Schoch bound for state Outdoorsmen Hall of Fame

RAY BROOK – Dr. Nina Schoch, director of the Adirondack Center for Loon Conservation, will be inducted into the New York State Outdoorsmen Hall of Fame in April.

Schoch, who works from her home in Ray Brook, is being honored for her loon conservation work.

“It’s quite an honor,” Schoch said. “I was totally surprised because I do this work because I enjoy doing it, and I feel like it’s a good cause for conservation in the Adirondack Park and also for helping to understand a species that is pretty unique. … I don’t do it for any reward at all. To have my work recognized is really cool.”

The New York State Outdoorsmen Hall of Fame is an organization dedicated to honoring sportsmen who have made significant achievements in outdoors-related fields and individuals who have made major contributions in natural resources conservation.

Schoch has been involved with loon research in the Adirondacks since 1998, when she helped the Gorham, Maine-based Biodiversity Research Institute with a study of mercury contamination of loons. That work evolved into the Adirondack Cooperative Loon Program in 2001, in which Schoch took a lead role. The program was a joint effort between BRI, the Wild Center, state Department of Environmental Conservation, Audubon International and the Wildlife Conservation Society in Saranac Lake, which eventually ran the program and employed Schoch until 2009.

Since then, Schoch has coordinated the Adirondack Center for Loon Conservation from her home in Ray Brook through BRI.

Under Schoch’s leadership, the loon program has involved hundreds of volunteers, school children and government agencies in protecting the iconic symbol of the Adirondack wilderness.

“The loon census, banding, research on health issues, and public awareness programs of the Adirondack Center for Loon Conservation have contributed greatly to the dramatic increase in the loon population in the past three decades,” according to a press release about Schoch’s induction. “A key part of her success has been involving citizens in the research, volunteer efforts, and spreading the word about how to protect loons.”

One of the ways Schoch has done this is through “Science on the Fly,” a middle school curriculum that involves students in the scientific process, research and awareness of environmental issues.

The press release also noted that Schoch has involved volunteers in the annual summer loon census and banding of loons, which have “made many people aware of the problems and helped create a large pool of citizens willing to speak or support these environmental issues.”

Schoch’s scientific research on the dangers of mercury in the environment has contributed to the policies and efforts to control emissions and mercury deposition. She also initiated a program with Gremlin Sinker Company that allowed anglers to trade lead sinkers for non-toxic ones. In recent years, she has led a campaign to place containers for recycling fishing line at boat launches throughout the Adirondacks. Her work has made people aware that discarded fishing line, hooks and other fishing tackle poses a threat to loons, other waterfowl and eagles.

Currently, Schoch is working on a number of projects, including continued research on mercury pollution.

She is also writing a population status report for New York state, which will compare the historical loon population to today’s population.

Schoch is heading up a project to monitor loon nesting sites with cameras, which will give researchers an idea where loons are having success reproducing.

She is also working on a migration study that tracks both male and female loons with tracking devices.

Schoch’s induction into the hall of fame will take place on April 26 at the Rusty Rail in Canastota. Anyone interested in attending should call 315-363-3896 or 315-829-3588.