Interview – Julien in Antarctica

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This time, I take you litteraly to the end of the world in a land where few lucky people have the chance to land their feet : Antarctica ! There, Julien is in civil service for the French Polar Station (Chizé CNRS) where he is an ecologist. .

Julien, could you explain what is your job ? What is your mission ? 

Ma main mission is to keep on going with the long term monitoring of  marine predators in Terre Adélie. This monitoring started 60 years ago in French Antarctica, which makes it the oldest database regarding wildlife in the South Pole. It concerns all the vertabrates that reproduce in Terre Adélie at the “Pointe Géologie” (9 bird species and 1 seal species reproduce themselves in this region of Antartica).

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Durmont D’Urville Station

What methods or techniques do you use ?

The main method to conduct this long term monitoring is CMR (Capture – Marking – Recapture) :  La principale méthode pour effectuer ce suivi est la CMR (Capture-Marquage- Recapture), that is to say the banding of individuals with a metal ring. A breeding success monitoring is performed for every species. Ponctual studies. Specific studies taking place during the summer season (November to February) allow us to work on more specific research questions : feeding area, energy consumption to ensure reproduction, interactions whitin a colony. All these data allow researchers from CNRS to design and run models and to answer research questions on the physiology or ethology of these animals which still have a part of mystery.

What species do you study and why ?

On the Archipelago called “Pointe Géologie” (where the French base Durmont D’Urville is located) live 9 species of breeding birds:

  • Snow Petrel ;
  • Cape Petrel ;
  • Antarctica Skua ;
  • Subantarctica Skua (hybridizing with Antarctic skuas)
  • Giant Petrel (biggest flying bird in Terre Adélie) ;
  • Antarctica Fulmar ;
  • Wilson’s Storm Petrel ;
  • Adélie Penguin ;
  • Emperor Penguin.

and one mamal species : Weddel Seal.

Each of these species have specific ecological and phenological characteristics that allow us to better understand their interactions with changes in their environment.

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What is the interest of studying the polar regions ? 

The polar regions suffer the brunt of global changes that impact our planet. It is in these areas that these changes are most visible. The animals living there do not know man since we are not considered as the top predator contrary to the other parts of the world. Wildlife has therefore accepted it as a living being present alongside with the other animals and this for one main reason: when the animals come to breed, every minute count. Moreover the impact of global change on our planet is clearly visible at the poles considering the “umbrella” species that live here, hence the interest to study them to see their evolution

Can you tell us more about living in a remote station ? 

Life on the base goes well, we are all very close despite our different professional backgrounds. We are a bit like a small village where everyone is present for each of us in case of problems. As time passes, the solidarity growd between us. We never get bored, we live like everyone else and each of us has adapted to this environment in its own way. The most amazing thing is that our lives are punctuated by the environment: the lack of sunlight during winter, the evolution of wildlife, new species that return to reproduce and the ice bank that is different every day.

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Visit Julien’s blog here.

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