2010 Winter Program Field Report

The 2010 winter research at Laguna San Ignacio contributed significantly to our goals and objectives for the Laguna San Ignacio Ecosystem Science Program, thanks the outstanding work and contributions of our researchers and students. Our major project this summer is the re-design and launch a new internet website for LSIESP. The new web-site will take advantage of all the current interactive features that are now available on the internet, and it will allow us to better reach out and inform our fellow researchers and the public about the findings of the program and that status of the Laguna San Ignacio ecosystem.

The 2010 gray whale Research Team was led by Steven Swartz (CRA), Jorge Urbán (UABCS), and Alejandro Gómez Guallardo U. (UABCS), and included five researchers and graduate students from universities in Mexico and the United States: Sergio Martínez (UABCS), Hiram Nanduca (UNAM), Anaid Lopez Urbán (UNAM), Jessica Isadora R. (UABCS), Tabata Olavarrieta (UABCS), and John Symons (Lewis & Clark University). The Acoustic Team included Aaron Thode and Melania Guerra (SCRIPPS Institution of Oceanography) with several UCSD undergraduate and graduate students contributing additional help with the acoustic research.

Stingray / Manta in the eel grass

Rafael Riosmena-Rodríguez, Ph.D. of the Programa de Investigación en Botánica Marina at UABCS and his students continued to document and evaluate the distribution and ecological status of seagrass meadows (Zostera marina and Gracilaria vermicullophyla) that occur in the lagoon.

In February LSIESP researchers and Jordan Bailey (Philanthropiece) met with the school teachers at the Ejido Luis Echeverria School to plan classroom presentations about Laguna San Ignacio’s marine life and, the importance of conserving the lagoon habitat, and the natural history of gray whales.

Osprey nesting on Isla Garzas

This winter LSIESP enlisted three ornithologists to evaluate the status of marine bird breeding colonies on Isla Garzas and Isla Pelacano in the lagoon. For two weeks Bruce Reitherman, John Storror, and Dr. Paul Spitzer surveyed the bird populations at Laguna San Ignacio and they noted a significant decline in nesting birds on the islands. Reitherman and Storror conducted baseline research on the islands’ bird populations in the 1980s, and Dr. Spitizer is an avian conservation researcher who is interested in continuing the avian research.

Finally, Brian Symons  (son of Mike Symons) worked with LSIESP to obtain sufficient solar panels and and a newer power controller to upgrade the solar-wind powered electrical system in the field laboratory so it can accommodate our growing number of researchers and students. The new solar panels and upgrades were installed by gray whale research team member John Symons (Brian’s brother).

New solar panels at LSIESP Laboratory

Accomplishment of the 2010 winter research season include the following:

  1. Completed fourth winter of gray whale monitoring including 15 weekly census counts of whales utilizing the lagoon, and photographic-ID of individual whales to monitor duration of stay in the lagoon, and female calving interval and production.
  2. Completed Digital Photo-Identification Catalogues of individual gray whales taken in Laguna San Ignacio beginning in 2006 to 2010 for posting on internet website.
  3. Acoustic research included monitoring of natural underwater ambient noise and noise from whale-watching boats carrying GPS units to determine exact position, and acoustic “suction-cup tagging of individual whales to obtain digital recordings of vocalizations, underwater noise, and diving/swimming behavior.
  4. Completed second field studies to evaluate the status and describe the “Ecology of Seagrass Meadows in Laguna San Ignacio.”
  5. Collaborated with Eco-Turismo Companies, the Natural Resources Defense Council, The Ocean Foundation, The International Community Foundation, and Philanthropiece to host a community celebration of the 10-year anniversary of the decision not to develop an industrial salt production facility at Laguna San Ignacio.
  6. Conducted second year of presentations to local primary and secondary school classes on lagoon ecology, wildlife conservation, and gray whales.
  7. Organized a whale-watching field trip to the lagoon for 105 local students and their instructors with Philanthropiece and NRDC.
  8. Supported a two week site visit by three ornithologists to evaluate the status of marine bird breeding colonies on the lagoon’s islands and to prepare for resumption of avian research.
  9. Provided digital camera system to local resident and naturalist to begin documentation and evaluation of sea lion colony on the lagoon’s islands.
  10. Public Outreach included interviews with Mexican and U.S. television and news reporters, publication of articles in the local papers, and provided lagoon ecology training materials to eco-tour operators & guides.
  11. UABCS Master’s Degree student and LSIESP researcher obtained employment as natural history guide with a whale-watching company, and recruited one new UABCS Master’s student pursuing research in analysis of gray whale breeding biology from photographic identification data.
  12. Conducted a one week pilot program for high school students with Ecology Programs International (EPI).
  13. Upgraded field laboratory solar/wind generating electrical system to accommodate up to 15 students and researchers.
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