Great Lakes Piping Plover Recovery Effort

A partnership to study and conserve this migratory shorebird's endangered population between UMN, USFWS, USGS, NPS, DNR, more & You!

Banding Crew

The University of Minnesota sponsors all the banding efforts for the Great Lakes Piping Plovers. Directed by Dr. Francie Cuthbert, the crew’s main task is to band all adults and chicks every summer. They also conduct all of the primary research on the GLPIPL.


Dr. Francie Cuthbert visiting Monkey Temple in Nepal

Dr. Francie Cuthbert visiting Monkey Temple in Nepal

Dr. Francie Cuthbert

Lead GLPIPL Scientist, UMN Professor

Hometown: Minneapolis, Minnesota

Role in GLPIPL: I supervise the University of Minnesota’s contribution to research and recovery of the Great Lakes piping plover population.

 # Years with GLPIPL: 30 years!

Fun Fact About Yourself: I saw my first piping plover at Tawas State Park when I was about 10 years old. I was on a Michigan Audubon Society Camp Out with my parents.

What are you doing (socially and/or professionally) when you are not doing GLPIPL work? I am a full time faculty member at the University of Minnesota. I teach 3 courses on campus, conduct research on colonial waterbirds in the Great Lakes, advise graduate students, and I am a co-instructor for two study abroad classes in Nepal and Thailand.

If you could tell people one thing about GLPIPL (bird and/or recovery effort) what would it be: Despite its small size (70 pairs in 2014) and fluctuating numbers, the population is slowly moving towards recovery. Since listing, nesting pair numbers have increased from ~12-17 to 70 pairs and the number of breeding sites has increased from 6 in Michigan to 36 in Michigan, Wisconsin and Ontario. This progress is due to the dedication of multiple stakeholders from federal and state agencies, non-profit organizations, several universities and also private citizens. Recovery is possible with this continued team effort.


Jordan Rutter (visiting Bird Rock in Newfoundland, Canada)

Jordan Rutter visiting Bird Rock in Newfoundland, Canada

Jordan Rutter

UMN Graduate Student – GLPIPL Leader & Researcher

Hometown: St. Paul, Minnesota (originally from Washington, DC area)

Twitter Handle: @JERutter

Role in GLPIPL: I’m a graduate student at the University of Minnesota conducting research on GLPIPL. I’m also the outreach and education person, primarily given the research I am conducting. I communicate with the public (both in person and online via social media) on behalf of the recovery effort and I help coordinate the breeding season activities that take place.

# of Years with GLPIPL: This is my second year in my current role. I was on the banding crew for one year as a field tech before hand.

What are you doing when you are not doing GLPIPL work? Being a grad student focused on GLPIPL work it seems as though there’s always important work, whether GLPIPL or school work, to do. I’m a huge birder though and really enjoy any time I get to spend outside watching and photographing birds.

Fun Fact: Jordan has participated in over a dozen 24 hour bird watching competitions including the World Series of Birding and Great Texas Classic. She’s chased birds across New Jersey, Maryland, Delaware, Texas, and more to not only identify the most species in a day but to also raise money for environmental causes.

If you could tell people one thing about GLPIPL (bird and/or recovery effort) what would it be: The GLPIPL population has increased tremendously (from a dozen to 75 breeding pairs) in 30 years! Recovery and success are possible and the data show that. In order to make even more progress though it’s going to take everyone chipping in to make the difference needed. While compromises might need to be made, over all it shouldn’t take much if everyone just does a little. Everything being done by each group of people involved from the partners organizing the recovery effort to the monitors watching the birds to the zookeepers helping raise chicks to the public just keeping their dogs leased, everything makes a huge impact that can lead to important long term success and conservation of the GLPIPL.


Steph Schubel on the beach watching some GLPIPL

Steph Schubel on the beach watching some GLPIPL

Name: Steph Schubel

Hometown: Marshall, MI

Role in GLPIPL: I have been a field tech on the project for 9 years. For 7 of those years I have been banding plovers. I currently coordinate banding logistics for the plovers during the breeding season in Michigan.

# Years with GLPIPL: 10

Fun Fact About Yourself: Growing up I migrated to Northern Michigan in the summers, and lived on an amusement park. So yeah, I am part carnie.

What are you doing when you are not doing GLPIPL work? I have been working on the PIPL project for 9 years, 7 of which I have been banding them. During the off season, I have done all kinds of things over the years, including a year and a half stint in Mexico. Currently, I spread joy and knowledge to middle school students while working as a Bilingual ESL tutor. In my spare time, I practice yoga, cook, take walks, practico hablando español, read books, spend time with my wonderful hubby, and take occasional travel adventures.

If you could tell people one thing about GLPIPL what would it be: I think the project has been successful in large part because of all the wonderful, dedicated people involved. Education is key, and as the recovery project continues to interact and inform the public about the plovers, it will continue to have more support and success. Besides, it helps that 2 day old plovers may be one of the cutest things on earth.


Alice with her grandson Leon

Alice Van Zoeren with her grandson Leon

Name: Alice Van Zoeren

Hometown: Burdickville, MI

Role in GLPIPL: In the summer I work in a partnership position between the University of Minnesota and Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore as a plover monitor, as well as being part of the plover banding crew. During winter I’m the non-breeding sightings database manager for the Great Lakes Piping Plover population…a fancy way of saying that I monitor an email inbox in order to respond to and record reports of our plovers in migration and on wintering grounds.

# Years with GLPIPL: I got hooked on Piping Plovers in spring 2004. I’m beginning my 13th season.

Fun Fact About Yourself: My grandfather, Eli Gallup, was the park superintendent of Ann Arbor, MI. He inspired me to dedicate my life to studying and teaching about nature, especially birds.

What are you doing when you are not doing GLPIPL work? Watching other birds and also enjoying my young grandson.

If you could tell people one thing about GLPIPL (bird and/or recovery effort) what would it be: The recovery effort for Great Lakes Piping Plovers is helped greatly by a large number of citizen scientists during the non-breeding season (August-April) who send us observations and photographs of banded Piping Plovers  ( Without all these dedicated observers we wouldn’t know nearly as much about how to protect the species.



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