Researchers working to reduce bird die-offs

Project Summary: Scientists have established a water-quality monitoring program in an effort to reduce Type E botulism outbreaks that have killed thousands of birds in recent years at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.

Project name: Saving Great Lakes Shorebirds.

Location: Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, Empire, Mi.

Description: Quagga mussels that invaded the Great Lakes in the 1990s

Sleeping Bear Dunes, in the distance, is the site of new research into the botulism outbreaks that cause bird deaths in the area of the Dunes. Photo from Flickr/rkramer62.

Sleeping Bear Dunes, in the distance, is the site of new research into the botulism outbreaks that cause bird deaths in the area of the Dunes. Photo from Flickr/rkramer62.

have fueled massive algae blooms, which contributed to outbreaks of Type E botulism that have killed more than 80,000 shore birds since 1990. Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, where the federally endangered piping plover nests, has been among the hardest hit areas. Scientists are studying what triggers the botulism outbreaks in an effort to reduce bird die-offs in the future.

Approximate cost of project: $2.1 million, $1.9 million of which was funded by the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.

Resource challenges addressed: Invasive species, water quality, fish contaminants and botulism outbreaks that kill shorebirds.

Key partners (public and private): Common Coast, Michigan Tech University, Northern Michigan University, Northwestern Michigan College, Science Museum of Minnesota, U.S. Geological Survey, National Park Service, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

Types of jobs created: Biologists, toxicologists, science technicians, boat captains and deckhands, hydrographic survey technicians and university research assistants.

Results and accomplishments: Scientists have established a comprehensive water quality monitoring station and mapped coastal areas at Sleeping Bear Dunes where Type E botulism outbreaks are likely to occur.  The research is aimed at improving water quality and reducing bird die-offs.

Web site: http://1.usa.gov/ObE4Q2

Originally Published: September 19, 2012

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