Researchers evacuated due to polar bear trapped on land by melting sea ice
August 7, 2008
"It is ironic that our efforts to understand how climate change is affecting wildlife were disrupted by the top Arctic predator displaced by climate," said Dr. Steve Zack of WCS. Dr. Zack and Mr. Liebezeit, who lead the Arctic studies for WCS, will continue their work on post-breeding shorebirds in the Prudhoe Bay region this season.
Although the crew had bear safety training, the uncertainty of how dangerous this or other polar bears in the region might be led to the decision to charter a bush pilot to get the crew out before a major storm made such a rescue unlikely for days.
Image by Mark Maftei, Wildlife Conservation Society
Joe Liebezeit examines tundra erosion at Beaufort Sea edge, image by Kevin Pietrak, Wildlife Conservation Society
The crew was conducting surveys of shorebirds feeding on the shorelines prior to their southward migrations. The shorelines north of Teshekpuk Lake on the Beaufort Sea have experienced dramatic erosion because of the warming climate.
The study was an attempt to understand how such erosion was affecting the ability of millions of shorebirds attempting to gain enough food energy to fuel their southward migrations to Asia, South America, and many other distant sites.