from UW Today, February 22, 2017. Note: Applied Physics Laboratory Oceanographer Kristin Laidre is the teacher for FISH 464: Arctic Marine Vertebrate Ecology. This course is offered in winter of ‘odd years’, and can be applied to the requirements of the marine biology minor.
A new, two-part University of Washington project aims to explore the interacting effects of climate change and subsistence hunting on polar bears, while also illuminating the cultural value of the species to indigenous peoples and the role they play in conservation. Led by Kristin Laidre, a marine biologist at the UW’s Polar Science Center and the School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences, the three-year project will include a public art-science exhibition that combines photography, storytelling and science focused on polar bears, climate change and local Inuit communities in Greenland.
“Broadly, people know polar bears are negatively affected by loss of sea ice, so they are understandably upset to hear polar bears are also being hunted,” Laidre said. “The reality is, the reason for the projected decline of polar bears is a much bigger, global problem related to human-caused climate change and is largely unrelated to harvest. Managing and conserving polar bears in a changing climate has to include working closely with local Arctic communities and respecting subsistence needs.”
The annual migration of some beluga whales in Alaska is altered by sea ice changes in the Arctic, while other belugas do not appear to be affected.
A new study led by the University of Washington finds that as Arctic sea ice takes longer to freeze up each fall due to climate change, one population of belugas mirrors that timing and delays its migration south by up to one month. In contrast, a different beluga population, also in Alaska, that migrates and feeds in the same areas doesn’t appear to have changed its migration timing with changes in sea ice.
The paper was published Dec. 21 in the journal Global Change Biology.
“The biggest take-home message is that belugas can respond relatively quickly to their changing environment, yet we can’t expect a uniform response across all beluga populations,” said lead author Donna Hauser, a postdoctoral researcher at the UW’s Polar Science Center.
“If we’re trying to understand how these species are going to respond to climate change, we should expect to see variability in the response across populations and across time,” Hauser said. “That may complicate our predictions for the future.”
Two genetically distinct beluga populations spend winters in the Bering Sea, then swim north in the early summer as sea ice melts and open water allows them passage into the Beaufort and Chukchi seas. There they feast all summer on fish and invertebrates before traveling back south in the fall. Other research suggests the whales are taught by their mothers when to migrate and which route to take, so it was unclear if belugas would be responsive to sea ice changes.
Undergraduates interested in the Arctic – from policy to the environment – are invited to attend this symposium at a discounted rate of $25/day. Please visit this unique link and click the envelope icon on the right side of the page to register at the UW Rate.
Hosted by the University of Washington School of Law, the Arctic Encounter will convene its third annual national symposia in Seattle, Washington. Building upon prior Arctic Encounter Seattle (AES) events, this two-day conference will confront the shared interests and concerns of the United States and the global community as we look north to the last emerging frontier – the Arctic.
Policymakers, industry leaders, regional stakeholders and leading experts from the science, technology, maritime and energy sectors, will come together at AES to address challenges to right action in the Arctic region and debate solutions.
As the largest annual Arctic policy event in the U.S., AES participants will engage in expert plenary sessions, two keynote luncheons, breakout sessions, a cocktail hour and seated dinner at the Museum of History & Industry on Lake Union and a closing reception. We hope you will join us in Seattle!