Polar Bears International

5/11/2016 6:06:23 PM

Polar Bear Point of View Video

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Ambling through a forest. Drinking water from a pond. Pausing to munch on a few crowberries.

A small video cam fitted on a collar lets us peek into the life of a female polar bear, following along as she navigates Akimiski Island in James Bay, Canada.

Its purpose? To help scientists understand how polar bears in seasonal ice areas - where the sea ice melts completely summer - spend their time and energy when forced ashore.

"New technology lets us actually see what the bears are seeing and learn what they are doing in places rarely accessed and at times of the year when it's hard to follow them," said Geoff York, senior director of conservation at Polar Bears International.

"The footage is visually stunning, but it's also important from a research perspective. It provides unique insights into polar bear activity that will help scientists better understand and interpret the data received from bears without cameras." 

Scientists plan to correlate the footage with data gathered by an accelerometer, which measures changes in motion. They will also calibrate it with movement and video data gathered from polar bears in zoos.

Anthony Pagano, a research biologist with the U.S. Geological Survey, said the team applied small video cameras and exercise-monitoring devices on three polar bears on land.

"These tools will allow us to see what the bears do when forced ashore and measure the number of calories they spend," Pagano said.

So far, scientists have analyzed data from one bear. That bear spent 78 percent of her time resting, 8 percent eating berries, 4 percent walking, and 10 percent doing other things, like drinking or grooming. She was most active in the morning (7 a.m. to noon) and least active in the evening (5 p.m. to 8 p.m.).

The study complements an earlier USGS project that involved polar bears on the sea ice - one that included time swimming, hunting and catching seals, breeding, and resting. Scientists will compare the data from the sea ice study with data from bears on land.

"These studies are providing us with greater insights into the behaviors and nutritional demands of polar bears so we can better understand how they are being affected by declines in sea ice," Pagano said.

Those few berries, for example? Tasty perhaps, but probably not worth the effort spent munching them.

The project is a team effort involving Polar Bears International, the USGS, explore.org, Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources, York University, San Diego Zoo Institute of Conservation Research, Mehdi Bakhtiari at Exeye (inventor and source of the cams), and Adam Ravetch at Arctic Bear Productions.

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