Citizen scientists are trained to conduct surveys at 45 lakes with suitable habitat in Glacier National Park. Surveys are used to document presence of common loons and observations of breeding and nesting behaviors. Citizen Scientists attend a one-day classroom and field based education program, where they learn about species identification, behavior, management concerns, and how to observe and document loons. They also learn how to use field equipment such as spotting scopes, compasses, and GPS receivers. Hiking distances to the sites range from along the roadside up to fifteen miles each way. Once they reach the lake, Citizen Scientists observe for one hour and document loon sightings and behavior.
Common Loons are a Montana Species of Special Concern, and Glacier National Park harbors about 20 percent of Montana’s breeding pairs. Loons are susceptible to adverse impacts by human disturbance at nest and nursery sites. The Common Loon Citizen Science Project helps to identify factors that affect nesting success. The contribution of citizen scientists to the long-term record of loon population health is invaluable in providing a scientific basis for management recommendations, especially in regards to issues that may affect loon nesting success and habitat.