The start

Like I wrote in the previous posts, I started in the summer of 1999 in the research settlement of Ny Ålesund on Spitsbergen to do part of my masters. My research topic was the breeding biology of Barnacle Geese. This involved a lot of walking around through town and over the tundra looking for geese, counting them and reading their rings. And of course, we had to catch, measure and ring the geese every summer.

Brandgans; Barnacle Goose; Branta leucopsis
Barnacle Goose family

My research was about individual differences in shyness in Barnacle Geese. To study this, I walked up to a group of geese (preferably a single one) until they started to run away from me. At that moment I would stop and measure the distance between the geese and me. Analysis showed that differences were likely due to two factors. First of all, they got used to humans. Geese inside the village were less shy as geese outside the village (even the same individuals), and geese that were seen more often in the village were less shy as their counterparts from outside the village. The second factor was body condition. This is harder to prove, as I couldn’t measure body condition directly after I did the measurement of course. But we know that families have a lower body condition as non-breeding birds and geese in a year with a fox present have a lower body condition as geese in a year without.

For me, these six months (July and August in 3 years) were the perfect start to my polar career. I had time enough to fall in love with the landscape and nature, but also to learn about the different aspects of the ecology.

 

 

 

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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