Wednesday, April 27, 2016

URSP Student Cassandra Kostiuk Studies Long Distance Swimming Behaviors in Polar Bears

My research project is a study on the long distance swimming behaviors in polar bears and whether males or females are driven to undertake these swims more frequently. I became interested in polar bear conservation during a class on marine mammal biology after learning extensively about the numerous threats toward the species as a result of global climate change. To cope with the affects on the Arctic environment, polar bear ecology is changing and by studying these changes, more educated conservation efforts can be enacted. Through another class on marine ecology I became specifically interested in the increasing distances that polar bears were swimming. These swims often result in drowning, which draws attention to the issue of climate change. My long-term goals are to continue my education in graduate school and pursue a career in Arctic conservation. I’d like to attend graduate school in Alaska and continue working on polar bear behavior. On a weekly basis I collect data from published papers about GPS tagged polar bear movements and determine what movements are considered long distance swimming events. From there I organize the data based on sex of the polar bear, distance swam, and date(s) of the swimming event. The data will allow me to draw conclusions about the differences in long distance swimming between sexes of polar bears. I also search for journal articles about new research about polar bear ecology. This week I discovered an explanation for a slight bias in collaring female polar bears more frequently than males. One paper I read simply stated that male polar bears have necks that are just too large for the GPS collars and it results in less data regarding male polar bear movements.