Cranes, or Trumpeter Swans, or Mountain Bluebirds, but life unfolded and I took a fork in the road, and it went to loons. People love a great story, myself included, and there are many out there, but underwhelming as it is, there was no one ‘eureka’ or ‘inspirational’ moment with me and loons; I study loons because there are still interesting questions to ask and much still to learn about their natural history and since I have so much vested in them already, I plan on continuing on the path to loon enlightenment.
How does citizen science support your research?
First, it makes it more meaningful, it allows me to connect with another person, and maybe at the heart of the matter, this is what matters most in our lifetime. Second, they bring energy and passion, and during a long field season, those two traits are much appreciated. Third, they bring ideas and suggestions which may improve the investigation. Lastly, wildlife research projects are underfunded so their financial contributions are greatly appreciated.
What is your favorite moment in the field?
I feel most fortunate to have had so many wonderful moments with volunteers in the field that to choose one above the others is like asking me my favorite type of pie. Really? Okay, in 1997, I had a group of high school students and their teachers from the Watts District from Los Angeles come out to help me gather loon data in Wisconsin and they had never been in the woods, had never swum in a lake (and had never been exposed to biting insects common in the Northwoods!). They were out of their element, but they tried hard and had positive attitudes. For 2 weeks, I tried to get them swimming in the lake with my staff, but they refused. Finally, on the last day, during our wrap-up, at 10pm at night, they agreed to jump and swim in the water with my staff and me. They were jubilant and did not want to come out of the water, it was one of my most memorable moments, and it wasn’t about loons.