Expedition to Svalbard
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 researchUsing 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.
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.
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.
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
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 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 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’.
Low sea ice spells trouble for Svalbard bears
[Updated, April 15, 2016] The past year has broken records for warmth in the Arctic, and around the world. First, 2015 was the warmest year on record. Then January 2016 smashed global records to become the hottest January. February 2016 was the hottest February ever recorded, and the most abnormally warm month, breaking a record […]
Walk 3,700 km with a polar bear
We've followed dozens of polar bears on the WWF Polar Bear Tracker since it launched in 2003. But few have wandered as far as Kara, a female bear tagged by researchers in Spring 2013.
Back to Longyearbyen
The Svalbard team heads back to port.
The coolest office
Being out in the field, you sometimes encounter challenges, like having an open office in the High Arctic.
I was sitting by the computer transferring some pictures, when something caught my eye, far away from the boat.