Are walrus and polar bear populations in the Laptev related to populations to the east and west?
The answer to this mystery may have implications for the management of the entire region.
The expedition will also give our team the chance to document the rapid climate-driven changes coming to the Arctic.
?Are the Laptev's polar bears and walruses genetically distinct from their Atlantic and Pacific neighbours?
?Is reduced sea ice, linked to climate change, adversely affecting the Laptev populations?
Why it matters
Over the past several decades, the summer sea ice in the Laptev has decreased. Both walruses and polar bears depend on the ice, as a platform to rest and feed.
How we'll solve the mystery
Using wire snags, we'll painlessly collect tufts of polar bear fur for genetic testing.
It's high-speed science! With specially-modified crossbows, we'll collect a small sample of blubber and skin from the walruses we encounter.
Our photographers will document the state of the Laptev's ice, and the creatures that depend on it.
Photos of walrus "haul outs", or groups on land and ice, will help us do a rough population count.
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. On this expedition, Tom will advise on the walrus sampling, as well as contributing to recording and reporting on the expedition. He's also a keen birdwatcher, and is looking forward to seeing some of the Laptev's abundant summer bird-life.
WWF Russia CEO
Igor is one of the leading experts in the field of environmental protection in Russia, and has been the CEO of WWF-Russia since 1996. Author of many scientific publications and several books, he carries out functional research work and takes part in scientific expeditions. Igor is also becoming well-known for his Polar swims - In 2006 he dove at Svalbard, swam in the Antarctic in 2007, and in 2011 swam in the Barents Sea to support a law on protection of seas from oil pollution. He intends to repeat his deed in the Laptev Sea. Igor will also bring his research skills to the expedition.
WWF Arctic Biodiversity Conservation Coordinator
For 20 years Mikhail worked at the State Nature Reserve on Wrangel Island in Russia's far northeast, an important polar bear nursery. Over this time he worked his way up from lab tech to deputy director, and travelled to Chukotka and Alaska on scientific and research work) with trips to Chukotka and Alaska. After returning to his home city of Moscow, Mikhail coordinated various UNEP and UN-related projects connected with protected areas and rare species. About 10 years ago he started working with WWF as a protected areas expert. Mikhail is overall lead of the Laptev expedition.
ChukotTINRO - Chukotka Division of Pacific Fishery & Oceanography Institute
Anatoly Kochnev is the head of the sea mammals laboratory at ChukotTINRO. He worked as at observer at Okhotsk Department for Protection and Reproduction of Fish Resources and Fishery Regulation (OkhotskRybVod) on Schmidt Cape, then at Wrangel Island and later at ChukotTINRO. He is a leading expert on walruses and polar bears. He is a great photographer - his works were on display in Anadyr and Moscow. Anatoly also writes articles for "Vokrug Sveta" and other magazines.
WWF Arctic Communication Officer
Tatiana is an advertising manager by profession. For more than 7 years, Tatiana has led communications on the Russian Arctic with journalists and decision makers at official meetings, in the mountains, the woods, and on and under the sea. Her role is to lead on expedition communications, particularly for Russian language audiences.
A biologist, photographer, and blogger, Alexey was born and works in the Altai Republic a mountainous area in the centre of Asia. As a photographer he has been a finalist and winner of Russian and international photo competitions (Wildlife of Russia, Golden Turtle etc). He also organizes regional photo competitions and exhibitions (Wildlife of Altay, Charm of Altay). Alexey is the author of scientific ornithological reports, media articles and book named Winter Fairy Tale of the Swan Lake. He devotes his free time to the AltaiNatureproject, popularizing Altai nature and its unique places, and organizing environmental events.
August 13, 2013
The crew departs from the settlement of Khatanga in the Krasnoyarsk Territory and from there will travel to the Laptev Sea shore (560 km). The crew will set up camp in the ecological hotspot of Maria Prontchistcheva Bay. This location will provide a fixed base from which to survey the surrounding coastline.
Crew returns to Khatanga
Crew returns to Moscow
Russia's Arctic coast has lost much of its summer sea ice over the past two decades.
As a result, there's increased interest in shipping routes and oil and gas exploration in the Laptev Sea.
However, we know very little about the wildlife and habitat of the Laptev. This expedition will help researchers determine whether the region's walruses and polar bears are genetically distinct from populations to the east and west. It will also attempt to confirm and document walrus haul out sites, occurrence and distribution of polar bears on shore, and make careful note of other wildlife sightings in this unique region that bridges east and west..
27 Aug 2013
Where do the Laptev Sea walruses fit in the big story?
27 Aug 2013
People are coming back to the Laptev, and not to just observe the weather or wildlife.
24 Aug 2013
As luck would have it, our last day in Khatanga is also the town’s birthday- 380 years old!
Polar bear spotted on the Laptev Linkages expedition.
Walruses, Laptev Sea, Russia
The crew of the Laptev Linkages expedition
An underground mammoth museum made of ice in Khatanga, Russia.
The “Laptev Linkages” expedition is the second of three Arctic expeditions to be funded by Canon Europe.
See the 2012 expedition, Sailing to Siku, here.
Canon also funds the WWF-Canon photo library, helping WWF tell conservation stories worldwide through photography.