Brian Williamson | VOA
The Caribou and the Mosquito
The impacts of climate change ripple through ecosystems in unexpected ways.
By Steve Baragona | VOA News
Rain or shine, Lauren Culler does her pond-side fieldwork in full rain gear. She’s not worried about getting wet. It’s the mosquitoes.
Oh, the mosquitoes.
In the spring, when the ponds on the fringes of Greenland thaw, the mosquitoes emerge in great, buzzing, voracious clouds.
Culler is a Dartmouth College ecologist who studies the web of life in and around these ponds. That means long stretches of time working next to mosquito breeding grounds.
“It can be quite miserable,” she said. Impermeable outerwear and a headnet are essential mosquito deterrents. Otherwise, “they will drive you crazy.”
They’re a nuisance to biologists, but they are a real threat to caribou.
These animals, a species of deer, spend the brief summer months grazing on Arctic greenery. Harassment from the biting mosquito hordes can be so bad that the caribou flee their grazing grounds for cooler snowbanks, which mosquitoes avoid.
But time spent escaping mosquitoes is time not spent fattening up for the long winter ahead. The intensity of the mosquito attacks can mean the difference between life and death.