Polar Bear Research - Pagano

The effects of declining sea ice on polar bear behaviors and energetic rates

Anthony Pagano, Wildlife Biologist, US Geological Survey, Alaska Science Center, Anchorage, Alaska.


To better understand the effects of climate change on polar bears, data on polar bear foraging, movements, and energy rates are needed. This project is using accelerometers attached to GPS collars to remotely identify polar bear foraging and other behaviors. Accelerometers are a small electronic device that measures changes in motion and can be used to identify behaviors, such as when an animal is eating, walking, running, swimming, or resting. We are using accelerometers on captive and wild polar bears to remotely identify these behaviors and to quantify energy rates. We are applying accelerometer collars on adult female polar bears off the Alaska coast during the spring of 2013-2015. Critical to this research is the development of an accelerometer behavior signature library using captive polar bears. We are video recording Ahpun at the Alaska Zoo while she is wearing an accelerometer to identify the distinct behavior signatures in the accelerometer data, which we will apply to the data we obtain from wild polar bears. These data will be used to identify important foraging areas for polar bears as well as identify energetically demanding areas and time periods to understand how declining sea ice is impacting polar bears.