Greenland Seabird Ecology

What Are They Doing?

The research team studied little auks (Alle alle), small seabirds also known as dovekies that migrate to the High Arctic to breed in large colonies in Greenland and Spitsbergen. Little auks eat zooplankton, and parents feed their chick almost entirely on copepods (Calanus species). Different zooplankton communities are associated with the different water masses in the Greenland Sea. More importantly, the energy content of individual zooplankton differs among species, with larger species generally providing more energy to predators than smaller ones. Changes in the species composition of zooplankton communities associated with changes in oceanographic conditions in the Greenland Sea therefore directly affects the quality of prey available to Little Auks. The East Greenland population of little auks forages in water that originates from the Arctic and they are able to eat large, energy-rich Calanus hyperboreus and Calanus glacialis, whereas little Auks breeding in areas influenced by warmer water on the west coast of Spitsbergen may be forced to forage on smaller, less energy-rich Calanus finmarchicus. The team compared the breeding and feeding ecology of populations of Little Auks breeding in East Greenland with populations in West Spitsbergen. They examined the feeding and breeding behavior of the birds and collected information about their overall health and physiology such as size, chick growth, food type and quality, and the quantity of stress hormones in their blood.

Where Are They?

The team worked on the steep, remote bird cliffs at Kap Hoegh on the east coast of Greenland, just north of the village of Ittoqqortoormiit, also known as Scoresbysund. This mountainous region of Greenland is the perfect habitat for little auks, who gather in large colonies on the steep cliffs to lay their eggs in rock crevices.

Expedition Map


Today we were happy to finally make it to NEEM, even though it was for a short visit. After returning from breakfast, we all donned our cold weather gear once again and headed to the LC-130 to depart for NEEM. The flight to NEEM went up the coast over Disko Bay and the Jacobsavn Ice Field - the views of ocean, glacier, and icebergs were spectacular. Arriving at NEEM we had quite a welcoming committee. There is a documentary film crew filming at NEEM and they were there with their cameras recording our arrival. After our trip to NEEM being delayed by weather for two days we were warmly...
Today was a day to learn about some of the vagaries of Arctic research and travel. We woke up this morning to a low cloud ceiling with just a bit of light on the horizon. Last night we were told to have our bags out ready to be loaded on the cargo pallet before breakfast. So we all rolled up our great sleeping bags (that kept us warm and toasty in our tents on the ice sheet) and had our bags ready before we headed off to breakfast, thinking that we would be leaving Summit Camp for NEEM shortly before noon. After breakfast we had the daily camp update and at that point everything still...
Hi, this is Zack Wistort and Nate Wiegman, two students from Niskayuna, New York, who have had the fortunate opportunity to be heading up to Greenland. Today at Summit we saw and learned a great deal. Our minds are still trying to soak it all in, but we will attempt to write a short summary of all the amazing things that we have done. We started the day by seeing the UAV research being conducted here at camp by scientist Rune Storvold. The UAV's flown here can be equipped with many different kinds of instruments but it seems that the main testing revolves around developing the UAV's systems...
Today was a great day! After breakfast, we were issued our cold weather gear which we will need when we go up to Summit tomorrow. There was a lot of laughter as we tried on all of the gear that had been issued to each of us. Our gear consists of fleece pants and jacket, insulated bib pants, a huge parka, balaclava, fleece hat, gloves and/or mittens, boots, and a neck gaiter. After our gear was issued we had to pack what we would supplement this gear with, mostly long underwear, warm socks, regular underwear, and a long-sleeve tshirt or turtleneck. Tomorrow on the plane we will be wearing...
Plane to Greenland
This morning started with an early wake-up call - my alarm went off at 4AM so I could be sure to be ready and in the hotel lobby with all my gear for the 5AM pickup by the shuttle to the Air National Guard base. Once on base we went through check-in and a metal detector and then it was on to the waiting room. While I waited for my flight, I met up with the rest of the US members of the Science Education Tour who would be on the flight with me. There were also a number of research teams that were heading to Greenland with us. As we boarded the plane we were given earplugs which have to be...

Project Information

11 July 2007 to 9 August 2007
Location: Kap Hoegh, Greenland
Project Funded Title: Seabird Ecology: Foraging Conditions for Little Auks in the Greenland Sea

Meet the Team

Mary Anne Pella-Donnelly's picture
Chico Junior High School
Chico, CA
United States

Mary Anne Pella-Donnelly teaches science at Chico Junior High School in Chico, California where her classes are activity-rich, lab-oriented, and focused on critical thinking skills. Ms. Pella-Donnelly has taught science, math, computer science, and health for 20 years and strives to help students get excited about science, their environment and community involvement. Ms. Pella-Donnelly serves on the Chico Unified District Curriculum Council, is a presenter at the California League of Middle Schools Conference, and is involved in the California Science Project. She enjoys playing indoor soccer, running, and volunteers as a “sport's mom” for her two teenagers still at home.

Ann Harding's picture
Alaska Pacific University
Anchorage, AK
United States

Ann Harding is a Research Associate at Alaska Pacific University in Anchorage. Ms. Harding has studied seabirds across the Northern Hemisphere, including Alaska, Iceland, the Norwegian High Arctic, and Greenland. She is specifically interested in understanding the response of marine birds to changes in prey availability. In addition to her research efforts, Ms. Harding works closely with the community of Ittoqqortoormiit, near the little auk colony in Greenland, to involve local school children and teachers in research activities.