Submitted by Jared Collins ’21, one of 30 students doing community-based research this summer as a Fellow in the Upstate Institute Summer Field School
This summer, I am conducting research for the Adirondack Center for Loon Conservation in Saranac Lake as part of the Upstate Institute’s Adirondack Fellows Program. As its name implies, this nonprofit organization strives to maintain and improve local loon populations by running research, capturing and tagging loons, and answering calls to aid injured loons.
My research focuses on designing a survey to generate a database of information on loon nest rafts. Loon nest rafts are human-made platforms used to provide a stable nesting area in lakes or ponds that are otherwise unsuitable. I am also determining which style of raft yields the best results for loon nesting and survival. As a biology major and environmental studies minor, I am gaining important insight on field work — insight that only comes from being in an organization like this.
While here, I am participating in many of the other activities the organization offers. Once a week, I kayak in a nearby lake and monitor the loons that live there, allowing me to learn more about their behavior and conduct field work. Later in the summer, I will help capture unbanded loons and work at community outreach events.
Perhaps the most valuable part of my experience is seeing how selfless people are in their conservation efforts. Staff members go out of their way to protect loons, while visitors and residents of Saranac Lake enjoy learning about these birds and support the organization. It is refreshing to see a local community champion a cause not because they seek any personal benefit but because they genuinely care.
Conservation is an area of study that I am considering for a career, so I am very grateful for the chance to explore the field before graduating. After I complete my research, I hope to achieve a better idea of what I want to do after Colgate and to create new opportunities for the future.