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Published August 19 2012

Lake Superior researchers study threatened plover

SAULT STE. MARIE, Mich. – 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 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.

“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 to 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.