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Through the Eyes of a Polar Bear—First "Point of View" Video

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The first “point of view” video from a polar bear on Arctic sea ice was posted on YouTube June 6, 2014, by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). Scientists applied video-camera collars to four female polar bears on the sea ice north of Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, in April 2014 and are releasing the first clips of footage that provide unique insight into the daily lives of the bears.

Above: Screenshots from video released on YouTube June 6, 2014. Top, near a hole in the ice. Center and bottom, a potential mate. [Top, larger version] [Center, larger version] [Bottom, larger version]

“We deployed two video cameras in 2013, but did not get any footage because the batteries weren’t able to handle the Arctic temperatures,” said Todd Atwood, research leader for the USGS Polar Bear Research Program. “We used different cameras this year, and we are thrilled to see that the new cameras worked.”

The video collars were deployed as part of a new study to understand how polar bears are responding to sea-ice loss from climate warming. The study, led by USGS research biologist and University of California Santa Cruz Ph.D. student Anthony Pagano, is taking a close look at polar bear behaviors and energetics.

Scientists with the USGS have been studying polar bear movement and habitat use for decades using radio and satellite telemetry (for example, see Tracking Polar Bears by Satellite), mostly used to determine a polar bear’s location. New video collars allow scientists to link the location data from the collar with the actual behavior recorded by the cameras.

Although these collars were only on the bears for about 8–10 days, scientists can start to understand the activity patterns of polar bears—for example, how often they eat, hunt, rest, walk, and swim—and how these behaviors may be affected by sea-ice conditions and other variables. “Ultimately, this information will help scientists examine the energetic rates and nutritional demands of these animals and the potential effects of declining sea-ice conditions,” said Pagano.

Above: A view from under the ice. [larger version]

This ongoing research is part of the USGS Changing Arctic Ecosystems initiative. The research is also relevant to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Polar Bear Recovery Team, of which the USGS is a member. The team is drafting the Polar Bear Conservation Management Plan, which will meet requirements of both the Endangered Species Act and the Marine Mammal Protection Act. The required plan, when finalized, will guide activities for polar bear conservation in response to the 2008 determination that the polar bear is a threatened species due to the ongoing loss of sea-ice habitat from global climate-change.

Two weeks after posting, the “Polar Bear—POV Cams (Spring 2014)” video had more than 300,000 views on YouTube, where you can watch it yourself.

Related Sound Waves Stories
Projected Losses of Arctic Sea Ice and Polar Bear Habitat May Be Reduced if Greenhouse-Gas Emissions are Stabilized
Jan. / Feb. 2011
New Publication on "Predicting 21st-Century Polar Bear Habitat Distribution from Global Climate Models"
April 2009

Related Websites
Polar Bear—POV Cams (Spring 2014)
Changing Arctic Ecosystems
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Polar Bear Recovery Team
Endangered Species Act
Marine Mammal Protection Act
Marine Mammal Commission

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in this issue:

cover story:
Earthquake, Landslide, and Tsunami Hazards in the Caribbean

Through the Eyes of a Polar Bear—First "Point of View" Video

Spotlight on Sandy
Hurricane Sandy Impacts Did Not Contribute to Subsequent Storm Flooding

New Personnel Study Estuarine Response to Storms

Summer Hires Assist Studies of Coastal Sediment Transport

Tracking Oil—USGS Tools and Analysis Inform Oil-Spill Response

Help Identify Coastal Hazards with Aerial Photographs on "iCoast" Website

Coral Reefs Provide Critical Protection to Coastal Inhabitants

New Postdoctoral Researchers at USGS in Woods Hole, Massachusetts

Summer Intern at USGS in Woods Hole, Massachusetts

Publications New USGS Coastal and Marine Geology Web Pages

Facilitating Identification of Coastal and Undersea Features

May / June Publications

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