Barrenground/Alaskan caribou

Project Lead: Elie Gurarie, PhD, Research Professor

Dr. Gurarie is leading research on the drivers of movements and habitat ecology of the Barrenground, or Arctic, tundra-dwelling caribou in Northwest Territories, the Yukon Territory, and Alaska, again, in collaboration with many of the same partner agencies.  Perhaps no other North American wildlife migration captures the imagination like the wide-ranging movements of the largest Arctic caribou herds such as the Porcupine, Beverly-Qaminuriaq, and Western Arctic. And yet nearly all these large herds, some numbering more than 200,000, are facing an uncertain future due to accelerating climate and land use change. Some recent high-profile declines in population size threaten traditional Native Alaskan and First Nation cultural hunting practices. 

Gurarie’s work focuses first on understanding the drivers of spring migration in these barrenground/Alaskan caribou populations from Hudson Bay to the Bearing Sea, given the importance of understanding spring migration timing for its relationship to parturition.  Subsequent analyses will then develop seasonal resource selection models for the Porcupine and Western Arctic herd with the ultimate goal of linking these changes in movement and habitat to population trends of these arctic caribou herds.  As an example, the movie below shows movements during spring in just two years, showing the highly correlated movements of caribou herds across the Arctic.

Animation of spring migration