SCIENCE — Mark Mallory, who has studied Arctic seabirds for more than 20 years, often notes in his scientific papers how expensive it is to conduct fieldwork in the far north, as have some of his colleagues. But when they recently tallied up their costs systematically, they were shocked to find the true price of northern research was eight times greater than for similar studies of seabirds in southern locations.

The findings, reported on 4 June online in Arctic Science,  are among the first to quantify the high costs of Arctic research. The authors say funding sources are often insufficient to cover these expenses, limiting scientists from collecting enough data to understand how Arctic ecosystems are responding to climate change.

Mallory, a professor at Acadia University in Wolfville, Canada, convened seabird researchers who work in the Arctic and in temperate regions. Based on their actual expenses, they estimated costs for a generic scenario in which three researchers establish a field camp for 4 weeks to monitor the breeding success of seabirds, including travel; accommodation; and shipping food, equipment, and supplies for sites in Nunavut and northern Newfoundland and Labrador in Canada; Svalbard, a Norwegian archipelago; Greenland; and the Aleutian Islands. The researchers compared these estimates to calculations for southern locales.

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Written by Hannah

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