Snowbirds: Why are white pelicans wintering in Arizona?

PHOENIX – American white pelicans breed in Canada and the upper Midwest, and they typically winter near the Gulf of Mexico and coastal Southern California. However, more of these enormous wetland birds are wintering in Arizona because of the state’s prime living conditions.

Dropping water levels in their natural habitats make the pelicans easy prey for predators, so the birds have found refuge when they migrate south for the winter, settling in the Sonoran Desert’s man-made lakes for imported fish and balmy weather.

“Right now when these birds nest at the Great Salt Lake, their nesting island used to have water all around it and it was free of any predators like coyotes,” said Tice Supplee, director of bird conservation at Audubon Arizona. “Well, now it’s connected to the mainland, and coyotes can come out to where they nest.”

White pelicans are dependent on wetlands for survival. The carnivores forage in shallow, open water, and when they’re vulnerable to hunters, their migration course shifts. Fortunately, Arizona’s reservoirs, community lakes and ponds have an assortment of imported fish to feast upon.

“The fish here (in Arizona) are not native,” Supplee said. “They’re tilapia and were put in here to manage the weeds. The pelicans have found great winter restaurants.”

White pelicans aren’t the only breed of pelicans seen in Arizona. Brown pelicans, which dive-bomb to feed and tend to stay near coastal waters, are known to head to Arizona to escape coastal storms, but wildlife specialists historically had them transported out of the state because of lack of suitable habitats. But with the abundance of large lakes, ponds and reservoirs across the state, brown and white pelicans are staying longer during our cooler winter months.

“North American pelicans are very different from your brown pelican, which are on the coasts,” said Peggy Coleman of Birding-Arizona, a bird photography and advocacy group. “North American pelicans are more inland on lakes and ponds and whatnot.”

With central Arizona a magnet for pelicans, birders and nature lovers have more chances to photograph these unexpected guests.

This story is part of Elemental: Covering Sustainability, a multimedia collaboration between Cronkite News, Arizona PBS, KJZZ, KPCC, Rocky Mountain PBS and PBS SoCal.

From injured turtles to sustainable clothing: finding inspiration in unexpected places

LOS ANGELES — Like many accomplished football players, Glenn Love Jr. never worried much about life after the game. When he started playing professionally, however, the uncertainty set in.

That changed after a visit to the Turtle Rescue conservation program at the OdySea Aquarium in Scottsdale.

“They were like missing some limbs and I was like, ‘What happened? Why are they missing limbs’? ” said Love, a former Chandler Hamilton High School standout who plays linebacker for the Montreal Alouettes of the Canadian Football League.

Love learned the turtles had been injured by plastic debris, including plastic water bottles in the ocean. The aquarium had to remove their limbs in order to save the turtles from dying.

Around that same time, in May of 2017, Love launched IInner Vision Apparel company, a sustainable clothing line. He wanted a business that could also make a social impact. Inspired in part by the turtles, the apparel is made from 95 percent recycled material, and shirts specifically are constructed from five to 10 plastic bottles, recycled cotton and eco-friendly water-based ink.

Plastic that is not recycled often ends up in a landfill or ocean. According to a study by the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services, plastic takes about 450 years to decompose into the earth. If it lands in the ocean, it can potentially add to an island of trash debris in the Pacific that has grown up to 600,000 square miles, according to a study in the Nature the International Journal of Science, which is twice the size of the Texas.

Glenn Love Jr. plays linebacker in the Canadian Football League. He was a standout at Hamilton High. (Photo courtesy Glenn Love Jr.)

In addition to the harmful effects of plastic, the fashion industry has a significant impact on the environment, experts say. Whether it is the practices used overseas to grow cotton or the transportation used, the apparel industry leaves a substantial carbon footprint. That motivated Love to focus on recycled cotton.

“The carbon footprint is seen in transportation and where it’s grown and how it’s grown. Most fibers are being grown with pesticides,” said Nicole Darnall, a professor of management and public policy at Arizona State’s Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability. “They are chemically grown. And most synthetics fibers are derived from petroleum.”

Before Love had a passion for sustainable fashion, he was a football standout at Hamilton High. He lettered in four sports at the varsity level and holds the school record for most interceptions in a season (10). He also secured a 5A MVP title and a state championship.

After graduating from Hamilton, he played four seasons at UCLA where he was converted from defensive back to linebacker. He is playing his seventh season in the Canadian Football League.

Once Love started his professional career, he said he felt it was his duty to show that athletes can make a positive impact on society.

“I wanted to make sure that it wasn’t just me that (my future) was affecting but it was affecting other people, too, in a positive way,” Love said.

A visit to an aquarium gave him direction.

“Seeing those things swim sideways because it had one arm, that’s because of us not because of them. They didn’t do anything wrong,” Love said. “It is because of us. Millions of sea creatures and sea life dies because of us. That really changed things.”

Love was looking for a manufacturer to produce his clothing line around the same time he visited the aquarium and found Brett Matheson, the owner of Yoganastix, a company in Arizona that produces clothing material from recycled plastic bottles.

Glenn Love. Jr. works out in clothing made from IInner Vision Apparel, the sustainable clothing company he owns. (Phot courtesy Glenn Love Jr.)

“He (Matheson) really showed me some materials … polyester, cotton, the blends and all that kind of stuff. Last one he showed me was like recycled bottles so I am like, ‘what’? ” Love said.

In that moment Love knew what he was going to do.

“When you see those turtles and me seeing this material, it was meant to be,” he said.

Although it is a good start to becoming more sustainable, it does have unintended consequences, said George Basile, a senior sustainability scientist at the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability. Microfiber pollution, which is the shedding of microplastics from synthetic fabrics used to make clothing, can occur.

“It’s not a bad step. You’re building a business on the idea of cycling, and cycles and surfaces and recycling. … That may position you better for using other materials that need to be recycled that are OK that leak into nature,” Basile said. “I think overall it’s a good step toward where you want to go but it’s incomplete. We want business that are interested in heading toward completeness but also are not trapped by having to be perfect.”

More than a year has passed since Love launched IInner Vision Apparel. The company has expanded from being online only to being included in Kalloni’s Closet Boutique in Gilbert.

“Immediately, he reminds me so much of myself just from his personality. Just like out how he operates,” owner Keller Ziegler said. “This is absolutely going to work out.”

The lack of a business background and fashion acumen created a few setbacks for Love, who has struggled to adjust to unexpected obstacles.

Glenn Love Jr. wears items from his clothing line. Recycled plastic bottles are used to make his shirts. (Photo courtesy Glenn Love Jr.)

“Now I’ve got to learn how to deal with people overseas, that when I was going to bed they were getting up,” he said. “So I was getting up at 3 in the morning. You cannot speak the same language and you might say one thing to someone from here and they might interpret it as something else.”

This has not deterred Love, who hopes to one day have his own brick and mortar storefront for IInner Vision, as well as be a distributor for other apparel companies looking to use sustainable materials for their clothing. He is looking to develop a business relationship with fitness brand SoulCycle and to expand into Canada.

“Maybe have a store where its all eco-friendly brands. Might be local. Might be from Zimbabwe,” Love said. “It doesn’t matter.”

“I want to have eco-friendly clothes so everyone can see that we can compete with the rest of the world with making good quality clothes.”