The International Brant Monitoring Project
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The Brant Monitoring Project: An Introduction
The International Brant Monitoring Project was developed to monitor the migration of a small sea goose, the Brant. Project participants gain a greater understanding of the importance of local ecosystems and global environmental health through the observation of brant and sharing of information between participants in three countries.
Brant are small, stocky geese with black heads and necks. They have a white ring around the neck and are distinctly white underneath the tail. A saltwater plant called eelgrass, which grows in shallow estuaries, is their primary source of food and freshwater.
The lifecycle of the brant begins in the high Arctic tundra of Alaska, Russia, and Canada. The adults build nests in small indentations in marshy coastal areas and in late June to early July, young brant hatch out and begin feeding on insects to gain strength for their first migration. Sometime in mid August the young brant take their first flight, and by September have joined with thousands of their kind at Izembek Lagoon on the Alaska Peninsula. The 84,000-acre lagoon is 30 miles long and contains the largest eelgrass beds on the North American Pacific coast. From late September to the end of October more than 150,000 brant can be found at Izembek Lagoon, fattening up on eelgrass in preparation for their non-stop migration south. Around the first of November, they leave all together on a 3,000-mile journey over the Pacific Ocean to wintering grounds in the estuaries and lagoons of southern British Columbia, the United States and Mexico. This migration takes between 60-95 hours and the brant lose nearly one-third of their body weight.
The flight back north begins in mid-February. The brant stop at estuaries along the way to once again feed and rest. By late April, the brant reach Izembek Lagoon where they spend two to four weeks feeding on eelgrass before departing for their nesting areas.
Because brant depend highly upon eelgrass, which has very specific habitat requirements and is therefore only available at limited key sites, the entire population of brant is vulnerable to pressures at any one location. Pressures include recreational hunting, loss of eelgrass habitat, subsistence hunting and egg gathering. This is why the International Brant Project is so important.
Project participants include students, wildlife biologists, concerned citizens, National Estuarine Research Reserves, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and various others along the Pacific flyway. Students monitor through field observations and counting of the brant in their area and then share their findings with others via the Internet. In the classroom, students learn about brant from their teachers, environmental educators, biologists, and other local brant enthusiasts.
If you would like to know more about the International Brant Monitoring Project, please contact the Brant Project International Coordinator.
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