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Volunteer needed to count eared grebes at Mono Lake in eastern Sierra

June 13, 2013|By Louis Sahagun
  • A wind-swept Mono Lake in California's eastern Sierra Nevada range.
A wind-swept Mono Lake in California's eastern Sierra Nevada range. (Brian van der Brug )

An environmental group is looking for a dedicated, detail-oriented volunteer to help count the number of eared grebes that swarm Mono Lake in California's eastern Sierra Nevada range during their fall migration, covering the water in huge flocks totaling about a million birds.

The position requires training and practice to assure consistency in counting grebes that appear as tiny dots in aerial photos.

“The volunteer will need access to a computer,” said Rosanne Catron, office director of the Mono Lake Committee, “and will be manually counting the grebes in approximately 800 photos and then entering this data in an Excel spreadsheet.”

The task will take roughly 40 to 60 hours annually in the late fall and early winter.

Annual surveys of the aquatic diving birds have been conducted for most of the last two decades by biologist Sean Boyd of the Pacific Wildlife Research Center in British Columbia and the Mono Lake Committee, a nonprofit environmental group organized in 1978 to protect and restore the bowl-shaped Mono Basin ecosystem, roughly half the size of Rhode Island.

Eared grebes stop to rest in Mono Lake and Utah’s Great Salt Lake before continuing their northward migration from Mexico to Canada. The most recent survey showed that Mono Lake hosted about one million grebes in 2012, roughly 150,000 more than in 2011.

“Fluctuations in the number of grebes tell us a lot about the ecological health of the region, changes in weather patterns and the viability of the species,”  Catron said.

Those interested in this or other volunteer opportunities at the Mono Lake Committee may contact Catron at (760) 647-6595 or at

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