Chasing caribou across a changing Arctic

I spent my summer searching for arctic spirits: barren-ground caribou who are, somehow, both omnipresent and elusive.

My journey, it turns out, would trace the migration route of the Porcupine caribou herd, linking boreal forest and arctic tundra ecosystems unlike any other northern mammal. The wild landscape I traveled forms the northern extent of the North American Cordillera, one of the last intact mountain ecosystems on Earth.

As I prepared, gathering groceries and loading the truck with scientific equipment and camping supplies, I heard whispers of the entire Porcupine herd moving southeast through the Richardson Mountains. Our small research team drove hurriedly north – hoping for a (figurative) collision course with hundreds of thousands of caribou at the Yukon/Northwest Territories border . . .

Katie Orndahl (left) and Rachel Pernick (right) scaling rocky slopes in search of caribou near the Yukon/Northwest Territory border

Visit the NASA Earth Expeditions blog to continue reading about GEODE lab PhD student Katie Orndahl’s adventures conducting field work this summer in the Canadian Arctic!


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