The Study Of One Bird, 43 Years In The Making | KNKX

The Study Of One Bird, 43 Years In The Making

Feb 17, 2018

George Divoky is a scientist in Seattle, at least most of the year. But don’t expect to find him around here during the summertime.

He’ll be on a small, flat little island in the Arctic Ocean, off the Alaska coast, called Cooper Island. Back in 1975, Divoky was doing survey work there, when he came across a colony of arctic birds called Mandt’s Black Guillemots. They’re little pigeon-sized birds with bright red legs, and they’re one of the few seabird species that depend year-round on sea ice.

“It was very interesting and very unique to find this colony. And I went back to the colony a number of times that summer ... never thought that I would see it again, never thought that I would essentially spend the next 45 years of my life on that island,” Divoky said.

Over the years, the importance of his research became clearer: these birds are perfect indicators of the warming climate.

Since discovering the colony, Divoky has not missed a summer on that island. And for the majority of those summers, the only occupants have been Divoky and the birds.