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Monitoring California Gulls on Mono Lake’s islands

Sunday, July 15th, 2018 by Nigel, Birding Intern
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Last week, I traveled to the Negit and Paoha islets in the middle of Mono Lake to help with the ongoing California Gull research project. (Please note that the islands are closed to the public until August 1 to protect the nesting gulls.)

Counting gull chicks in a fenced-off plot on the Paoha Islets. Photo by Nigel Bates.

This project, conducted by Point Blue Conservation Science and supported by the Mono Lake Committee, has monitored long-term trends in the breeding gull population for the past 35 years. Mono Lake supports one of the largest California Gull colonies in the world, so the success of this population is critical to the survival of the species. I joined Point Blue lead researcher Kristie Nelson and Institute for Bird Populations intern Sarah Hecocks for three days of data collection at the gull colony. (more…)

35th year for California Gull study: Research documents changes in gull population and nesting habitat

Thursday, March 8th, 2018 by Elin, Communications Coordinator
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In 2017 Point Blue Conservation Science continued its Mono Lake California Gull monitoring study with the goal of better understanding how the gulls respond to changes in lake conditions over time. Indeed, 2017 was a year of change for both the gulls and this critical long-term study, which is supported by the Mono Lake Committee (read the full report online here).

Approximately 27,000 California Gulls nested on Mono Lake’s islets in 2017, well below the 35-year average of 46,000 nesting adults. Photo courtesy of Kristie Nelson.

Following two years of testing, the nesting gull counts were done using aerial photography instead of the previous method of ground counts. Results indicate that counting nesting gulls from the aerial photographs matched ground count tallies by 96%, and the new survey method is less disruptive to the gulls.

Lowest-ever number of nesting gulls

The population of nesting California Gulls (Larus californicus) in 2017 was the lowest ever recorded at (more…)

#GivingTuesday at Mono Lake: #GivefortheGrebes

Tuesday, November 28th, 2017 by Elin, Communications Coordinator
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Today for #GivingTuesday, we are fundraising for Eared Grebe surveys at Mono Lake! We had a blast broadcasting live and talking about the Eared Grebe research down at the lake this afternoon. In case you missed it live (skip to 9:00 for the start of the interviews):

All donations made online today will go toward keeping the Eared Grebe research going, so, it’s not too late!

Thank you for supporting Mono Lake this Giving Tuesday! #GivefortheGrebes

The Mono Lake Committee 2017 Annual Report

Saturday, November 25th, 2017 by Arya, Communications Director
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Each year printed copies of the Mono Lake Committee Annual Report are sent out to Defense Trust level members and Guardians of the Lake monthly-giving club members, but it is has information that is important to members at all giving levels, friends, anyone who is curious, and the general public. So without further ado, click here to see the Mono Lake Committee 2017 Annual Report.

Did you get a yearbook in high school? The Annual Report feels a little bit like the grown-up version of getting the yearbook … (more…)

#GivefortheGrebes this #GivingTuesday

Tuesday, November 21st, 2017 by Arya, Communications Director
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This year for #GivingTuesday (November 28) we are fundraising for Eared Grebe surveys at Mono Lake!

First: There is a donation match! All donations made on Giving Tuesday through Facebook will be matched, thanks to Facebook’s charitable giving program. (And they’re not charging fees either.) Click here on Tuesday to #GivefortheGrebes via Facebook!

Then: Mark your calendar to catch our Facebook Live event at 12:30pm On Tuesday, November 28 down at the lake with Geoff, Robbie, and Maureen talking about Eared Grebe research and answering your questions. Tune in (more…)

New Mono Lake alkali fly research

Monday, November 20th, 2017 by Arya, Communications Director
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Last summer Floris van Breugel, who studies alkali flies at Mono Lake, stayed at the Mono Basin Field Station and gave a fascinating talk about his research at the Mono Lake Committee.

This mesmerizing video, posted by National Geographic upon the paper’s release, is a must-see:

Using a combination of high speed videography, force measurements, scanning electron microscopy, and manipulations of water chemistry he is working toward understanding what makes these flies so unique—research which, on top of being really neat, has implications in the world of multi-factorial data sets and their application to machine learning. And today, the research paper, “Superhydrophobic diving flies (Ephydra hians) and the hypersaline water of Mono Lake,” by Floris van Breugel and Michael H. Dickinson came out! You can find the paper abstract here. (more…)

The million-grebe question

Wednesday, November 15th, 2017 by Robbie, Restoration Field Technician
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More than 90% of all Eared Grebes in North America stop at either Mono Lake or Great Salt Lake to feed on brine shrimp before continuing their migration to wintering grounds in the southern United States and Mexico. Each year more than a million Eared Grebes depend on Mono Lake’s abundant supply of brine shrimp in order to successfully complete their southbound migration.

Aerial surveys are conducted each fall to estimate the peak population of Eared Grebes stopping at Mono Lake during their migration. Photo by Jess Horn.

Efforts to quantify the number of Eared Grebes at Mono Lake started in the 1980s, but it wasn’t until 1996 that a reliable methodology was developed. By flying over the lake in mid-October (when grebes were assumed to be at peak abundance) and using aerial photography, researchers were able to more accurately estimate numbers. Dr. Sean Boyd, a Research Scientist with Environment & Climate Change Canada, has coordinated grebe surveys at Mono Lake since 1996, which have provided invaluable data for understanding the Eared Grebe fall migration through Mono Lake as well as the overall health of the species in North America. Recognizing the value of this research, and our ability to help by being the local, on-the-ground coordinator of flights and volunteer photographers, the Mono Lake Committee began assisting Dr. Boyd with the Eared Grebe surveys in 2008. (more…)

Refreshing ‘Ologists: Water law plus geology with Craig Jones

Sunday, October 8th, 2017 by Mono Lake Committee Staff
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This post was written by Molly Casey, 2017 Mono Lake Intern.

This Wednesday, October 11 at 4:00pm is our last Refreshments with Refreshing ‘Ologists presentation of the year. Join us in the Mono Lake Committee gallery to hear from Craig Jones, a geologist at the University of Colorado, about the relationship between water law and geology at Mono Lake and how both have had significant effects on how the lake has evolved over time.

Geologist Craig Jones will talk about how the Sierra Nevada west of Mono Lake affect the climate in the Mono Basin. Photo by Ava Stavros.

Years ago, to acquire water exports from the Mono Basin, Los Angeles used California water laws that first emerged in the goldfields of the western Sierra. These laws allowed for (more…)

Refreshing ‘Ologists: How trout affect bird species at high-elevation lakes with Mary Clapp

Sunday, September 10th, 2017 by Mono Lake Committee Staff
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This post was written by Molly Casey, 2017 Mono Lake Intern.

Join us on Wednesday, September 13 at 4:00pm in the Mono Lake Committee gallery for this week’s Refreshments with Refreshing ‘Ologists presentation. UC Davis researcher Mary Clapp will be here to discuss her ongoing research on the impacts of introduced trout on the native bird community in the high-elevation lake basins of the Sierra Nevada. Her work focuses on the connection between water and land by using acoustic recorders to remotely capture lakeside activity by birds and bats.

Researcher Mary Clapp is studying high-elevation lakes like this one to see if trout introduction is affecting the bird communities. Photo by Nora Livingston.

Introduced trout prey on native aquatic insects like mayflies and stoneflies, thus depleting the abundance and diversity of those insects in fish-containing lakes. These insects have a winged adult life-stage, at which point they become available to terrestrial predators (birds and bats) as a valuable food source.

Mary is testing the hypothesis that trout are therefore in competition with birds for this insect food, and that as a result, bird activity is greater at fishless lakes where aquatic insect emergences remain abundant. She will discuss a few different approaches to analyzing acoustic data, the benefits and limits of the technology, and how it compares with traditional survey methods. Her talk is entitled “Investigating the Impacts of Introduced Trout on the Native Bird at High-Elevation Lakes.”

If you’re interested, join us in the gallery at 4:00pm on Wednesday for this free presentation and free snacks!

Today’s Refreshing ‘Ologists: Sierra Nevada red fox in Yosemite with Mike McDonald

Wednesday, September 6th, 2017 by Mono Lake Committee Staff
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This post was written by Molly Casey, 2017 Mono Lake Intern.

Today at 4:00pm, join us in the Mono Lake Committee gallery to hear National Park Service researcher Mike McDonald speak about the Sierra Nevada red fox.

The Sierra Nevada red fox, a species that was thought to be gone from Yosemite, was re-discovered in the park in 2014. Researcher Mike McDonald is trying to find out why. Photo courtesy of the US Forest Service.

Mike will be presenting about Yosemite National Park’s effort this past winter to investigate the Sierra Nevada red fox, which was re-discovered in the park in 2014. If you are interested in these charismatic critters, come by the Mono Lake Committee today at 4:00pm for free snacks and this free lecture.

The Refreshing ‘Ologist talks aren’t over yet! We have one more talk scheduled for next Wednesday, September 13 with Mary Clapp, whose presentation is called “Learning by Ear: Investigating the Impacts of Introduced Trout on the Native Bird Community at High-Elevation Lakes.”

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