ArcticNet - ArcticNet Research

Phase 4 (2015-2018)

Innovative Research on Monitoring Marine Mammals to Mitigate Impacts of a Changing Arctic

Project Leader(s)

Ferguson, Steven

Climate change is altering Arctic marine ecosystem structure and function, and Arctic marine mammal populations (seals, whales, and polar bears) are vulnerable to direct loss of sea ice habitat, as well as associated indirect impacts such as changes in prey abundance. This project focuses on marine mammal ecology (e.g. diet, migration, and habitat use) and population demography (e.g. abundance and reproductive success) to understand how changes in sea ice patterns, food web structure, disease prevalence, and contaminant levels may impact Arctic marine mammal populations. A mix of scientific methods and traditional ecological knowledge are employed in various components of the study, and community-based monitoring programs to engage Northerners in research partnerships are incorporated. This integrated approach is providing a greater understanding of marine mammal populations and their Arctic environment, particularly in terms of defining critical habitat, early warning of change, and critical connections among ecosystem components. Results will help Northerners, who are culturally and economically reliant on these species, to develop adaptive conservation and management programs as marine mammal distributions and abundances respond to a changing Arctic ecosystem. Contributes to IRIS: 1, 2, 3, 4