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This project's goal is to experimentally study strict monogamy in a panarctic seagull, the black-legged kittiwake, in Alaska. It studies mate choice (which is crucial because no mixed strategy is used) in relation to indivdual quality, fitness and sexual conflict in strictly monogamous species. It is rooted in a detailed knowledge of the species’ biology and the merging of three teams (French, Austiran and Alaskan) with long-term experience researching kittiwakes. It uses the unique experimental Alaskan setting for wild populations.
The aim of this research program is to examine the response of animal populations to environmental variability at different spatial scales. We attempt to determine how individuals respond to the spatial heterogeneity of their environment, and what are the consequences of this response for the dynamics of subdivided populations. Specifically, we consider an ecological system involving biotic interactions at three levels: seabirds, their tick _Ixodes uriae_, and the microparasite _Borrelia burgdorferi_ sensu lato (Lyme disease agent). Colonies of seabirds represent discrete entities, within and among which parasites can circulate. Our previous work on this system in the norwegian arctic has enable us to show that (1) host dispersal can be affected by local conditions, (2) seabird tick populations are specialised among different host species, namely between sympatric kittiwakes _Rissa tridactyla_ and puffins _Fratercula arctica_, (3) in the kittiwake, females transmit antibodies against _Borrelia burgdorferi_ when their chicks have a high probability to be exposed to the tick vector. We propose to combine different approaches, incorporating field surveys and experiments and population genetic studies (of hosts and parasites), in order to better understand the role of local interactions and dispersal in the dynamics of such a system. The research program implies collaborations with researchers from other french groups, as well as with Canadian (Queen’s University) and Norwegian colleagues (from NINA and the University of Tromsø).
The ecology of the Greenland Right Whale is studied using the historical information from written sources from Dutch archives. The Spitsbergen and Davis Strait populations of the Greenland Right Whale were so heavily hunted that they are almost exterminated now in the northern waters. The whale bones on the beaches of Arctic islands are the archaeological evidences of this exhausting hunt. Very often whaling logbooks, crew statements and lists of catch figures are the only sources of information preserved of this animal in these regions. In this project recent biological information of the animal in the seas around Alaska and historical information of the whale in the North Atlantic and Davis Strait is used to reconstruct the migration, distribution and ecological behaviour of the Greenland Right Whale in the North Atlantic Ocean.
I. Objectives: I.1. To determine the normal range of values (natural variability due to time of year, age, gender) for basic nutritional and health parameters (blubber characteristics, essential and non-essential elements, structure of basic tissues) in the bowhead whale. a. Blubber thickness (depth and girth), chemical composition (lipids, water, calories), and tissue structure (light microscopy and special stains) will be assessed. b. Essential and non-essential elements (heavy metals) will be measured in liver and kidney. c. Tissue structure (light microscopy) characteristics obviously related to nutritional status in liver (glycogen, lipid and lipofuscin stores), pancreas (zymogen granules), and intestine (mucosal microvilli) and any evidence of inactivity/atrophy will be examined. d. Documentation of "normal" structure of basic tissues and evaluation for evidence of disease will also be conducted. I.2. Using data from Objective 1 to identify the parameters most important in assaying the health status of other mysticetes residing in the Bering Sea or Western Arctic that are harvested or stranded. I.3. Using data from Objective 1 to help determine the role of the bowhead whale as an indicator of ecosystem health and development of an optimized protocol for assessing mysticete health for the Bering Sea and Western Arctic, and other regions.
1. Research area # 2 in the 1998/99 Announcement of Opportunity by CIFAR, "Study of anthropogenic influences on the Western Arctic/Bering Sea Ecosystem", and 2. Research area #4 in the 1998/99 Announcement of Opportunity by CIFAR, "Contaminant inputs, fate and effects on the ecosystem" specifically addressing objectives a-c, except "effects." a. "Determine pathways/linkages of contaminant accumulation in species that are consumed by top predators, including humans, and determine sub-regional differences in contaminant levels..." b. "Use an ecosystems approach to determine the effects of contaminants on food web and biomagnification." c. "Encourage local community participation in planning and implementing research strategies." The objectives of Phase I, Human Ecology Research are to: 1. Document reliance by indigenous arctic marine communities in Canada, Alaska and Russia on arctic resources at risk from chemical pollutants; and, 2. Incorporate traditional knowledge systems of subsistence harvesting. The human ecology components of the project were conducted within the frameworks of indigenous environmental knowledge and community participation. Using participatory mapping techniques, semi-structured interviews and the direct participation of community members in research design, data collection and implementation, research and data collection on the human ecology of indigenous arctic marine communities was undertaken in the communities of Holman, NWT (1998), Wainwright, Alaska (1999), and is underway in Novoe Chaplino, Russia. (2000).