Lake Superior researchers study threatened plover

Published 10:45 am Monday, August 20, 2012

SAULT STE. MARIE, Mich. (AP) — Scientists and students from universities in the Michigan and Ontario cities of Sault Ste. Marie are trying to aid the survival of an endangered bird.

Researchers from Lake Superior State University in the U.S. and Algoma University in Canada are monitoring of piping plover nesting areas in the eastern Upper Peninsula and neighboring shoreline areas of Ontario.

To do so, they’re using a $150,000 grant that’s part of $8.5 million allocated to 30 environmental restoration projects through the Sustain Our Great Lakes program. Matching funds have put the total funding for the project at $313,000.

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“We have been keeping busy this summer,” said Shannon Rowell-Garvon, a biologist at Algoma University. “There were three nests at Vermilion, three at Whitefish Point and two at Port Inland. The chicks hatched in late June and early July and all were banded within seven days after they hatched.”

Rowell-Garvon and her husband, Lake Superior State biologist Jason Garvon, are the project coordinators. The faculty members are working with a team of students.

The researchers set up nest “exclosures,” which protect nesting plovers from predators but allow the birds move on and off the nest so they may feed.

Piping plover research has been ongoing at Lake Superior State since the 1980s, but this year the nesting birds have been particularly active, Garvon said.

“This is a great opportunity for our students and we are very pleased to be funded through 2013,” he said.

The U.P. Land Conservancy manages two plover nesting sites in Grand Marais and Gulliver, according to Lake Superior State spokesman Tom Pink. He said Algoma University manages one plover monitor, and the U.P. Cooperative Weed Management Areas control invasive plants near plover nesting habitats in the eastern and central Upper Peninsula.

“The Detroit Zoological Society rears abandoned chicks and eggs and then releases the birds prior to fledging,” Pink said in a statement. “The society’s captive reared facility took in 12 eggs this season and six chicks were successfully reared and released in the wild.”