Researchers working

to reduce bird die-offs

Scientists have established a water-quality monitoring program in an effort to reduce Type E botulism outbreaks that have killed thousands of birds in recent years at Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.


Quagga mussels that invaded the Great Lakes in the 1990s have fueled massive algae blooms, which contributed to outbreaks of Type E botulism that have killed more than 80,000 shore birds since 1990. Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, where the federally endangered piping plover nests, has been among the hardest hit areas. Scientists are studying what triggers the botulism outbreaks in an effort to reduce bird die-offs in the future.

Resource Challenges Addressed

  • Invasive species
  • Poor water quality
  • Fish contaminated
  • Botulism outbreaks that kill shorebirds


Sleeping bear dunes looking over Lake Michigan

Bird die-offs near Sleeping Bear Dunes on Lake Michigan are being prevented with a water quality program. Credit: John Matters.

Results and Accomplishments

Scientists have established a comprehensive water quality monitoring station and mapped coastal areas at Sleeping Bear Dunes where Type E botulism outbreaks are likely to occur.  The research is aimed at improving water quality and reducing bird die-offs.