Research in Melrakkaslétta: The effects of hunting on the behaviour of rock ptarmigan

Farina out in the field

Since Rif Field Station was founded in 2014, a growing number of scientists visit Raufarhöfn and Melrakkaslétta every year to carry out their research in this sub-Arctic environment. Farina Sooth, a German PhD student, is one of them. She first visited Rif Field Station in 2016 and returned in the spring of 2018 to continue to collect data and work on her dissertation. Farina studies rock ptarmigan, Lagopus muta, which in Icelandic is called rjúpa, and the effects of hunting on the behaviour of the birds. As is the case with other birds hunted by humans, the ptarmigan avoids humans and swiftly flies off when they approach. The rock ptarmigan is hunted in and around Melrakkaslétta.

Here is what Farina herself had to say about her research and stay at Rif Field Station:

“A major part of my PhD project is to look into the effects of hunting on the disturbance susceptibility of rock ptarmigan. As a measure of disturbance susceptibility, I use flushing distance measurements. Because rock ptarmigans are hunted in the area around Raufarhöfn, but not hunted in Skaftafell and recently not hunted around Reykjavík, flushing rock ptarmigan in those areas and comparing the flight initiation distances of the birds will hopefully help answering the question if hunting has a long-term impact on the disturbance susceptibility of the birds.


The RIF research centre has not just been a great “base camp” for my data collection, my time there was also really nice from a personal perspective. The small town and the surrounding landscape, the transition of the land and the sea and the solitude while out hiking have been wonderful to see and to experience.”

Rif Field Station wishes Farina the best of luck with finalising her dissertation and we are happy to have had the chance to support her during her research. Rif will follow up on the outcome of her research.

All pictures taken by Farina Sooth, used with her permission.