My applied project focused on five major threats facing the Common Loon. Four out of the five threats I chose were anthropogenic (human-caused) and one was natural among loon populations. I decided to create illustrations demonstrating the severity of each threat. I used black ink to illustrate the loon itself and red/orange/yellow watercolor to highlight the threat itself. I wanted to create pieces that had some sort of shock value so they would stick in viewers heads once they saw them. I chose the most or one of the most present threat for each life stage of a loons life, a chick, an immature individual, a breeding adult and a wintering adult.
The five threats I chose were interspecies aggression, which features an adult loon killing the chick of another loon. This often happens during territory invasions among adults. The invading male loon will attack the chick of the resident loon to ensure that their genes are the only that are passed on within that territory. The second threat was trauma, the most common form of mortality among immature loons. This can occur if these loons get mixed up in territory disputes between or adults or hit by a speeding boat. Fishing wire entanglement, another major anthropogenic threat, can cause serious issues for loons. Birds diving may accidentally swallow the wire where it can get tangled around their intestines. It can also get wrapped around their bill and head which can compromise their foraging methods and vision.
Another threat, gunshot wounds, was more of an issue in the early 1900’s, when loons were eradicated in areas where fisherman thought they were being outcompeted by the birds when it came to game fish. It isn’t as common nowadays, but still occurs. The birds often don’t die directly from the gunshot, but as a result of blood loss or infection. The final threat I choose to focus on was lead toxicosis. This occurs when a loon ingests a lead fishing tackle incidentally. This results in a painful death for the bird as it is slowly broken down in its stomach and dies from lead poisoning.
I decided to display my work in the Lamson Library at Plymouth State University. I spoke with Cynthia Robinson who gave me materials and information I needed to make my poster happen. I am hoping that students will see it and want to know more about the problems that loons face, or even just about loons in general. I realize my illustrations are a bit graphic and may be disturbing to some students, but i think the only proper way to portray these issues is to represent them in the most real way possible. Being able to work on a project such as this and make it about conservation is something that I am very passionate about. Understanding the ecology of a species and using that to conserve them is incredibly important to me, and I hope through my work I am able to make others passionate about it as well.