In the summer of 2006, thousands of water birds like seagulls and loons were killed by botulism toxins along the shores of Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore Park. Avian botulism poisoning had not been a problem in the area since the 1960’s. But ecological conditions in Lake Michigan are changing dramatically due to the invasion of zebra and quagga mussels as well as round gobies.
Over the past 10 years, the Park has become an epicenter for recurring avian botulism. Scientists and resource managers for the National Park Service, the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee, and several other organizations have been studying the changes taking place in Lake Michigan, trying to tease out the specific causes and the options for controlling avian botulism.
However, there are big challenges to collecting data and maintaining monitoring equipment on the bottom of Lake Michigan. The amount of time and effort needed can seem overwhelming. Thankfully, there are citizen scientists who volunteer their time and skills to help these complex research projects move forward.
In this story, we introduce you to Citizen Scientists who volunteer for the National Park Service and just happen to be scuba divers with a real passion for the Great Lakes. Over the past two summers, a small team of volunteer divers have been working with the researchers, collecting samples, cleaning equipment and counting gobies in the nearshore areas off the coast of the National Park.
We met with a few of these volunteer scuba divers at the Scuba North Dive Shop in Traverse City to learn a bit more about what they do and why.
Carol Linteau, Tom Morrow and Ken Holzman were on hand to offer their thoughts on the value and meaning of their volunteer contributions to the National Park Service. A project manager for Sleeping Bear Dunes Lakeshore Park, Dan Ray also provides a little context for the citizens science effort.
For more on information on what science researchers are doing or to learn about the dramatic changes taking place in Lake Michigan, check out these other video essays here on Nature Change: Quaggas! Lake Michigan’s Ecosystem Disruptors and Tracking Change in Lake Michigan’s Fisheries.