Arctic bird scientist Radio-Canada's researcher of 2010

A biologist at the University of Quebec in Rimouski who uncovered why so many birds nest in the Arctic has been named researcher of the year for 2010 by Radio-Canada.

A biologist at the University of Quebec in Rimouski who uncovered why so many birds nest in the Arctic has been named researcher of the year for 2010 by Radio-Canada.

Joël Bêty will be honoured Sunday on the radio program Les années lumière and will be profiled that day on the television program Découverte. Both air on Radio-Canada, CBC's French-language service.

Bêty's research, published in Science in January 2010, showed that the risk of eggs being eaten by predators decreases 3.6 per cent for each degree of latitude farther north that nests are located.

The increased chance of survival for their young explains why so many birds make such a long migration north to nest, despite the costs, such as the energy required for the journey.

"In the context of global warming, it will be important to record the movement of predators toward the north and the impact of these changes on birds that effectively find refuge in the High Arctic," Bêty told Radio-Canada in French.

Bêty and his student Laura McKinnon conducted an experiment in which they placed 1,555 artificial nests between the southern end of James Bay and the north of Ellesmere Island. Each nest contained quail eggs.

The researchers recorded how many eggs were destroyed by predators. After just two days, the eggs placed at the southern end of James Bay were completely destroyed by predators such as foxes, crows and gulls.

In the far north, almost 60 per cent of the nests remained intact after nine days.

Audio and Video

Les années lumière  airs Sunday, Jan. 23 between 12 p.m. and 2 p.m. on Radio Première Chaîne. A profile of Bêty airs on Découverte on Radio-Canada Télévision the same day at 6:30 p.m.