The Great Lakes population of Piping Plovers (PIPL) was listed as federally endangered under the U.S. Endangered Species Act in 1986. Historically, piping plovers nested throughout the Great Lakes (estimated population 500-800 pairs) but declined to 11-14 pairs, all within the state of Michigan, by the mid-1980s. This decline is largely attributed to habitat destruction due to heavy post-World War II beach development (recreational, residential, and commercial). By 2000, the breeding population increased to 30 nesting pairs. Although the breeding population tripled in the last 20 years, most breeding sites are still within Michigan. Despite the increase, this population is still extremely vulnerable to extinction from predation, demographic and environmental stochasticity, and continued beach development.
Beginning in the early 1980's, Francie Cuthbert, graduate students, research fellows and field assistant began to study the Great Lakes Piping Plover population and to work for its recovery. Most of this research was done in collaboration with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (East Lansing Field Office; Region III Office) and dozens of people from other agencies. During the breeding season, our research base is the University of Michigan Biological Station (UMBS) in Pellston, Michigan. This website summarizes research and recovery efforts for this population over the past 15+ years.