Dr. Joel Berger of WCS and the University of Montana taking part in a landmark U.S.–Russian bilateral conservation expedition on Wrangel Island off the coast of northeastern Siberia

Berger and his Russian colleagues braving wind-chills down to –70°F to gather information on the impacts of climate change on the Arctic’s largest land mammal—the muskoxen

(April 9, 2014) —
Dr. Joel Berger, Senior Scientist with the Wildlife Conservation Society’s North America Program and John J. Craighead Chair in Wildlife Biology at the University of Montana, is on a seven-plus week expedition to Wrangel Island— a location formerly used by the Russian military and home to Siberia’s northernmost muskoxen population.

Travelling by foot, helicopter, and snow-machine, and enduring extreme polar temperatures, Berger (the lone American on the expedition) is working through a scientist interpreter – Lizza Protas - with a team of Russian scientists to assess how muskoxen in climate refugia compare with those in the warming Alaskan Arctic.

The study, typical of the WCS Arctic Beringia Program is conducted in two parallel arms (one in Alaska and another in Wrangel), and is significant not only for its scientific importance but also as a landmark cultural exchange involving a complex array of collaborators including Russian and American polar scientists, university and NGO biologists and indigenous Alaskans. The project benefits from long-term commitments by U.S. National Park Service and the Trust for Mutual Understanding aimed at fostering international exchanges and research through grants.

Berger is no stranger to going to extremes for conservation, having conducted research projects on a wide variety of mammals across the globe. This includes studying black rhinos in Namibia, wild yak in Tibet, and the prey of tigers in southern Siberia, and – closer to home – bison, pronghorn, caribou, moose and wolves. He is currently an editor for both the Journal of Wildlife Biology and the Society of Conservation Biology and has written books whose topics include wild horses, rhinos, bison, and fear in prey species.

Dr. Berger can be followed on Twitter (@drjoelberger): and blogging here >>

For more on this story, please contact Scott Smith at 718-220-3698.

SCOTT SMITH: (1-718-220-3698; ssmith@wcs.org)
CONTACT: STEPHEN SAUTNER: (1-718-220-3682; ssautner@wcs.org)
Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS)
WCS saves wildlife and wild places worldwide through science, conservation action, education, and inspiring people to value nature. VISION: WCS envisions a world where wildlife thrives in healthy lands and seas, valued by societies that embrace and benefit from the diversity and integrity of life on earth. To achieve our mission, WCS, based at the Bronx Zoo, harnesses the power of its Global Conservation Program in more than 60 nations and in all the world’s oceans and its five wildlife parks in New York City, visited by 4 million people annually. WCS combines its expertise in the field, zoos, and aquarium to achieve its conservation mission. Visit: www.wcs.org; facebook.com/TheWCS; youtube.com/user/WCSMedia; follow: @theWCS.