Climate Change

We examine impacts of climate change on wildlife population distributions and species ecology from local to global scales.

Ecological big data: Arctic Animal Movement Archive

Human activities are rapidly changing the world around us. This is particularly evident in the Arctic region where climate and associated environmental changes are occurring at accelerated rates. Arctic animal species are profoundly impacted through changes in food availability, interspecfic competition, and increased human disturbances. Consequently, the region’s animal species’ primary response will likely occur through alternation in patterns, locations, and timing movements, such as migration. While substantial animal tracking data from the Arctic region exists, it has historically been difficult to access and discover. We collaborated with over 140 different scientists from a variety of disciplines across the globe to develop an open-source data archive, Arctic Animal Movement Archive (AAMA). The AAMA is a growing collection of more than 200 standardized terrestrial and marine animal tracking studies. It currently hosts more than 15 million data points across 96 species. The AAMA can be used to show distinct climate change responses on a large scale across species. The AAMA supports public data discovery, preserves fundamental baseline data for the future, and facilitates efficient, collaborative data analysis.

©Ashley Lutto

Trophic mismatch in Kodiak Brown Bears

On the Alaskan Kodiak Archipelago, warmer summers in recent years have led to changes in the timing of berry ripening (earlier onset) and salmon spawning (later onset), often resulting in an overlap of the availability of both resources which are usually more temporally distributed. The effects of this trophic mismatch are somewhat unknown for brown bears; however, observational data suggests brown bears may engage in prey switching behavior, favoring less energy dense berries over salmon. We are investigating this phenomenon through combined use of GPS collar data and isotope analysis of brown bear hair samples to estimate brown bear diet during summer and fall. The results of this work will aid in understanding impacts of warming climates and trophic mismatch of resources on brown bear ecology.

Plasticity of bear denning

In the wake of global climate change and range expansions of bears into previously occupied areas, understanding factors influencing den behavior can allow for better prediction of human-wildlife conflict, harvest management, and a more complete view of ecological and evolutionary processes. Using den entrance and duration data from 40 studies across North America, we demonstrated that black and brown bears follow an energy conservation strategy and alter den behavior based on their reproductive status and food availability.

©Ashley Lutto/GWCC