Svalbard | WWF
	© Margaret Williams / WWF

Expedition to Svalbard

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What we hope to learn

How are the changes in sea ice affecting polar bear movements?

Why it matters

The expedition collected critical data about Europe’s most westerly polar bear population.

The population on and around the Norwegian Arctic archipelago of Svalbard is facing a future without summer sea ice. In recent years, the researchers have noted changes linked to reduced sea ice. Changes in the ice are modifying the bears’ usual movement patterns.


April 11, 2014
Departure from Longyearbyen, Svalbard.

April 11-21, 2014
The researchers fit bears with GPS-enabled collars to study their movements, and the WWF crew documents the work through photos, videos and stories from the field.

April 21, 2014
Return to Longyearbyen, Svalbard.

About the research

Using helicopter and GPS-based surveying, the team gathered first-hand evidence of the changes coming to Svalbard.

The research took place in April, when polar bear mothers and their cubs typically emerge from dens on Svalbard. The research team fit GPS collars to a number of bears, to track their movements.

The NPI researchers have seen some evidence that bears are shifting their denning sites as an apparent response to climate change. With GPS collars they can establish the bears’ favoured habitat, and how it is shifting with the sea ice melt. The researchers also record the condition of the bears at time of capture, adding to our knowledge of the population and its health.

Gert Polet

WWF Expedition Lead

Gert is leading WWF-Netherland’s conservation landscapes & species unit. His technical focus is on the Arctic and human-wildlife conflict prevention. Gert is heavily involved in our Arctic work, especially in support of the species’ programme and Russia’s Arctic programme.

Geoff York

WWF polar bear lead

Geoff York is the lead for WWF on all things polar bear. Before joining WWF he spent several years in Alaska working on polar bear research, tagging and tracking the bears with the United States Geological Survey. Geoff's expertise is recognized by his peers who have invited him to join the polar Bear Expert Group of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. He still takes part in field work whenever his schedule allows, and contributes to scientific papers on polar bear issues. Geoff's role on the expedition is to advise on polar bear issues, and on research and sampling protocols.

Tom Arnbom

WWF pinniped specialist

Tom is WWF's specialist on seals and walrus, having completed his doctorate on elephant seals. He had previously studied whales, and has been a member of the scientific committee of the International Whaling Commission. Tom is also an accomplished film-maker, having made wildlife documentaries for NHK (Japanese), Discovery and ZDF (German), and he has won several film awards.

Guillermo Prudencio Vergara

WWF Communicator

Guillermo has worked for WWF Spain as a press officer since June 2013, focusing on biodiversity, water and forests, and also coordinating the work on social media. Previously, he worked at the environmental desk of Spain’s main news agency, Agencia Efe.

Reinout Bolweg

WWF videographer

Reinout is a video producer with WWF Netherlands. He uses his own video camera (Canon 5D mkII) with mutiple lenses (all Canon: from wide angle (14mm) to tele (300 (converts to 420)mm & all between) and audio equipment.

Brutus Östling

Canon Ambassador

Brutus Östling was born in December 1958 and grew up in Stockholm, Sweden. He started a publishing house at the age of 22 in 1981. After publishing more than 1,000 titles in 2005 he changed his career and became a professional photographer, specialising in bird and wildlife photography.

Three of his photo books have been bestsellers in Sweden, and some have been translated into English, and other languages. His first ‘Mellan vingspetsarna’, with photographs of birds from the Arctic to the Antarctic was published in Sweden in 2005 and won the WWF Panda Prize 2006 as the best nature book in Sweden. His book about the white-tailed and Golden Eagles, ‘Örnarnas rike’ from 2007, also won the WWF Panda Prize as best nature book of the year. In 2006 he was chosen as ‘Nature Photographer of the Year’ in Sweden, and in November 2007 he was appointed as ‘Scandinavian Nature Photographer 2007-2008’.

Expedition blog


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Thanks to:


The NPI & WWF – Canon Europe Arctic Expedition is supported by Canon Europe and the Norwegian Polar Institute.

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