Monday, March 23, 2009

First Loon Sighting

We have our first report of a loon sighting! At 9:30 A.M. on Friday March 20th, dedicated loon watcher Alan Schwoegler saw three loons on Lake Mendota in Madison Wisconsin. This is the earliest he has ever seen loons in all the years that he has been living on the shores of Lake Mendota. Normally he sees them arrive between March 23rd and 27th. Hopefully this means that loon numbers will be up this summer. I hope that you all have good luck in your birding for the migration this year!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Can volunteers deduct their time from their taxes?

No. But while your volunteers cannot take a tax deduction for the value of their time, be sure to inform them that out-of-pocket, documented expenses may be deductible on their individual tax returns. Volunteers may deduct the direct costs of operating their vehicles or the standard charitable mileage rate of 14 cents per mile as well as some other expenses. Volunteers should consult their tax advisor or refer to IRS Publication 526, Charitable Contributions.

What would our nonprofit sector look like without dedicated volunteers? Many community-based nonprofits would soon disappear in a vacuum of human capital. Don't let this force go unrecognized!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Letter to Citizen Scientists

I am a graduate student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the Environment and Resources program of the Nelson Institute of Environmental Studies. I am also affiliated with the National Institute of Invasive Species Science (NIISS;, an organization formed to develop cooperative approaches for invasive species science that meet the needs of land managers and the public. As part of my research, I'm working alongside staff from NIISS to develop a national citizen science program that focuses on the collection and integration of data on invasive species among local citizen science and environmental education programs. A website,, has been created to facilitate with this effort. NIISS is partnering with the University of Wisconsin-Madison Arboretum, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, and the Rivers Alliance of Wisconsin to provide trainings that include an introduction to invasive species, invasive species monitoring protocols, global positioning systems (GPS), and use of the website for your data management needs. These trainings are free and NIISS staff will travel to your location to conduct these trainings.

As part of this program, we plan to conduct an experiment to test the ability of these trainings to provide citizen scientists with the knowledge and skills they need to monitor invasive species and to conduct scientific research independently. Therefore, we have planned a two-day event at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Arboretum on May 30-31, to conduct this experiment. Rain dates have been scheduled for June 13-14. This event will be one of many to celebrate the Arboretum's 75th anniversary that looks at how a place like the Arboretum can integrate research, education, and restoration. The first day, May 30 (June 13), will include a full day of training. The training will include:
- An introduction to the scientific method and how the knowledge and skills learned in the training apply to that method.
- An introduction to invasive species including what they are, why they are a problem, and what personal actions can be taken to prevent their spread.
-An introduction to global positioning systems including what they are, how they work, and their applications.
-How to use global positioning systems to take a waypoint and to navigate.
-An introduction to sampling design and monitoring protocols.
-An introduction to the program's website ( including joining a project, uploading data, and viewing uploaded data.

On the second day, May 31 (June14), citizen scientists will have the opportunity to test their skills alongside those of experts by performing tasks at a series of monitoring stations. The results of these studies will remain anonymous, but we will provide the participants and programs with final group results to see how the citizen science groups performed. Additional activities are being planned to make this an exciting and worthwhile weekend for all participants.

To ensure that this program is a success, I am writing to request your participation in volunteer recruitment. We are seeking 160 volunteers to participate in this event, so widespread advertisement is essential. Specifically, to be confident that the individuals participating in the experimental design are as representative of the citizen science population in Wisconsin as possible, we need to collect demographic information. In addition, we need to determine which volunteers might be interested in participating in the monitoring event described above. For this, we would like to have all volunteers fill out a very brief questionnaire. Your response to the questionnaire will inform us of your level of interest.

Volunteers can access the survey online at Click on “Wisconsin Citizen Science Questionnaire” at the bottom of the page. Please note that the questionnaire is completely voluntary and data obtained from it will only be used for the research described. Once individuals have been chosen for participation, links of demographic information to the individual will be deleted. An additional letter from the university will be provided to you the day of the event to ensure that appropriate measures are being taken to limit any risk to you as a participant. If there are any questions related to the event or this research, please direct them to me or the principal investigator, Don Waller.

If you have any questions or comments about this study, I would be happy to talk with you. My cell phone number is 970-227-3310, or you can write to me via email ( Thank you very much for helping with this important research.

Alycia W. Crall
Environment and Resources Program
University of Wisconsin-Madison
Science Program Coordinator The National Institute of Invasive Species Science

Season of the Loon

Experience the life of a loon in a new exhibit at the Cable Natural History Museum in Cable, WI. Learn about how loons transition through the seasons of the year in this artistic, hands-on display. With the assistance of Loon Watch the Museum has been able to compliment its new exhibit, Season of the Loon, with several hands-on activities developed by Loon Watch. Migrate to the Museum sometime this coming spring to view original paintings of loons done by Wisconsin artist, Owen Gromme; see mounted loon specimens from the Museum's collections; watch a film about a loon's life; try out the "Loon Tune" machine, or help your grandchildren dress up as a loon in a life-like costume. Loon Watch has also loaned its "Get the Lead Out!" three-panel display to the Museum for its exhibit's duration. Be sure to stop by the Museum anytime from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., Tuesday - Saturday before May 9th, 2009 to see this tribute to the loons. Free Admission.

Opposition to Lead Tackle Ban

American Sportfishing Association press release:

National Park Service Ban on Lead in National Parks Runs Counter to President’s Executive Memo on Transparency in Government
Park Service officials make policy change without industry or public input

Alexandria, VA – March 13, 2009 – The American Sportfishing Association (ASA), along with a number of fish and wildlife management conservation groups, is asking the National Park Service (NPS) to reconsider its ban on the use of fishing tackle made with lead components in national parks by 2010.

“The sportfishing industry is surprised and dismayed by the March 10 announcement made by the National Park Service,” said ASA Vice President Gordon Robertson. “Their intention to eliminate the use of lead in fishing tackle in national parks was made without prior consultation of the sportfishing industry or the millions of recreational anglers who fish within the national park system.”

Robertson further said, “In his January 21, 2009, Executive Memo to federal agency and department heads, President Obama made it very clear that he expects the federal government to be transparent, participatory and collaborative and that ‘executive departments and agencies should offer Americans increased opportunities to participate in policymaking and to provide their Government with the benefits of their collective expertise and information.’ We expect the National Park Service to follow the President’s order.”

In the normal course of events, the sportfishing and shooting sports industries (lead component ammunition is also included in the ban) would have been notified by the NPS about this change in policy and would have been invited to discuss this decision with NPS staff.

Robertson further explained, “The NPS policy announcement, issued by a press release, does not explain how this decision was reached, why it may be necessary or how this rule will be implemented. To our knowledge, there has been no proposed rule, nor any opportunity for public comment. We request that the NPS withdraw this proposal and discuss the rationale for it with the appropriate stakeholders before taking further action.”

ASA continues to encourage and support voluntary angler education programs for the use and proper disposal of lead sinkers and urges state and federal fish and wildlife agencies to do the same.

The American Sportfishing Association (ASA) is the sportfishing industry’s trade association, committed to looking out for the interests of the entire sportfishing community. We give the industry a unified voice speaking out when emerging laws and policies could significantly affect sportfishing business or sportfishing itself. We invest in long-term ventures to ensure the industry will remain strong and prosperous as well as safeguard and promote the enduring economic and conservation values of sportfishing in America. ASA also represents the interests of America’s 60 million anglers who generate over $45 billion in retail sales with a $125 billion impact on the nation’s economy creating employment for over one million people.

To see NPS press release, click here.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

New Book on Canadian Tar Sands

A new book telling of the tar sand production in Canada will hit the shelves soon, and you can get it even before then for free! The publishers of Tar Sands: Dirty Oil and the Future of a Continent, by Andrew Nikiforuk, think this is such an important book that they are willing to let you download it for free between March 16th and March 20th to ensure that the message is spread as far and wide as possible. They will also send you a free hard copy of the book if you post a link to the free download on your own blog if you send an email to Alison Cairns ( with a link to your blog post for confirmation. Among the issues addressed is the fact that extraction of oil from tar sands destroys large tracts of forests, thus displacing the wildlife that was originally there, including caribou and hundreds of migratory birds. To download the book, click here. For more information about the impact of tar sands on birds, click here. To read another blog posting about this book, click here.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Lead Poisoning

Numbers of birds, especially trumpeter swans, treated for lead poisoning at the Raptor Education Group Inc. (REGI) in Antigo Wisconsin has increased in the past few months. Normally, REGI only gets a few trumpeter swans to rehabilitate every year. Since December they have already gotten a dozen. While most of the swans have been successfully rehabilitated, some have died due to the high concentrations of lead in them: up to 65 lead pellets. Mostly these are shotgun pellets and lead fishing tackle, which is why LoonWatch is working tirelessly on the Get the Lead Out! initiative, which educates anglers about the dangers of using lead tackle and provides alternative options. Even though lead shotgun pellets have been outlawed for over 20 years for waterfowl hunting, there is still plenty of lead in lakes and streams because lead is water insoluble and stays at the bottom of lakes and streams forever unless physically taken out. And it's not only REGI that is getting more trumpeters than usual, the avian rehab center in Minnesota has had 30 come in since the fall, when 24 for an entire year is typical.

While nobody knows for certain why trumpeter swans have been ingesting more lead lately, two explanations have surfaced. One is that the Midwest has recently experienced several droughts, which have lowered lake levels enough that swans can now reach more of the bottom of lakes, thus exposing them to lead pellets that have sunk there in the past. Another possible factor is the fact that both the Wisconsin and Minnesota DNRs have placed a feeding moratorium on trumpeter swans, meaning that the DNR no longer feeds the swans and it is illegal for anyone else to do so either, due to concerns that high densities of swans around the feeding areas might facilitate the spreading of diseases. It is thought that the feeding moratorium caused the swans to go to new feeding grounds, where they ate the lead. This moratorium has since been lifted, and both DNRs have resumed feeding the swans.
For more information about lead poisoning in swans, click here.
To see pictures of a swan release, click here.