By Nicholas G. Smith
Last winter I applied for the LoonWatch internship at the SOEI. I saw this as an opportunity to learn ways to bring wildlife science together with a large caring community for the betterment of this beautiful bird. The job description entailed becoming proficient in loon ecology, giving public presentations, communicating and organizing volunteers, educating the public about our loons, monitoring loons, and filling out data forms. I interviewed and accepted the position beginning in February.
Now I can look back at what I have done. I presented at LoonWatch events like the Trout Unlimited Expo, lake owner events, and Loon Day in Mercer. Each person I talked with gave me insight on how the community appreciates loons. There are few species that have such a compassionate community to help with their success. I had attentive listeners for my talks about the dangers of lead tackle. It is always worth the effort when I see someone’s views change. I know they will remove the lead from their tackle box and never use it again.
I have surveyed lakes that have helped with the research and monitoring of the common loon. I enjoyed my time doing the loon surveys. The survey experiences in these beautiful northern Wisconsin settings tie the whole picture together. I was able to experience exactly what I read about and was taught; this was very fulfilling.
When calling for potential survey volunteers I was successful in reaching a significant number of volunteers to help with the survey because of the willingness of the people I contacted. This type of community involvement is something I want to continue in my career. When I am not interacting with the lake communities, I am on the computer entering survey data from previous years. Each lake’s data tells a story. Each individual story, sad or successful as a juvenile loon’s first flight, gives me hope.