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In photos: Polar bear research on Svalbard

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From April 11 to 21, 2014, join a Norwegian Polar Institute and WWF-Canon scientific expedition to collect critical data about Europe’s most westerly polar bear population. The population on and around the Norwegian Arctic archipelago of Svalbard is facing a future without summer sea ice. See all posts from the expedition here.

  • To find polar bears, the researchers survey from the air. From the helicopter, an anesthetic dart immobilizes the bear for up to an hour so the researchers can safely assess it. © Brutus Ostling / WWF-Canon
  • The Norwegian Polar Institute is pioneering work in the use of geo-location ear tags that store a surprising amount of data on a chip set the size of a small coin- including temperature and light. That information may help them identify when bears go into dens. © Brutus Ostling / WWF-Canon
  • Polar bear research isn’t all high-tech. Here, the researchers team up to weigh a polar bear the old-fashioned way – with scales and a sling. A female may weigh 150–250 kg, while a male could weigh up to 700 kg. © Brutus Ostling / WWF-Canon
  • When scientists fit a bear with a radio collar, they also collect important information about its health by measuring its length and weight; taking samples of blood, fat, hair, and other tissues to identify any toxic contamination; and estimating its age. Here, Gert Polet assists an NPI researcher with polar bear blood samples. © Brutus Ostling / WWF-Canon
  • The crew is piloting a new technique – obtaining polar bear DNA from footprints. If successful in the testing phase, this technique could be used in the more remote parts of the Arctic where traditionally monitoring is too difficult or expensive. © Brutus Ostling / WWF-Canon

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