A coastal, ice-associated arctic whale in a changing climate

In this project we will live-capture white whales in Svalbard to address the following:

  1. Space use over the entire annual cycle - to discern how these whales move in relation to sea ice, bathymetry, glacier fronts and oceanographic conditions.
  2. Conduct a screening of levels of various pollutants based on blood and blubber samples from live-captured whales collected in this program.
  3. Assess diet via stable isotope and fatty acid analyses. Changes in the food base resulting from climate change, including a greater inflow of warm Atlantic water has already manifested itself in the diet of some top predators where less lipid rich species such as Atlantic cod and haddock have replaced polar cod in the diet. This will be explored in the case of white whales via stable isotope and fatty acids in blubber and blood samples from the live-captured animals.
  4. Update the general health status of Svalbard’s white whales. This will be done by screening serum samples as described in and comparing these newly acquired values to similar analyses from the late 1990ies.