Our Work in Beringia

Arctic Beringia lies at the juncture of the eastern and western hemispheres, encompassing an area of tundra and shallow marine shelf areas that extend from the Kolyma River in the Chukotka region of the Russian Federation, across Alaska, and to the Banks Island in the Inuvik Region of the Northwest Territories, Canada.

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The region’s tundra, coastal, and marine habitats are home to most of what we would imagine as quintessential Arctic wildlife – polar bears, bowhead and beluga whales, walruses, ringed and bearded seals, muskoxen, arctic foxes, and caribou. The numbers of wildlife that migrate through this region each year are staggering – hundreds of thousands of caribou, over a hundred and fifty thousand walruses, thirteen thousand bowhead whales, and millions of shorebirds, waterfowl, and seabirds. For species like the Western Arctic bowhead whale and Pacific walrus, this represents their entire global population. A diverse array of indigenous cultures – including the Chukchi, Siberian Yupik, St. Lawrence Island Yupik, Central Yup’ik, Iñupiat, Inuit, Athabaskan, and Aleut – are closely connected with and reliant upon this region’s wildlife and environment for food security and cultural continuity and vitality.

Arctic Beringia is an environment in an unprecedented era of transition – it is one of the fastest changing places on earth. Rapid climate change, burgeoning industrial development, and profound social changes are altering the natural rhythms of the wildlife and indigenous communities that have called this place home for millennia. It is in this context that Wildlife Conservation Society seeks to implement effective conservation solutions that mitigate the impacts of climate change, transportation of people and products in and through the region, and site-based industrial activities.

These photos and links below are intended to provide a snapshot of our efforts with local partners on the ground in Arctic Beringia. We are also actively involved with the application of our field research in management and policy. For example, we help administer the Arctic Waterways Safety Committee, including chairing the science subcommittee, where outcomes from our research on shipping routes and noise are critical (arcticwaterways.org).

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Rosemary McGuire (WCS volunteer) and Bobby Sarren (North Slope Borough) work together on the eider migration population estimate in April-may 2015. Read more here. Photo Sally Andersen

Anigaaq Lagoon is one of several WCS field sites, where we are studying ecology of whitefish in coastal lagoons.

Krusenstern Lagoon is one of several WCS field sites, where we are studying ecology of whitefish in coastal lagoons. Read more about this project here. Photo Martin Robards

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WCS researchers flew more than 14,000 miles during aerial tracking surveys of wolverines in 2015. In this photo, the wolverine is about to cross tracks made by a fox. More images from the surveys can be found here. Photo Audrey Magoun

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Helicopter commute to the shorebird camp at the Chaun River Delta, Russia. Learn more about our research here. Photo John Denier

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Navigating the jumble of sea ice pressure ridges off the west coast of Banks Island during an acoustic datalogger deployment in the spring, 2015. Read more about this project here.

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King eiders were one of the focal species in WCS’s spring migration counts at Point Barrow, Alaska. More photos and information from our April 2015 field effort can be found here. Photo Zak Pohlen

Polar bears were frequently sighted on the sea ice of the Beaufort Sea during the eider migration.

Polar bears were frequently sighted on the sea ice of the Beaufort Sea during the eider migration population estimate. Learn more here.

Youth Film Crew

Native Youth from around Alaska worked on a film project about Alaska’s yellow-billed loons and conservation concerns. This project was conducted in partnership with the National Park Service. Read more about our waterfowl-related projects here.

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Muskoxen in a windstorm on Wrangel Island. WCS Senior Scientist Joel Berger conducts work in partnership with U.S. and Russian scientists and Alaska Native partners. Learn more about it here. Photo Joel Berger

Alexey Dondua measuring Calidris (N.Vartanyan)

Alexei Dondua measuring shorebirds at Belyaka spit. Read more about our work on arctic shorebirds here.

Spoon-billed sandpiper at Belyaka Spit.

Spoon-billed sandpipers are one of the most critically endangered bird species. Read more about our arctic shorebird research and conservation here. Photo Alexei Dondua

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Our field efforts on Arctic shipping, such as acoustic monitoring of shipping noise, are designed to inform best practices for all shipping the US Arctic’s waterways.

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