Home
Field Notes
 
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
Field Notes Entry   
SELAWIK: A Close Look at Caribou and Snow Conditions
Alaska Region, January 24, 2012
Print Friendly Version
One of our partners displays a core sample of snow collected during one snow course.
One of our partners displays a core sample of snow collected during one snow course. - Photo Credit: Anne Orlando/FWS
Aerial snow markers are designed so researchers can fly by in a small plane and visually measure snow depth.
Aerial snow markers are designed so researchers can fly by in a small plane and visually measure snow depth. - Photo Credit: Anne Orlando/FWS
This stake displays a row of
This stake displays a row of "iButtons" which record temperature every four hours. - Photo Credit: Anne Orlando/FWS

Although caribou are well adapted to winter, deep snow or hard ice layers can have a devastating impact on these animals, preventing them from digging to the ground to reach food. With predictions for a warming Arctic, icing could become a more frequent problem for caribou in the future.

 

For this reason, Selawik Refuge has started looking more closely at snow conditions in the winter range of the Western Arctic Caribou Herd, the largest herd in Alaska with 348,000 animals.

Fourteen remote locations have been selected in northwest Alaska as study sites. Each site has aerial snow depth markers, which our pilot flies by once per month from December to May to record snow depth. Each site also has a vertical stake with a row of "iButtons"--small sensors that record temperature every four hours. The iButtons buried by insulating snow will record different temperatures than those exposed to air, giving a more detailed measurement of snow depth and conditions.

Refuge staff also periodically perform "snow courses" at each site, in which staff dig snow pits, measure snow depth and density, and weigh snow samples for moisture content. This contributes important "ground-truthing" to remote sensing techniques that are becoming increasingly common.

Monitoring snow conditions will be a long-term project that will fill a gap in our knowledge about caribou habitat and changing climate. Stay tuned for future updates!


Contact Info: Susan Georgette, 907-442-3799 ext 16, susan_georgette@fws.gov



Send to:
From:

Notes:
Find a Field Notes Entry

Search by keyword

Search by State




Search by Region


US Fish and Wildlife Service footer