Arctic Challenge for Sustainability Project

ArCS Blog

Seabird study in St. Lawrence Island, Northern Bering Sea, 2017.

As a part of ‘theme 6’ ecosystem and biodiversity research program, ArCS researchers are conducting ecological research on seabirds breeding at St Lawrence Island, Northern Bering Sea. This is the second year of our field work, which started in 2016. Researchers from NIPR, Hokkaido University, and University of Alaska Fairbanks have been working together with two native guides from St. Lawrence Island, from mid July to the end of August. I was on the island for the early part of this year’s field work, during 12-28 July, 2017.

We flew into the village of Savoonga, from Nome, Alaska, with a small airplane on 12th July. From the next day, we visited breeding colonies of seabirds every day, to find the birds we attached a device, called geolocators, last summer, to obtain information on migratory routes during winter period. In general, seabirds have a habit of coming back to the same nest for breeding, year after year, so it is possible to recapture the same bird after a lag of one entire year. That said, I always fear that geolocator might be lost due to breakage of plastic leg ring, or the bird might not survive the severe winter, etc. So it was very satisfying when we found the birds with geolocators on the same nest and we were able to recapture the birds and retrieve the geolocators. A day of field work sometime continued until 11 PM, thanks to long daylight hours of the summer. At the end of a hard working day, we sometimes had a ‘Kampai’ (toast) to our success of recovering geolocators. The kampai were with tea, however, not with beer, because we followed the villagers’ rule of Savoonga being alcohol-free. 

We not only recovered the geolocators, but also attached GPS data loggers to examine detailed at-sea movement and collected samples for physiological or contaminant analyses. When I was leaving the island, one of our native Eskimo guide handed me his e-mail address, asking me to send the results of geolocators showing where their seabirds go during winter period. I have to work hard on geolocator data analysis to send the results, as I promised to them.

Akinori Takahashi (NIPR/A member of Theme 6)

Attempting to capture murres by using long noose pole at cliff edge

Measurement of kittiwake after capturing.

Successful recovery of a geolocator from a kittiwake after one year.