Archive for the 'Field Studies' Category

Polar Bears: What December Brings

Posted at 5:18 pm December 6, 2010 by JoAnne Simerson

A young male polar bear is trapped in ice slush.

I’ve just returned from my annual trip to Churchill in Manitoba, Canada, to work with Polar Bears International. This was my 10th year of doing so, and, as many of you know, I have seen dramatic changes in the environment and animals that live there in just this decade. This year has provided the shortest ice season in recorded time: the polar bears lost a full nine weeks of hunting time. The water and air temperatures for November and December continue to be above normal, delaying the formation of ice again this year. The polar bears have been hunting during low tide and have been fortunate to occasionally find harbor seals resting among the rocks. The bears must be vigilant that they return to the shore before the tide rushes in.


Training Andean Bear Field Crew

Posted at 11:29 am November 29, 2010 by Russ Van Horn

Meg, at left, conducts a field training session.

I recently spent several days in the dry forest of Lambayeque in Peru working with our collaborator Robyn Appleton and her field crew from the Spectacled Bear Conservation Society and with Dr. Meg Sutherland-Smith, a veterinarian from the San Diego Zoo. Our goals were to reinforce and enhance the field crew’s training in bear immobilization and, with luck, to illustrate everything by immobilizing a female Andean (or spectacled) bear and placing a GPS collar on her. The field crew had recently discovered the den at which a female bear (Pepa) had given birth. This is the fourth den found at this field site, and only the fifth ever described of wild Andean bears (one den was recently discovered in the cloud forest of Ecuador).


Quolls: Critically Endangered and Remote

Posted at 3:23 pm November 24, 2010 by Bill Ellis

Bill holds a northern quoll.

I spend almost all of my time working in Australia on the San Diego Zoo’s koala project (see previous post, Koala Fieldwork: Helping Hands), but I have recently been introduced to other unique Australians. This week I traveled to east Arnhem Land in northern Australia to the home of the Wanindilyakwa people: Groote Eylandt. This large island (about 30 miles or 48 kilometers across and 50 miles or 80 kilometers long) lies in the Gulf of Carpentaria, and it is some of the most remote country in Australia. The island is home to the unique local indigenous people as well as one of the only intact natural populations of the critically endangered northern quoll Dasyurus hallicatus.


Koala Fieldwork: Helping Hands

Posted at 1:36 pm November 16, 2010 by Bill Ellis

Bill is studying wild koalas on St. Bees island off the coast of Australia. Read his previous post, Koalas Get High-tech Support.

It is not always easy for me to convince people that what we are doing is hard work. Our island site is warm and pleasant at this time of year, surrounded by beautiful ocean and inhabited by wonderful koalas. Fortunately, I am having many visitors to my study site, which means I have many more hands on deck, which means we can do even more!


Traveling the World for Turtles

Posted at 10:57 am November 9, 2010 by Brian Horne

Brian holds a Podocnemis sextuberculata.

I am on another airplane, I believe somewhere over Venezuela. The plane seems full of excited Brazilians all eagerly awaiting our landing in Miami. The aisles are crowded with chattering friends and young couples with clasped hands whispering of their awaiting adventures. I’ve plugged my music into my noise-canceling headphones to escape my surroundings for a few fleeting moments. I hope to cocoon myself in my favorite music from my undergraduate days. I’m tired; no, I am near exhausted.


Island Conservation

Posted at 1:32 pm November 3, 2010 by Richard Switzer

Richard admires a Phillipine eagle. Photo credit: Philippine Eagle Foundation

In September, conservation practitioners and environmental educators from across the Philippines, as well as the Pacific island of Pohnpei, gathered to participate in the Island Species-Led Action (ISLA) course run by the Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, which was held in association with Iligan Institute of Technology, Mindanao State University, Philippines. The 10-day course was designed to teach participants proven and practical approaches to manage endangered species and habitats on islands, thereby enhancing existing knowledge and expertise and ultimately developing the local skill base and resources for conservation measures and initiatives.


Neighborhood Creek to Zoo

Posted at 2:42 pm November 2, 2010 by Ron Swaisgood

Ron and his family on a nature hike.

October was Kids Free Days at the San Diego Zoo and San Diego Zoo Safari Park. Our Institute for Conservation Research staff shared their interactions and connections with nature at a young age and how these connections put them on their career paths. Read a previous post, Desert Memories.

It’s a little sad to see Kids Free month—and our renewed focus on getting kids and their families out in nature—come to a close. Every day of every month should be kids in nature day! That’s how I remember my childhood—the long summer days spent exploring the local creeks and woods, the afterschool afternoons spent building forts and treehouses, the weekend camping trips to the beach and the mountains. I grew up in suburban North Carolina, but there was plenty of nearby nature to sink my muddy feet into. The thing is, you don’t need a National Park to experience nature, you just need a canyon, a creek, or a vacant lot to cultivate some nature rituals.


Wind, Snow, and Polar Bears

Posted at 10:48 am November 2, 2010 by Megan Owen

Two young males sparring.

Megan is reporting from Churchill, Manitoba, Canada. Read her previous post, Returning to the Polar Bears.

There are beautiful, calm, sunny days up here where you start to believe that you might begin to master the art of living in the polar bear’s Arctic home. But then, out of nowhere, the weather moves in. Of course the weather up here has any number of combinations of cold, rain, snow, and wind. And what really keeps you on your toes is that it can turn on a dime, leaving you feeling hopelessly ill-equipped to stand outside, even for a few minutes.


Returning to the Polar Bears

Posted at 11:52 am October 28, 2010 by Megan Owen

Flying to Churchill, in Manitoba, Canada, always fills me with excitement and anticipation. And as the flight into town began its descent, I felt like I was going home. I love it up here. I love the smell of the cold and the enormous sky. I first came to Churchill in 1993 as a graduate student, and I am happy to return to the Polar Bear Capital of North America as a panelist for Polar Bears International’s Tundra Connections program.


Experiencing the Wonder of Nature

Posted at 10:35 am October 22, 2010 by Oliver Ryder

Vermillion Cliffs site

October is Kids Free Days at the San Diego Zoo and San Diego Zoo Safari Park. Our Institute for Conservation Research staff are sharing their interactions and connections with nature at a young age and how these connections put them on their career paths. Read a previous post, A New Nature.

As a young person, it was a sense of wonder—a mixture of curiosity, interest, and desire for discovery—that kindled my interest in becoming a scientist. Years later, working as a conservation scientist at the San Diego Zoo Institute for Conservation Research stimulates this sense of wonder. Now, however, the larger and more important context is the preservation of the astounding diversity of forms of life—the numerous species and their populations. This is the driving force for efforts my colleagues and I undertake. At a time when species are being lost at an unprecedented rate, this can be a challenging outlook. Yet, a single moment or moments of experience can make it all worthwhile, justifying tedium, overcoming frustration, and ablating despair.