Conducting fieldwork in the midst of a pandemic has been a challenge for all academic projects that rely on fieldwork to be carried out ‘in the field’ to test hypotheses and gather raw data. Multiple fieldtrip have been cancelled, scaled back, or carried out in much-reduced circumstances. This has certainly been the case for the CHARTER project. Now, all research projects that have partners in, or are working in Russia, such as CHARTER, are in the midst of a profound upheaval, due to the Russian invasion of the sovereign country of Ukraine. You can read the CHARTER project situation update about this here.
These tumultuous events will doubtless have ramifications across all fields of Arctic research for the coming years. In the meantime, the CHARTER project is in the process of discussing how to reorient some elements of the project towards field sites in Fennoscandia. This situation is fluid, but you can read a CHARTER project statement here on our most recent newsletter.)
Spring is usually a time when Arctic fieldwork can get underway. Come March, with longer hours of daylight and comparatively milder temperatures, a lot of fieldwork and monitoring can start again, equipment that has overwintered can be checked, batteries can be changed and maintenance done.
One such example is the remote camera captures of wildlife being undertaken by Dorothee Ehrich of the University of Tromso in Work Package 2. Dorothee is focusing on predator / prey interactions and has been working in Finnmark and the Yamal peninsula on this and related topics for many years.
One particular site is in the East of the Arctic Russia, and was planned well in advance of current events and is being carried out by local people in collaboration with Diana Solovyeva and Daria Barykina of the Institute of Biological Problems of the North in Magadan of the Russian Far East. Cameras were first installed at this site in March 2021, and the program ran successfully.
The Institute is the only such academic institution in the vast far East of Russia that, according to their website, “carries out fundamental investigations on different problems of the northern biology”.
Although the Institute is located to the south of the region, on the Sea of Okhotsk, it maintains a number of research stations in the Magadan Oblast and the Chukotka Autonomous Okrug. In Chukotka one such station is in the Chaunskaya Bay, a remote region on the Arctic Ocean. It is a small camp, the nearest settlements to which are the villages of Rytkuchi and Pevek. Villagers who will tend the remote cameras are from the village Rytkuchi.
Much of Ehrich’s previous and ongoing work has been undertaken in areas with intensive reindeer husbandry (Finnmark and the Yamal Peninsula), in this field work she is interested to investigate whether predator communities in areas without intensive reindeer husbandry are different to those which do have intensive reindeer husbandry. While there is reindeer herding in the Chaunskaya Bay region, it is not intensive. One way to examine this question is through the use of automatic cameras and come early March, the wildlife cameras will be up and running, through the participation and cooperation of local villagers. This aspect of the project will proceed, and while there were plans to follow these up with interviews on their perceptions of predators and ecosystems with local residents and finally, for Ehrich to visit in person, these plans are obviously on hold for now. We will post updates on this case as they develop.