Avian Monitoring for Botulism Lakeshore Events


Bird mortality caused by ingestion of a toxin produced by the bacterium Clostridium botulinum has been periodically reported on the Great Lakes since the 1960s. Resurgence of avian botulism type E outbreaks since the late 1990s has brought renewed attention to this wildlife health issue.

The U.S. Geological Survey’s National Wildlife Health Center, with help from many partners and support from the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, organized “Lake Michigan Volunteer AMBLE – Avian Monitoring for Botulism Lakeshore Events” in 2011. The goal of AMBLE was to empower concerned citizens to monitor bird health and beach conditions along miles of Lake Michigan shoreline, thus increasing knowledge of avian botulism trends.

The focus area for the launch of AMBLE in 2011 was Door County, Wisconsin. The AMBLE program continued in Door County in 2012 and also expanded to the southern and western shores of Green Bay. In 2013, management of the AMBLE program was transferred to two Door County non-government organizations, The Ridges Sanctuary and Crossroads at Big Creek, and only volunteers previously trained and equipped continued monitoring their designated sections of shoreline. In 2014 and 2015, data previously collected on numbers, species, locations, and timing of sick and dead birds observed along the lakeshore were summarized and analyzed for publication in scientific journals.

Even though the AMBLE surveillance program has concluded in Wisconsin, this website is maintained by the USGS National Wildlife Health Center so that volunteers and biologists around Lake Michigan that continue to monitor beaches can enter their lakeshore observations into one database.

For more information, please contact:
USGS National Wildlife Health Center, Jenny Chipault, (608) 270-2473, AMBLE@usgs.gov

*SEANET web-based application provided guidance for conceptualizing AMBLE data entry process and database.

Looking Black Feather Beach Walk monitoring mixed birds

Documents and Forms

In partnership with

USGS Greal Lakes Restoration
National Park Service
The Ridges Sanctuary
Wisconsin DNR
Michigan DNR
Autubon Society
Common Coast Research Conservation
Tip of the Mitt
US Fish and Wildlife Service
Volunteer Water Quality Monitoring
UW Extension
Ocontos Promise
Bay Beach
Land Trust