Sigurd T. Olson was a pioneer loon watcher. His 1952 research paper with coauthor William H. Marshall, The Common Loon in Minnesota, continues to be cited as one of the premier baseline reports on the species. Sigurd was born in Ely, Minnesota, September 15, 1923. He was the eldest son of Sigurd F. Olson—internationally famous conservationist, writer, biologist, and the namesake for our Sigurd Olson Environmental Institute. For his contributions of scholarship to loon research and natural history, in 1986 the LoonWatch program named their new grant program the Sigurd T. Olson Loon Research Award. The award is for original research that leads to better conservation for loons and their habitats. He leaves an enduring legacy from his efforts in research and conservation to all who work with and enjoy loons.

Since its inception in 1986, the Sigurd T. Olson Common Loon Research Award (STO Award) has provided more than $40,000 in funds toward original research that has enhanced the understanding and management of loons and their habitats. LoonWatch is dedicated to the preservation of loons through education, monitoring, and research. People often ask, what can we do to help loons? The research component of our mission provides myriad answers to this question. Here are just a few highlights of the remarkable breakthroughs that the Sigurd T. Olson Loon Research Award has funded:

  • Developed the methods for color-banding loons, which has made it is possible to undertake in-depth studies for behavior, territory, life span, migration patterns, mercury studies, and much more.
  • Investigated the impacts of fish mercury contamination on loons, which is helped set safe mercury emission standards for loons and our lakes.
  • Established a standardized survey to document the loon population in Minnesota, which is still in use today.
  • Studied the consequences of using artificial nesting platforms for loon nests, which lead to better success with nesting platforms.
  • Learned about the impacts of Botulism E on migrating loons in the Great Lakes, which lead to a large scale unified effort in Michigan to address this issue.

Please re-visit this page in September 2018 for application materials and information.