Scientists look to marine mammals to shed light on Arctic ice loss

Narwhal pod
In this August 2005 file photo provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, a pod of narwhals surfaces in northern Canada.

Sea ice in the Arctic regions is disappearing at unprecedented rates, causing concern among researchers across the globe. Scientists have recently begun to link unusual weather throughout Europe and North America to Arctic sea ice loss.

University of Washington marine mammal ecologist Kristin Laidre and Kate Stafford, principal oceanographer at the Applied Physics Laboratory at Washington University, are using their studies of Arctic mammals to unlock some of the mysteries of ice loss. Kerri Miller held a conversation with the two scientists at the World Science Festival.

Laidre is currently working with expeditionary artist Maria Coryell-Martin on a project called "Imaging the Arctic." Working from the pack ice of Baffin Bay, off the coast of Greenland, Laidre and her team are examining the ways that Arctic animals like narwhals and polar bears are affected by the ice loss.

You can check out a video of the team setting up equipment to listen to narwhals:

Stafford uses acoustic monitoring to analyze whale songs and track changes in population, behavior and migration of large whale species. Some of her recordings can be heard on the University of Washington website.

Grow the Future of Public Media

MPR News is supported by Members. Gifts from individuals power everything you find here. Make a gift of any amount today to become a Member!