A San Diego Zoo polar bear will be wearing a collar soon as a part of a study to track energy needs of Arctic polar bears, a part of a study to help better track how climate change effects them.
Tatqiq, a 14-year-old female polar bear, has been trained to wear a collar equipped with tracking devices while on exhibit at the Conrad Prebys Polar Bear Plunge.
Animal care staff at the San Diego Zoo and the Zoo’s Institute for Conservation Research have been preparing the habitat and bear for the study since last fall, when they trained the bear to wear the collar.
The data gathered from the collar will be compared to data collected from polar bears in the wild by USGS researchers so they can determine what the polar bears are doing without needing to observe them directly.
Data from accelerometers will help researchers with insights into the bears’ daily behavior, movements and energy demands. That will help scientists better understand the effects of climate change on polar bears. The remote habitats the polar bears usually live in make it difficult to collect such data in the wild.
"Studying the behavior of polar bears that stay with the retreating sea ice during the summer and fall is very difficult," Anthony Pagano, biologist with the U.S Geological Survey, said in a statement. "We are using this new technology to help us understand the behaviors and energy demands of bears that come on land during the summer versus those that summer on the sea ice. This will help us determine how declines in Arctic sea ice may influence long-term persistence."
The 2.5 pound collar has a battery, activity senors and an accelerometer that measure the up-and-down, side-to-side and back-to-front movements of the animal, 16 times per second. While she wears the collar, she is the only bear allowed in the exhibit.
Tatqiq is one of three polar bears at the San Diego Zoo. Her brother, Kalluk, and another female, Chinook, also live there. Climate change-driven habitat loss has made polar bears a threatened species.