ICYMI: Can these seabirds adapt fast enough to survive a melting Arctic?
On a remote Alaskan sandbar, under the watchful eye of a devoted scientist for more than four decades, climate change is forcing a colony of seabirds into a real-time race: evolve or go extinct.
I knew George Divoky when he began this study in the 1970s. I was there with him at Barrow. Few, if any, of us there at the time the Naval Arctic Research Laboratory had any idea of the importance this long term ecological study would take on, perhaps not even George. He certainly didn't mention it.
At the time there were soil scientists on the tundra nearby, particularly Dwight Billings from Duke University, studying how local heating might effect carbon emissions from a warming tundra. But the dramatic changes George would document were still over the horizon, even in our imaginations. Now they are upon us, upon Cooper Island, upon coastal Alaska, and the future looks bleak for birds of this habitat.
Thank you, George, for your persistence. What a testament to the value of long-term ecological studies!