Scientists are working with Indigenous communities to change the fate of Arctic caribou herds threatened by climate change. Habitat loss has caused a 56% decline in North America’s wild caribou population over the past 20 years, a situation that scientists and Indigenous conservation groups are determined to change.
Recently, the National Science Foundation (NSF) awarded $718,000 to Logan Berner, an assistant professor at Northern Arizona University’s School of Informatics, Computing, and Cyber Systems (SICCS), for a three-year study dubbed “Fate of the Caribou.” The study offers insights into how human actions and a changing environment affect the caribou.
According to Berner, the study will continue to collaborate with local Indigenous groups to determine the best ways to protect the vital animals. “Our interdisciplinary research team will collaborate with members of local Indigenous and rural communities to conduct large-scale ecological analyses across multiple caribou herds in North America using novel ecological modeling, decades of satellite observations, and extensive field data,” said Berner.
Berner will also collaborate with other parties to carry out interdisciplinary research to find ways of advancing the protection of wild caribou. The team includes Regents’ professor Scott Goetz, Earth scientists, ecologists, remote sensing experts and more. According to the researchers, they will be working towards generating actionable results for the management of caribou herds.
“Our research will help advance understanding and management of caribou as we partner with the Indigenous-led caribou and natural resource management boards that are central to Arctic governance. We will work with them to produce actionable science that can inform the policies and co-management of caribou herds stretching from Hudson’s Bay to western Alaska,” the team wrote in a research description.
Wild caribou are an important land-based species in the Arctic for both humans and the ecosystem. Those who live in the region rely on these animals for food. These animals also help balance the ecosystem. However, for the past few years, the animals have faced threats causing their population to decline.
In addition to researching ways to sustain caribou populations, the researchers will also train young scientists to continue with the conservation job.
Lead image via Pixabay