University System: Montana Loon Society -
I recently retired after 35 years of teaching 7th-grade life science at the Polson Middle School (otherwise known as PMS - we all had it ... it's the place where menopause meets puberty head-on on the highway of life). I earned my B.S. degree in Biology/field ecology from California Polytechnic State University at San Luis Obispo in 1975. In 1976-77 I earned my teaching certification from the University of Montana. In 1986, I took a sabbatical leave to attend Montana State University in order to earn my Master's in Wildlife Management. My thesis was entitled "The effects of human disturbance on common loon productivity in northwestern Montana" and included 6 years of data. That experience caused a shift in what I was teaching. I developed "Project Eagle Watch" which was a place-based curriculum using the fall migration and winter residency of bald eagles in Lake County as the hub of what was taught. From that hub, most of the other requirements of the science curriculum were met. For 21 years, the 7th graders would mark locations of adult and subadult bald eagles on a Lake County map as the students and their families spotted them en route to Missoula, Kalispell or etc. The students analyzed the data from previous years and then compared their current data to those previous years. In the process, much place-based information was given to the students ranging from the locations of actual towns, highways, and parks to the massive ecosystem shift that occurred in Flathead Lake after Mysis found its way there. The thesis provided the foundation for common loon management in Montana today which includes the placement of floating buoys around nests and the presence of loon rangers on lakes with signs to inform the public as to why the signs are there. In the late 1990's I was given the "Wildlife Biologist of the Year" award by the Montana Chapter of the Wildlife Society and was one of seven people in the nation to receive the "Chief's Award" from the United States Forest Service. I have been involved in various aspects of loon research/management since 1985.