7/30/10 Packing til lunch, then headed up to find a sheltered spot near our campground for some good discussions about important scientific principles in each others fields. One of my favorite discussions was about game theory in evolution. Apparently a gentleman named John Maynard Smith, who must have needed his middle name to provide uniqueness, put forth a theory that no species will exist for long without an evolutionarily stable strategy. As an example, a reindeer population without predators may quickly grow to exceed its resources. Under these conditions it would make sense for the reindeer to all start having less offspring to bring the population back into balance. If all the reindeer did this, all would be better off. If one reindeer cheated, however, and had more offspring, their genes would be more likely to propagate than those reducing reproduction for the common good, and the population genetics would drift toward cheaters. The population would all return to maximizing reproduction, an evolutionarily stable strategy. Humans are an exception it seems, as they are one of those animals which have mechanisms to regulate behavior for the common good. Efforts to regulate greenhouse gases, however shows that even we have trouble avoiding the forces of game theory. After our deep discussions we drove the rest of the way up to the ice edge, walked up and over a huge moraine deposited during the little ice age and headed onto the receding ice. We were somewhat surprised at how little the ice has retreated laterally (only a couple hundred meters) compare to our experiences with mountain glaciers in AK and elsewhere which have retreated miles just this century. We conjectured a bit about why this might be, how fast the ice sheet advances and melts, and decided we didn’t have enough information on hand to understand whether these few hundred meters were significant or not. Certainly this is a topic of interest to us and something we will look into more. Wildlife watching was very good on the rides in and out from Kangerlussuaq, which I attributed to the wondeful cloudy and slightly stormy weather. We saw a musk ox up quite close next to the road, as well as a couple caribou, a fox, and a family of ptarmigan. A pretty good day considering we crossed off 4 of the 5 mammal species present in this part of
Greenland, and possibly the only year round bird resident. Of humans, foxes, hares, caribou, and muskox we only need to find a hare.