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Polar Bear Research at San Diego Zoo

The USGS conducts research on polar bears and has documented declines in their population. Survival rates and body size.

To better understand how sea ice decline in the Arctic affects polar bears, USGS scientists are using accelerometers to gather data about the energy needed for the bears to hunt for food.

The scientists use accelerometers to track the polar bear movements like a Wii-fit video game controller tracks yours.

Since the accelerometer data are cryptic, USGS scientists are using captive bears in zoos to understand what the data mean. Researchers did Geological Survey at the San Diego Zoo collecting accelerometer data from their adult female polar bear Tatiq.

And so the keepers here at the San Diego Zoo have been training Tatiq to wear a collar for the last four months and slowly getting her acclimated to the collar. And so now she’s able to wear the collar for about three hours a day without any issues. She’s totally comfortable wearing the collar and she doesn’t seem phased at all wearing it. And so researchers did videotaping her while she’s wearing this accelerometer collar to calibrate the accelerometer data.

Basically trying to understand what the accelerometer data looks like for different behaviors. So when Tatiq’s walking, what the accelerometer data looks like compared to when she’s swimming versus resting versus eating, with the intent of actually applying that information to accelerometer data we’recollecting from wild bears.

Researchers attached accelerometers to their GPS collars that they were deploying on wild polar bears in the Arctic. So this study should help them get a better understanding of how polar bears are responding to declines in sea ice and what the actual implications are for survival, body condition and then start to look at how future forecasts for declines might impact polar bears in the future.

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