From a bird’s eye view the vast Alaska tundra is nothing more than an endless flat surface symmetrical and seemingly uninhabited.However, a closer look shows that it is home to lots of busy creatures that live comfortably and the grass and pits filled with icy cold water.
For lemmings, small fussy rodents, there is no place more comfortable than the Arctic tundra.Their presence ensured their well-being of other tundra inhabitants that eat them: owls, Arctic foxes, weasels, eagles, gulls and cranes.
Wildlife researcher Denver Holt has been coming to Utqiagvik every summer for almost three decades gathering data on snowy owls.That means heading straight into the tundra on a four-wheeler.So this is the brown lemming and this is whose numbers fluctuate over time and in high years the snowy owls have a good year because they eat lemmings.Almost everything they eat is the brown lemming here.
Some are here with 24 hours of daylight—it is a bird watchers’ feast.They come from all over the world to observe the dozens of species that migrate here to breed during the short Arctic summer and to feast in the abundance of available food.But it is the snowy owl that rains in the tundra, and Barrow is the only place in the US where these magnificent birds nest regularly.But their numbers have fallen recently as has been the number of lemmings.And scientists are trying to understand why.
We do nest-checks every three days.You see the chicks here... there’s five chicks and two eggs and the newest chick underneath here is just hatching out right as we speak.So there is lemmings here... so good side you have...seven eggs or five chicks or two eggs right now.And you have lemmings...that’s a nest indicating that lemmings are reserved...somewhat abundant.
But a good head start doesn’t guarantee survival.These chicks will not be able to fly for months and will be easy prey for bigger predators.So monitoring mortality is part of the job and a very difficult part.
It does become personal... I hate to say that.You try to be an objective researcher but in the end you become very fond of the species that you work with.If predators get in and kill chicks or if chicks die because the reasons sometimes unknown, I feel bad, but I don’t do anything about it.If I know a chick is losing weight, is gonna die, it bothers me but it’s not my job to save them and make more of them.It’s my job to document their life.
Stepping back and watching the natural selection do its job at all time is the hardest job of all.
For Natasha Moscovia at Barrow Alaska. I’m Anna Rice, VOA news.
阿拉斯加，巴罗Natasha Moscovia撰写。美国之音新闻Anna Rice播报。