As someone with a scientific background I do see the use of science. Even if it doesn’t have a direct practical purpose it can be good to study things just for the purpose of science. Sometimes I do question the reason however. Opposite of the research settlement of Ny Ålesund there is a very small population of Long-tailed Skuas (or Jaegers), the only in Spitsbergen. Long-tailed Skuas usually predate on lemming, but as these are absent on Spitsbergen, there are hardly any Long-tailed Skuas. I would say a very odd and very small (maybe only 3 pairs) population would not be the best population to study, as you want your research to say something about the species as a whole, not just this particular population…


However, being opposite of a research settlement there apparently were scientists who had a little money left and decided to put rings and geolocators around the legs of these birds. This way they can follow the animals after they leave and see what distances they cover and where they spent their winter. It turns out they travel on average 48.000km a year, travel faster in autumn as in spring (345km/day vs. 202km/day) and winter off the coast of southwest Africa. Interesting to know, good to know for conservation purposes, a nice story for me to tell, but I still wonder if other, larger, populations behave the same. For science and conservation that would be far more important…

Arjen Drost

Arjen is a Polar ecologist, nature photographer and full time expedition guide on expedition cruise ships in both Polar regions. With his pictures and stories he likes to show the beauty of these very fragile and threatened places.

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