Cryospheric and Polar Processes Seminar
Ice for Whales, Ice for Whaling: Observing the Current State of an Arctic FoodshedIce for Whales, Ice for Whaling: Observing the Current State of an Arctic Foodshed
Matthew L. Druckenmiller, PhD
National Snow and Ice Data Center, University of Colorado Boulder, Department of Marine and Coastal Sciences, Rutgers University, Study of Environmental Arctic Change (SEARCH)
This presentation will discuss two separate but related efforts to understand the implications of a changing ice cover in the Pacific Arctic. First, I will describe a long-term effort to observe the state of the shore fast sea ice near Utqiaġvik (formerly Barrow), Alaska during the community’s spring hunting season. Since 2006, we have monitored ice thickness and morphology using electromagnetic induction along ice trails that the local Iñupiat whaling crews use to access hunting sites at the shore fast ice edge. These observations, together with shared knowledge and accounts from hunters, provide a long-term record for how the hunting community observes changing ice conditions, assesses safety, and efficiently strategizes and adapts their hunt for the bowhead whale—a species uniquely adapted to Arctic waters. Second, I will discuss recent and ongoing studies to understand how changing sea ice conditions in the Beaufort Sea and in other key habitat locations are impacting the distribution, migration timing, and overall health of the Bering-Chukchi-Beaufort (BCB) bowhead population. Recent findings suggest that ice loss is currently contributing to healthier (fatter) whales, a greater and more varied range, and an overall more subtle relationship to sea ice than previously thought. Together, these two lines of research are observing the current state of a complex Arctic foodshed that is intricately linked to changes in sea ice, as well as culture, conservation, and international policy.