loWA Geolocator Project

A large population of Louisiana Waterthrush (LOWA) use the TN River Gorge to breed each summer. Since they rely on clean, healthy streams, their presence can tell us a lot about our forests.

 Photo Credit © Tim Jeffers

Louisiana Waterthrush (LOWA) are Neotropical songbirds that have been identified as a "species in decline" by the regional authority on bird population health, Appalachian Mountain Joint Venture. However, LOWA populations are on the rise within our specific region, making the Tennessee River Gorge an area of regional importance. LOWA serve as stream health indicators because they feed on macroinvertebrates such as mayfly larvae which are only found in healthy water sources.  

At the Trust, we want to understand what pressures are causing this unique bird to decline and the status of our own populations. In the summer of 2016, we deployed geolocator data loggers on sixteen LOWAs in order to learn more about their full life cycle. These geolocators map the LOWA's migration routes and wintering grounds by measuring ambient light levels in association with time of day. This data can only be retrieved directly from the geolocators; thus, we must recapture the geolocator-carrying LOWA upon their return to the Gorge in the summer of 2017. Since LOWA often return to the same summer breeding grounds year after year, we are able to successfully and safely recapture LOWA as they return from their southern wintering grounds. 

We have successfully recovered five of the geolocators, each of which contains exceptionally unique data on their migration routes and specific winter locations. The data revealed that the LOWA migrated to various locations within Guatemala and Southern Mexico, a round trip of over 3,000 miles! This project has been one of the first successful attempts at tracking the migration routes of the Louisiana Waterthrush. With this research project we have opened the door to better addressing threats to LOWA and their habitat – whether they be local or global!

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Eliot Berz

Avian TechnicianLead LOWA Technician

Eliot, a Chattanooga native, received his Bachelor's Degree in Environmental Studies from Sewanee: The University of the South. Before returning to Chattanooga, Eliot worked with a land trust in Northern Virginia. He has enjoyed working and studying within the conservation field, pursuing a variety of forestry and wildlife based projects. Eliot has also worked on public access endeavors on various blueways and greenways, such as the Rapidan River in Virginia and Hiwassee River in Tennessee. When not working, you will likely find Eliot in the river kayaking or fishing. 



Holland Youngman 

Worm - eating Warbler StudyLOWA Technician

Holland is a native of the South Carolina coast, and a graduate of Clemson University. She has enjoyed working environmental conservation jobs in Wyoming, Mississippi and Texas; and recently left her position with the SC Department of Natural Resources in Charleston to move to Chattanooga. She is thrilled to be here, where she is pursuing her Masters of Environmental Science degree at UTC while working with the TRGT conducting Worm-eating Warbler research.

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