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.

LoonWatch is seeking applications for its competitive grant award. To apply, please read the guidelines, conditions, and proposal format. Applications should be submitted through the application form. Attachments are limited to word docs or pdfs, and cannot be more than 2MB.

Deadline for submission: Monday, November 27, 2017.

Proposal Guidelines


  • The research award funds current investigation into the behavior, breeding ecology, migration, winter ecology, toxicology, or evolution of loons. Special consideration will be given to proposals addressing human impacts, including but not limited to the impact of climate change.
  • Proposals should be clear, concise, and submitted on time. Due to time considerations, incomplete proposals will not be considered. Applicants may resubmit such proposals for next year’s award.
  • Main body of each proposal (title, primary investigator, objective, justification and background, methods, budget, other sources of funding) should not exceed 6 pages in length using 12 point font. Cover letter, curriculum vitae and letters of recommendation (for students) are not included in the 6 page maximum. Electronic files are preferred.
  • Our policy is not to pay overhead, whether stated as overhead or indirect costs. We do not fund coursework, but will fund partial costs of research projects leading to BS, MS or PhD degrees.
  • The potential recipient should be affiliated with a group such as a non-profit, university or agency.
  • Most grants are awarded for work done in one calendar year. We will consider funding additional year(s) of research; however, a new proposal must be submitted each year.
  • The 2018 award will not exceed $2,000 and will be announced no later than January 31, 2018.


  • LoonWatch will receive acknowledgment for financial support in any publication or report resulting from the study.
  • The award will be designated for research conducted in the 2018 calendar year toward proposed objectives.
  • The principal investigator shall submit a progress report to LoonWatch by December 31, 2018. The report shall include major findings and account for expenditures of the award.
  • The principal investigator shall submit a final report to LoonWatch at the completion of the project.

Proposal Submission

Deadline for submission: Monday, November 27, 2017.

Proposal Format

  • Title: Concise description of project.
  • Principal Investigator: Include name and institutional affiliation.
  • Objective: Concise statements of goals and hypotheses to be tested.
  • Justification and Background: Provide background for the purpose of the research with a description of the situation, followed by a statement of need. Include relevant published literature and current research. Describe how this project is consistent with LoonWatch goals and research priorities.
  • Methods: Describe study area, data collection, equipment to be used, experimental design (include sample sizes and methods for the control of bias), and statistical analyses.
  • Budget: Itemization of proposed expenditures.
  • Other Sources of Funding: Indicate other awards applied for and current available funding.
  • Qualifications: Curriculum vitae of principal investigator including other research programs and publications. Students must include two letters of recommendation.

If you have any questions, please contact:

Submit Your Proposal

  • Drop files here or
    Accepted file types: pdf, doc, docx.
  • Be certain to click the SUBMIT button. You will receive an email confirmation soon after submitting the form. If you do not receive an email confirmation, it means your form did not go through and you need to resubmit.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.