Windsor·Audio

Great Lakes gulls monitored as pollution measure

Scientists are keeping a close eye on gulls around the Great Lakes. They believe the birds are good indicators of how much pollution is out there, and that tells them a lot about the health of the lakes in general.

Birds nesting along the Lakes provide information on 'legacy' chemical levels

A pack of seagulls squabble over discarded food left on the beach at St Ives on July 28, 2015 in Cornwall, England. (Matt Cardy/Getty)

Scientists are keeping a close eye on gulls around the Great Lakes.

They believe the birds are good indicators of how much pollution is out there, and that tells them a lot about the health of the lakes in general.

Robert Letcher is is a senior research scientist with Environment and Climate Change Canada. He said the birds nest along the Great Lakes all year and do not migrate. 

"They tend to represent the regions in which they're nesting," he said.

"That means that wherever they're nesting, they're eating from that same environment and therefore being exposed through their food to the same suite of chemicals that might be more representative of a given area in the Great Lakes."

Hear more about the program on CBC's Windsor Morning:

Letcher is a part of the Great Lakes Herring Gull Monitoring Program that aims to keep an eye on the ecosystem. 

He said evidence collected from gulls showed a dramatic decrease in most of the so-called "legacy" chemicals, with the exception of mercury.

But there are also new pollutants appearing, such as flame retardants.

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