2020 LOON RESEARCH ON LAKE JOCASSEE
Help scientists study the health and behavior of common loons wintering in a freshwater ecosystem, which has never before been investigated. Join Dr. Jay Mager, Jocassee Wild Outdoor Education, and Jocassee Lake Tours as we continue the work sponsored by Earthwatch for the past three years.
This is the fourth year of an ongoing 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. Although loons typically winter in marine environments along coastlines, some now use freshwater reservoirs. Roughly 150 loons winter each year in Lake Jocassee. Wintering in freshwater lakes in the southeast is relatively new in the life history of loons. The building of large fresh water reservoirs in the southeast started with the Tennessee Valley Authority in the 1930’s. Lake Jocassee one of the newest reservoirs in the region, completed in 1973. It is not known exactly when loons starting using these reservoirs as stay-over locations and there is simply no reference to it in the scientific literature before this century. Thanks to the past three years of support by Earthwatch, an ongoing research project is well underway to study Common Loon behaviors in this new environment. Their general health, feeding and molting behaviors, and patterns of sociability all are the focus of this ongoing research.
Jay earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in biology at Hiram College, where he conducted a senior thesis with Dr. Judy McIntyre (Utica College at Syracuse University) researching loon parental behavior in the Adirondack Mountains of New York. He earned his Master of Science degree in zoology at Miami University, where he completed a research project in the Ottawa National Forest within Michigan’s Upper Peninsula - in collaboration with Dr. David Evers and under the supervision of Dr. David Osborne - that examined how chick age and brood size influenced loon parental behavior. He earned his Ph.D. in neurobiology and behavior at Cornell University, where in collaboration with his mentor, Dr. Charles Walcott, he examined the behaviors by which Common Loons acquire and defend breeding territories, focusing on the context and conditions by which males give a male-specific call, the yodel, in northcentral Wisconsin.
Dr. Mager's achievements in the field include:
- 2013-14 ONU Elanor H., and Robert W. Biggs Chair in the Sciences
- 2010 ONU Interfraternity & Panhellenic Council Outstanding Faculty Member of the Year
- 2008 ONU College of Arts and Sciences Outstanding Teacher of the Year
WHY STUDY LOON VOCALIZATIONS?
"Studying loons as a graduate student, I became quite interested in the mechanisms by which loons select and actively defend breeding territories. Dr. Charles Walcott at Cornell University really helped me explore ideas as to how vocal communication plays into this process. It's quite interesting that, although the loon vocal repertoire is one of the most characteristic features of the northern wilderness, we know very little about what these individuals are saying about themselves and to each other through their fascinating vocal signals. We've only begun to learn about these intriguing calls." ~Dr. Jay Mager
Jay’s website: https://www.onu.edu/node/37167
BROOKS WADE: GUIDE AND CO-INVESTIGATOR
Brooks and his wife Kay own and operate Jocassee Lake Tours. From the time Brooks worked as a young man as a commercial fisherman in the northern Gulf of Mexico he has been under 'the spell of the loon'. For the past ten years he has been a keen and constant observer of Jocasssee loons, and it is his persistent interest in and passion for these loons that ultimately drew the attention of loon scientists and Earthwatch. Brooks and Kay are also founders of Jocassee Wild Outdoor Education, a non-profit dedicated to outdoor education within the Jocassee Gorges.
DAILY LIFE IN THE FIELD
DATES: SESSION ONE, February 23-29 SESSION TWO, March 1-7
COST: $1400 per person for one session; $2600 per person for both sessions. This includes lodging and all meals.
COST FOR LOCAL COMMUTERS: $875 per person for one session, $1600 per person for both sessions.
Volunteers will be staying together in 2 or 3 bedroom villas at Devils Fork State Park. These clean and comfortable villas are fully furnished and include linens, all kitchen appliances, basic cooking and eating utensils, heat, air conditioning, fireplace, microwave, satellite television, complimentary wi-fi, automatic coffee maker, screened porch, charcoal grill and picnic table.