Time series from 2009 deployments in northern Alaska
The animated map depicts weekly locations of satellite tagged Spectacled Eiders and sea ice distribution.
Unlike other sea ducks, the distribution of Spectacled Eiders appears to be restricted to a few areas, including a single wintering site. This phenomenon might be detrimental to a significant number of eiders if habitat change leads to rapid alteration of high use areas. Recent research has focused on habitat conditions at the known wintering area, south of St. Lawrence Island, where sea ice and abundant, nutrient rich prey appear to be critical for winter survival (Petersen and Douglas 2004, Lovvorn et al. 2009). Without further assessment of migratory patterns and habitat use exhibited by Spectacled Eiders, it is difficult to predict how this threatened species will respond to rapid climate and ecosystem change in the future.
Satellite telemetry provides a mechanism through which the location of marked animals can be tracked regardless of location, time of day, or weather. Transmitters send information to orbiting satellites, which relay the data to receivers on Earth. In 1993 -1997, biologists at the Alaska Science Center marked Spectacled Eiders with implantable satellite transmitters, which led to the discovery of critical molting and wintering areas (Petersen et al. 1999). However, technology at the time limited the life of each transmitter to a few months, meaning data from late winter and spring locations was not collected.
In 2008, biologists at the Alaska Science Center began marking Spectacled Eiders with similar transmitters to repeat and expand upon the previous study. Each transmitter is expected to send data over the course of 2 years, providing a unique opportunity to learn more about this unique species. At least 100 transmitters will be deployed through 2010, providing location data from 2008 through 2012. The data will ultimately be used to examine migratory patterns and habitat use throughout the year.