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2016 Mono Lake Committee Annual Report

Saturday, January 7th, 2017 by Arya, Communications Director
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The Mono Lake Committee’s 2016 Annual Report is now available online.

2016 Annual Report cover

Cover photo courtesy of Thomas Piekunka.

The report is full of photos of the Mono Lake Committee in action in our focus areas of protection, restoration, education, and scientific research. It also has the Committee’s (more…)

2017 Mono Lake Calendar essay: Leopold’s capacity for self-renewal

Tuesday, January 3rd, 2017 by Elin, Communications Coordinator
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This essay, written by Bill Trush, appears in the 2017 Mono Lake Calendar.

Lee Vining Creek delta. Photo by Rick Kattelmann.

Lee Vining Creek delta. Photo by Rick Kattelmann.

Each field season traveling south to “the lake” I stop at the Highway 395 overlook located just before the highway twists its way down to the Mono Basin floor. If I am lucky, no one else is there. I get out of the car, stretch (after the ten-hour drive from Humboldt County), then find just the right boulder to sit on, or two boulders to nestle between, depending on the wind. This is my time to get reacquainted. I have been privileged to study an incredible ecosystem that has schooled me patiently and made me a better scientist. I particularly like arriving near nightfall.

Hello Mono Lake. Nice to be here again. Remember me? I inhale deeply to taste and smell the thin air. I strain to see Rush and Lee Vining creeks on the far side of the lake. Just as I thought, both creeks are still there. I note the lake (more…)

Mono Lake’s California Gulls in Audubon Magazine

Thursday, December 8th, 2016 by Elin, Communications Coordinator
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Mono Lake’s California Gulls and coyotes appear in the winter issue of Audubon Magazine, in an article by Jane Braxton Little: Amidst California Drought, Coyotes Creep Closer to Mono Lake’s Gull Colonies.

audubon-magazine-gull-article

Little spoke with Committee Executive Director Geoff McQuilkin and local Point Blue Conservation Science researcher Kristie Nelson about plans to install a temporary electric fence across the emerging landbridge, intended to deter coyotes from reaching the gulls’ nesting islets. You can support the fence project here.

Little hit the nail on the head, writing, “Even if the fence thwarts the coyotes, the basic predicament at Mono Lake isn’t predators eating prey: It’s the loss of water.” So while we prepare to build the fence we’ll also be watching the weather closely for any sign of a break in this record-setting California drought.

Refreshments with Refreshing ‘Ologists: Native herptiles in Yosemite

Sunday, July 10th, 2016 by Grace, Mono Lake Intern
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Join us this Wednesday, July 13 at 4:00pm in the Mono Lake Committee Gallery for the first of our Refreshing ‘Ologist series: Recovery and Conservation of Native Herptiles in Yosemite.

Yellow-legged frog. Photo by Nora Livingston.

Sierra Nevada yellow-legged frog. Photo by Nora Livingston.

In this summer’s first lecture we will hear from Yosemite Wildlife Biologists Ninette Daniele and Molly Thompson. They will discuss the current conservation strategies being used to protect native herptiles, like the Sierra Nevada yellow-legged frog, Yosemite toad, and other herptiles in Yosemite National Park. They will also discuss how well these strategies are working and what types of recoveries they are seeing. Join us to learn more!

2015 Mono Lake California Gull report

Saturday, March 26th, 2016 by Mono Lake Committee Staff
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This Winter & Spring 2016 Mono Lake Newsletter article was written by Kristie Nelson, Point Blue Conservation Science.

Monitoring of the Mono Lake California Gull colony by Point Blue Conservation Science researchers and volunteers to help understand how wildlife populations respond to ecological change over time continued in 2015.

A banded California Gull (Larus californicus) with its chick at Mono Lake. Photo courtesy of West Vane.

A banded California Gull (Larus californicus) with its chick at Mono Lake. Photo courtesy of West Vane.

It was a very successful year for the gulls: both population size and chick production were above-average. Chicks were numerous and heavy, which indicates that they were (more…)

Eared Grebe survey results from 2015

Thursday, March 24th, 2016 by Robbie, Project Specialist
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Mono Lake is a critical migratory staging ground for Eared Grebes (Podiceps nigricollis). Surveys have confirmed that 30–50% of the entire continent’s population of Eared Grebes utilize Mono Lake, with over one million birds visiting on their fall migration route to feed on brine shrimp. Since 2008 the Mono Lake Committee has collaborated with Canadian research biologist Sean Boyd from the Pacific Wildlife Research Centre in British Colombia to carry out annual aerial Eared Grebe surveys.

Aerial Eared Grebe survey data suggests that a shift toward an earlier peak in grebe population numbers at Mono Lake may be occurring.

Aerial Eared Grebe survey data suggests that a shift toward an earlier peak in grebe population numbers at Mono Lake may be occurring.

It had previously been observed that Eared Grebes were most prolific at Mono Lake in mid-October (as recently as 2013), but (more…)

Mono Basin Clearinghouse updates: Gull research and real-time data

Monday, January 4th, 2016 by Greg, Information & Restoration Specialist
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clearinghouse-updates-2015-CAGU-report_Page_01Recent updates on the Mono Basin Clearinghouse include the following items:

Point Blue has finished its 2015 report on the nesting success of California Gulls at Mono Lake. According to project coordinator Kristie Nelson, it was an above-average year—a welcome finding after a downward trend of below-average populations over the last ten years.

We have updated the Mono Basin real-time data frames page to use pop-up windows instead of frames. This may not sound like an upgrade, but (more…)

Mono’s streams fare better than expected: Record summer precipitation spared streams worst of the drought

Tuesday, November 10th, 2015 by Lisa, Eastern Sierra Policy Director
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A surprising thing happened this year in Lee Vining: record-breaking spring and summer precipitation which, thankfully, minimized drought-related stress on vegetation and trout in Mono Lake’s tributary streams. Instead of the brown-gray colors of drought, we saw unusually green vegetation for most of the summer—even the wildflowers were surprisingly robust. The rain was mostly
associated with thunderstorms, when twenty-degree drops in ambient air temperature weren’t unusual. This cooling effect, in the form of rain and air temperature, helped keep the creeks cool enough for trout.

But as soon as the effects of the precipitation dropped off in August, vegetation immediately responded to the extremely dry conditions—an indication that the plants had been living off surface moisture and not a healthy groundwater system.

Trout monitoring on Lee Vining Creek happens annually to track the health of individual fish and population numbers. Photo by Lisa Cutting.

Trout monitoring on Lee Vining Creek happens annually to track the health of individual fish and population numbers. Photo by Lisa Cutting.

Committee expands monitoring program

In an effort to better understand the effects of the drought, the Mono Lake Committee added bi-monthly monitoring of (more…)

Investigating Eared Grebe mortality at Mono Lake

Friday, November 6th, 2015 by Robbie, Project Specialist
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Nearly half of all the Eared Grebes in North America visit Mono Lake every autumn by the hundreds of thousands to feed on trillions of brine shrimp (Artemia monica). The bountiful food supply makes it possible for grebes to double their weight and fly to overwintering habitats at the Gulf of California and Salton Sea. But in the last two months, there has been a startling scene of hundreds of dead Eared Grebes on the shores of Mono Lake. These dead birds, according to one ornithologist, are juveniles that starved.

2015-10-12 Benchmark scouting castle tufa and dead grebes AD_2157

An Eared Grebe swimming in green Mono Lake in October 2015. Photo by Arya Degenhardt.

This is not a new occurrence at Mono Lake—hundreds of dead grebes were also found on the shore in 2011 and 2014. While some dead grebes will be found along Mono Lake’s shore every year during the fall migration, in some years there is much higher mortality than in others. Why does this happen every few years? While grebe mortality is poorly understood, we suspect that it is linked to changes in Mono Lake’s ecosystem. In 2014, Mono Lake Committee staff noticed (more…)

2015 Mono Lake Committee Annual Report

Wednesday, November 4th, 2015 by Arya, Communications Director
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The Mono Lake Committee’s 2015 Annual Report is now available online.

The 2015 Mono Lake Committee Annual Report is now available online. Cover photo courtesy of Phil Lindsay.

The 2015 Mono Lake Committee Annual Report is now available online. Cover photo courtesy of Phil Lindsay.

It is chock-full of photos of the Mono Lake Committee in action in our focus areas of protection, restoration, education, and (more…)

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