It was exactly 15 years ago that National Geographic featured the Owl Research Institute's work with Snowy Owls as their cover story, The Magic of Snowy Owls, written by Lynne Warren, Photos by Daniel J. Cox.
The Snowy Owl Breeding Ecology and Lemming Population Study in Barrow, Alaska, began in 1992, and is the longest running study of its kind in North America. The initial research question was to evaluate the predator-prey relationship between the Snowy Owl and Brown Lemming – the owl’s primary food source. As with most studies, a host of other simple questions arose, and the study grew to monitor growth rates, plumage development, stress response to research, nest defense behavior, satellite tracking, and made new discoveries about infectious diseases in Brown Lemmings.
Now in its 26th year, the most important objective remains long-term research and monitoring. We know that Snowy Owl and Brown Lemming numbers in Barrow are declining for reasons we don’t yet understand. With new, analytical exploration of our data, we hope to determine if these population declines are linked to a changing Arctic climate. ORI's Snowy Owl study has now evolved to include a message of advocacy for Arctic wildlife conservation.
Today, we are as fascinated by Snowy Owls as when the project started and consider ourselves so fortunate to be able to study these incredible raptors in the wild.
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