New archive brings together decades of arctic animal migration data

Arctic National Refuge
Gil Bohrer

A new global data archive will allow researcher to share knowledge about how animals respond to dramatic environmental changes in the Arctic. An international team, led by Ohio State professor Gil Bohrer and Sarah Davidson, data curator at the Max Planck Institute of Animal Behavior in Germany, established the Arctic Animal Movement Archive (AAMA) to document how factors such as warmer winters, the availability of food and increased human activity impact native animals in the region.

For many years, scientists have observed the migration behavior of animals in the Arctic and Subarctic. However, the lack of a centralized repository of data made discovery of vital information difficult and, in turn, collaboration among members of the scientific community more challenging to foster.

This AAMA aims to change that. The archive currently contains 200 projects undertaken since 1991. Movement data of more than 8,000 marine and terrestrial animals representing 96 species is a key feature of the database. The geographical scope of the project is immense, covering millions of square miles in the Arctic, Arcticmarine, and subarctic regions. 

Video of animal migration data from Ecological insights from three decades of animal movement tracking across a changing Arctic.

Courtesy of Roland Kays, Associate Research Professor, College of Natural Resources, North Carolina State University.

In addition to providing the scientific community with a breadth of animal migration data, Bohrer emphasized the importance of increased collaboration among researchers as one of the project's key elements. “The Arctic Animal Movement Archive aims to network scientists and promote their cooperation, by making their data globally discoverable, and by helping interested users obtain permissions to use arctic movement data from many sources,” he stated.

To date, researchers from over 100 universities, government agencies and conservation groups across 17 countries are involved in the archive. Its resources will be updated as additional researchers join the effort and when current and future arctic research projects share data transmitted from animals in the field.



The Arctic Animal Movement Archive, as well as the examination of three recent studies that reveal large-scale patterns in the behaviors of golden eagles, bears, caribou, moose, and wolves in the region, are subjects of a paper published today in Science.

Davidson was optimistic regarding the Archive's relevance both now and in the coming years. “This can be used to improve wildlife management, address critical research questions, and document changes in the Arctic for future generations," she said. The archive, made possible through funding from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the National Science Foundation (NSF), is hosted on Movebank, a research platform developed at the Max Planck Institute.

Read more about the AAMA in Ohio State News.

-Prepared with information provided by the Max Planck Institute of Animal Behavior.



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