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SSF-Svalbard Science Forum

Diurnal and seasonal rhythmicity of hormones and behaviour in arctic-breeding barnacle geese (Branta leucopsis). RiS ID 11237.

Awarded: NOK 79,062

Endogenous biological clocks are important for animals, as they regulate rhythmic biochemical, physiological and behavioural processes, which can be expressed daily or seasonally. Biological clocks function through the excretion of hormones and are entrained by external cues, such as the light-dark cycle. Changing environmental conditions as a consequence of global warming may affect the functionality of these endogenous clocks, in particular in the polar regions, which could have fitness consequences for animals who depend on it. As part of a bigger project, and for my MSc thesis, I want to investigate the relationship between activity patterns of Barnacle geese and hormonal patterns, during the breeding season in the arctic summer, under natural conditions of 24-hours of daylight. The data that I will collect exists of behavioural observations to measure activity of 24 breeding pairs, and collection of their droppings, from which hormone levels can be extracted later on. Activity- and hormonal patterns can be compared to describe a relationship between the two, which has not been done before for geese breeding in a polar environment. GPS-transmitter-collars have been fitted to 24 geese (50% males, 50% females of the focal breeding pairs) as part of the bigger project, with the main goal to follow their migration between Svalbard and Scotland. The GPS-collars are also able to show accelerometer data, which could potentially be used to measure activity. My behavioural observations of activity will therefore also be used to verify the accuracy of this accelerometer data, as measurements of activity.

Funding scheme:

SSF-Svalbard Science Forum