The U.S. Geological Survey announced the release of their first successful Point Of View video from a free-ranging polar bear in the Arctic.
The video, which was posted online Friday, was roughly edited from raw footage taken from one of four cameras deployed on four female polar bears in the Beaufort Sea in April of this year. The cameras were part of a research project designed to provide scientists with a "unique insight into the daily lives of the bears", according the the USGS.
Led by USGS research biologist and University of California Santa Cruz PhD student Anthony Pagano, the study is the latest endeavor to better understand the behaviors and movements of polar bears, particularly their responses to the loss of sea ice due to global warming.
"Although these collars were only on for about 8-10 days,” Pagano said. "Scientists can start to understand the activity patterns of polar bears, for example how often they eat, hunt, rest, walk, and swim and how these behaviors may be affected by sea ice conditions and other variables. Ultimately, this information will help scientists examine the energetic rates and nutritional demands of these animals and the potential effects of declining sea ice conditions."
Prior to the "collar cams", scientists were only able to observe polar bears from a distance, and track their movements using GPS tags. Other resources, according to Pagano, came from hunters in Native villages, whose traditions through generations had enlightened the scientists studying the creatures in more recent decades.
"Our big, overall goal was to retrieve more than just the observational data from the 70's, from Ian Stirling," said Pagano. "Or observational information from traditional sources like hunters from Native villages. We have info from the 80’s for their movements across the ice, but not how they were using and moving through their habitats."
In 2013, the USGS Polar Bear Research Program deployed two similar cameras, but were unsuccessful in retrieving any footage, as the batteries inside the cameras were unable to endure the harsh conditions. New cameras were custom designed by National Geographic CritterCam engineer Mehdi Bakhtiari, not only able to withstand the Arctic spring's weather, but also housed a GPS and accelerometer for each bear, allowing scientists to track their movements along three axises.
At the end of the field study, the four polar bears were recaptured and the data from their cameras downloaded. Each camera recorded an estimated 30-40 hours, totaling more than 120 hours of footage from the wild, having been set to record 30 seconds every two minutes during daylight activities.
Pagano says the footage is still being studied, but that the curious can learn more about the study on the USGS Alaska Science Center website.