UArctic - University of the Arctic

03/13/2019 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 03/13/2019 06:48

Comparative Reindeer & Caribou Ecology in the Arctic; UArctic Research Chair and colleagues in Finland, Alaska & Norway

Caribou and reindeer are central to the ecology, cultural and economic sustainability of the Arctic and northern regions. As part of Professor Welker's UArctic Chairship, Dr. Welker, students and colleagues are undertaking studies of ungulate ecology with a focus on herbivore landscape use patters, diets, vegetation traits, snow properties and climate patterns.

Dr. Welker's Arctic ungulate ecology program is based on collaborative studies of the Central Arctic Caribou herd in northern Alaska, studies with Svalbard reindeer and now a program in Lapland with colleagues from LUKE colleagues (Jouko Kumpula) and reindeer herders in the Utsjoki and Inari regions.

The research team; including Jaani Mustonen, Tuuli Kumpula and MSc student, Tamara Hultunen and reindeer herders, have recently placed GPS collars on reindeer at the Skalluvaara corral facility, near Utjsoki. This will allow the herders and the research team to follow how the Lapland reindeer use the landscape with location signals recorded and transmitted to the herders and the scientists several times per day.

The UOulu team will then use carbon and nitrogen isotope forensics of animal tissue obtained at slaughter, to reconstruct how the diets varried between individuals and seasonally. These diet-landscape use patterns will be compared to carcass weights of the harvested individuals and meat quality traits that are relevant to the commercial product that the herders use to support a sustainable lifestyle. The Lapland results will be compared to those of Alaska and Svalbard as this UArctic team develops a Pan Arctic perspective on high latitude ungulate ecology and climate-snow-vegetation-ungulate interactions.