Wednesday, September 15, 2021

What Do You Do All Day? Joel Berger, Musk Oxen, and Polar Bear Research

Environmental & Science Education, STEM, Wildlife, Nature, Nature of Science, Biodiversity, Biological Evolution. Behavior, Global Climate Change

Ed Hessler

You might have read or been read to or have read to/with a child, Richard Scarry's What Do People Do All Day?  I can't foget Working: people Talk About What They Do All Day and How They Feel About What They Do by Studs Terkel. These books are timeless. It is always a pleasure to find out just what people do all day and below is one more.

The British journal Nature in a recent Nature Briefing adds to Scarry and Terkel by describing what wildlife-conserevation biologist Joel Berger does all day. He investigated how musk oxen (Ovibus maschatus) and polar bears (Ursus Maritimus) will interact when driven together by climate change. One part of his research included dressing up as a "polar bear, pulling a bear head on and placeing a cape over a range finder, camera and date books. If some oxen charged, I'd throw off my costume and stand up straight," to live another day. "Whew!"

In this short read (3m) you may learn more and see a picture of him standing, bear head off and arms wingspread. A posture that has served him well so far. This story does not have the ending he'd have liked for he has been banned from research in the Russia for three years (Wrangel Island, NE coast of Russia), accused of being a CIA spy (the only "word" he recognized during the hearing)!   All this over a date error on his permits. 

Berger has since gone to another part of the world, Patagonia, to study an entirely different species. More here on this work in search of the huemul, Chile's national mammal. In it, he describes his approach to conservation biology

If you are interested in his research on musk oxen Berger takes us into the minds of musk ox in this video (7m 55s). There you will also learn more about him, how he thinks about and practices science, and the nature of his research on grizzly bear-musk ox interactions.

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