What Are They Doing?

The research team studied little auks (Alle alle), small seabirds also known as dovekies that migrate to the High Arctic to breed in large colonies in Greenland and Spitsbergen. Little auks eat zooplankton, and parents feed their chick almost entirely on copepods (Calanus species). Different zooplankton communities are associated with the different water masses in the Greenland Sea. More importantly, the energy content of individual zooplankton differs among species, with larger species generally providing more energy to predators than smaller ones. Changes in the species composition of zooplankton communities associated with changes in oceanographic conditions in the Greenland Sea therefore directly affects the quality of prey available to Little Auks. The East Greenland population of little auks forages in water that originates from the Arctic and they are able to eat large, energy-rich Calanus hyperboreus and Calanus glacialis, whereas little Auks breeding in areas influenced by warmer water on the west coast of Spitsbergen may be forced to forage on smaller, less energy-rich Calanus finmarchicus. The team compared the breeding and feeding ecology of populations of Little Auks breeding in East Greenland with populations in West Spitsbergen. They examined the feeding and breeding behavior of the birds and collected information about their overall health and physiology such as size, chick growth, food type and quality, and the quantity of stress hormones in their blood.

Where Are They?

The team worked on the steep, remote bird cliffs at Kap Hoegh on the east coast of Greenland, just north of the village of Ittoqqortoormiit, also known as Scoresbysund. This mountainous region of Greenland is the perfect habitat for little auks, who gather in large colonies on the steep cliffs to lay their eggs in rock crevices.

Latest Journals

Research Experience Reflection                 The dynamics of studying a bird are very involved.  Birds, by their nature, do not sit still very often.  In my classroom experience, the animals that have be studied have been small and have had very short life cycles.  Students have always greatly…
Several attempts were made to record the intense, magnificant sounds of this Little auk colony.  After some editing to eliminate the bops of machine placement, the inopportune comments unknowlingly made by team members and the scratching of metal upon rock, I am now sending some of the sounds  for…
Written on August 10, and submitted after a few days rest. My own warm, fluffy bed with crisp cotton sheets was jumped into last night. Arriving safely after 24 hours of travel, through several time zones, it felt surreal to be home. Slowing moving up the front walkway at 10:30 pm, two things…
The last days of summer, before school starts are used at the new playground. Classes begin there in Eastern Greenland August 17, while we began August 14. Many adults at school who see me ask how I am adjusting.  I was gone four weeks so did have time to really appreciate the air, the quiet,…
Dates
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Location
Kap Hoegh, Greenland
Project Funded Title
Seabird Ecology: Foraging Conditions for Little Auks in the Greenland Sea
Mary Anne Pella-Donnelly - Teacher
Teacher
Chico Junior High School

Mary Anne Pella-Donnelly teaches science at Chico Junior High School in Chico, California where her classes are activity-rich, lab-oriented, and focused on critical thinking skills. Ms. Pella-Donnelly has taught science, math, computer science, and health for 20 years and strives to help students get excited about science, their environment and community involvement. Ms. Pella-Donnelly serves on the Chico Unified District Curriculum Council, is a presenter at the California League of Middle Schools Conference, and is involved in the California Science Project. She enjoys playing indoor soccer, running, and volunteers as a “sport's mom” for her two teenagers still at home.

Ann Harding - Researcher
Researcher
Alaska Pacific University

Ann Harding is a Research Associate at Alaska Pacific University in Anchorage. Ms. Harding has studied seabirds across the Northern Hemisphere, including Alaska, Iceland, the Norwegian High Arctic, and Greenland. She is specifically interested in understanding the response of marine birds to changes in prey availability. In addition to her research efforts, Ms. Harding works closely with the community of Ittoqqortoormiit, near the little auk colony in Greenland, to involve local school children and teachers in research activities.

Greenland Seabird Ecology Resources

Overview

Students will learn the basics of calorimetry, energetics and respiration as they pertain to their own bodies and to those of other species, including arctic animals.

Lesson
Arctic
More than a week
Middle School and Up
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Overview

Students will conduct quantitative and qualitative observations on living organisms. By recording careful measurements, making and testing various hypotheses, on super mealworms, students will gain some understanding of how wildlife researchers conduct their studies.

Lesson
Arctic
About 1 period
Elementary and Up
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Presentation given by Mary Anne Pella Donnelly and Ann Harding at the Alaska Bird Conference, hosted in Fairbanks, Alaska in March 2008.

Presentation
Arctic
All Aged
n/a

Article covering Mary Anne Pella-Donnelly's PolarTREC expedition.

Article
Arctic
All Aged
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Overview

Dividing the class into Little auks and predators, students complete survival game for several seasons. After tallying up total volume of food collected, survival rates of the chicks can be graphed and analyzed.

Lesson
Arctic
About 1 period
Elementary and Up
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