Expedition to the Russian tundra

On 8 June a party of three field workers (Joop van Eerbeek from NL, Elena Tveritinova and Maksim Belikov from RUS) were dropped by helicopter in the abandoned village of Tobsda to begin fieldwork in the Barnacle Goose colonies situated between Kolokolova Bay and Barents Sea coast west of the Pechora river delta. Communication to/from their satellite phone is very instable, but from the few and brief connections possible I gathered that all are well and forming a great team. Their task is to monitor the nesting of geese and gather egg samples.

Tobseda had been regularly visited by scientists from Dutch and/or Russian institutes for the study of waterbirds (especially geese) migration and reproductive biology, plants (marsh vegetation dynamics) and plant-animal interactions (grazing of geese) during several years in the 200ies. I worked there the last time in 2005.

First of July a second team (Lisa Gijsen and Gintaras Malmiga from Lund University, Helen Schepp from Wageningen University, and myself) departed to Moscow, next day to Naryan-Mar, and from there hopefully will reach Tobseda by 5 July. The two Russian participants will leave Tobseda but Joop will stay; we five plan then to work in Tobseda until 20 August. During that period we will study geese from hatch throughout growth (goslings) and moult respectively (adults). Flightless geese can be caught by a round-up technique, but we need canoes for that since they always escape to the water when ‘danger’ approaches. Our aim is to capture, ring and sample geese at different age for immunological questions and the study of parasite load. I also hope to get measurements of oxygen consumption (if Russian customs allow transport of a portable respirometer). Work in this remote area is also for technical reasons challenging. For instance, for electrical energy we will rely on energy produced by a windturbine and, occasionally, on a generator run with petrol.
Hopefully we will return home with precious measurements and samples, and exciting stories to tell.

Kind regards and a nice summer!

/Götz Eichhorn

Photographs by Gintaras Malmig

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