Wildlife

From bowhead whales to walruses to lemmings, nothing captures the imagination and attention of people more than Arctic wildlife.  Here, residents and observers of the Arctic discuss and show the remarkable beauty and precious, fragile nature of life in the Arctic.

Polar Bear expert, Research Wildlife Biologist, US Geological Survey, Anchorage, AK

Former President of the Barrow Whaling Captains Association, Whaling Captain, and Iñupiaq Elder

Yves Brower is the chief of operations at the BUECI and manages wastewater collection, distribution, and treatment.

Areas Wildlife Biologist, Alaska’s Department of Fish & Game

Seabird Biologist studying in Arctic Alaska since 1970.

Florent Domine is currently a “Directeur de Recherche”, a CNRS position at Takuvik Joint International Laboratory

Formerly a polar bear expert with the US Geological Survey (USGS) in Anchorage, Alaska

Glaciologist, Professor of Geophysics at the Geophysical Institute and the Department of Geology and Geophysics at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks

Senior Wildlife Biologist (Bowhead Whales), Department of Wildlife Management, North Slope Borough, Barrow, Alaska

Field Biologist with ten years experience capturing polar bears on the Southern Beaufort Sea.

Senior Research Scientist Emerita at Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences, Boothbay Harbor, Maine.

Research biologist for the US Geological Survey, Anchorage, AK. Lily has studied Polar Bears in Canada where they are still harvested by native peoples.

Polar Research Biologist and Wildlife Veterinarian, North Slope Borough, Dept. of Wildlife Management, Barrow, AK

Polar Bear Photographer

Senior Director of Conservation and Staff Scientist At Polar Bears International

Dr. Steve Amstrup

Polar Bear expert, Research Wildlife Biologist, US Geological Survey, Anchorage, AK

Dr. Steven C. Amstrup, Polar Bear Scientist, talks about the state of polar bear research and relates that to climate change and how polar nations are working together to share information. Dr. Amstrup is a Research Wildlife Biologist with the United States Geological Survey at the Alaska Science Center, Anchorage, AK. He led the international team of researchers which prepared 9 reports that became the basis for the recent decision, by the Secretary of Interior, to list polar bears as a threatened species.

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2009

Dr. Amstrup shares his personal journey as a wildlife biologist specializing in bear research, including his involvement in the international efforts to conserve polar bears. He explains the importance of studying polar bears through techniques like capture and recapture, as well as aerial surveys, to gather essential data for population management. Dr. Steve Amstrup also discusses the impact of global warming on polar bears. As the world warms due to human influences, there is less sea ice available, which is crucial habitat for polar bears and their primary prey, such as ring seals and bearded seals. The decline in sea ice reduces the carrying capacity for polar bears. In the past, hunting was the main concern, but now the focus is on global warming and its effects on polar bear habitats.

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Polar Bear expert Dr. Steve Amstrup warns about the severe impact of global warming on polar bears. Due to melting sea ice, bears are forced to inhabit unproductive, deep waters, resulting in food scarcity. Or when the ice retreats far from land, bears remain on land, further depriving them of the natural food sources in the shallow waters of the continental shelf. Amstrup emphasizes that the current rate of warming is unprecedented, posing a significant threat to polar bears. He urges individuals to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions to preserve polar bear habitats and ensure their survival. Managing climate change is crucial for the long-term preservation of these magnificent creatures.

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Dr. Steve Amstrup is one of the approximately 25-30 polar bear specialists worldwide who dedicate 100 percent of their efforts to studying these remarkable creatures. He has been a full-time polar bear biologist since 1980, focusing mainly on the southern Beaufort Sea population. This area was chosen due to logistical convenience and the presence of Canadian colleagues studying the same population. The shared jurisdiction between Alaska and Canada allowed for effective monitoring and collaboration. Dr. Amstrup emphasizes the importance of understanding specific populations in order to extrapolate knowledge to regions where data is limited. He values the insights of local native communities who live in polar bear habitats year-round and acknowledges their crucial role in polar bear management. Additionally, he highlights the significance of traditional lore and legends in shaping the relationship between native people and wildlife resources, particularly polar bears, in their respective areas.

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Dr. Steve Amstrup, a polar bear specialist, emphasizes that global warming is the single biggest threat to polar bears. The decline in their habitat is directly linked to the increase in greenhouse gas concentrations. Dr. Amstrup describes the process of global warming and talks about the relationship between climate and weather. Despite some uncertainties, scientific consensus supports the understanding that a warmer world will lead to less sea ice, posing dire consequences for polar bears.

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Dr. Steve Amstrup highlights the importance of applied research in polar bear management. Initially basic research can later become crucial in understanding and conserving polar bear populations. Collaboration and sharing of information among nations are essential, particularly for shared populations. By exchanging research findings and resources, scientists avoid duplicating efforts and gain a comprehensive understanding of polar bear behavior and habitat. Focusing on specific populations, such as the southern Beaufort Sea and Western Hudson Bay, allows for in-depth knowledge that can be shared across jurisdictions, promoting effective conservation measures throughout.

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Dr. Steve Amstrup explains the diverse types of radio tags used in polar bear research, tailored to specific study objectives. Researchers employ various collar designs depending on the desired data frequency and duration. Detailed movement patterns and foraging behaviors require high-frequency transmissions, while long-term habitat usage analysis may rely on infrequent but long-lasting transmissions. Trade-offs exist, as more information depletes battery life more quickly. However, across the global polar bear range, similar radio tagging methods are employed to collect data. Fieldwork spans a few months, followed by extensive data analysis and report writing. Initial objectives guide data collection, but unexpected insights often arise during subsequent analysis. The advent of advanced GPS radio collars provides a wealth of information, including location, activity, water presence, temperature, and more. These technological advancements require robust data storage and management systems, facilitated by advancements in computer technology.

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2022

Steve Amstrup highlights the importance of sea ice for polar bears’ survival and explains that despite increasing primary productivity in some areas of the Arctic Ocean, it doesn’t necessarily benefit polar bears. While the productivity increase might be suitable for other species, polar bears primarily rely on catching seals from the surface of the ice. Seals, in turn, depend on the productivity that starts on the underside of the sea ice. If the sea ice diminishes or disappears, polar bears lose their essential hunting platform, and seals lose the nourishment they need. Steve refutes the idea that polar bears could simply adapt to land-based hunting, citing evidence from the past when polar bears disappeared from regions where the sea ice retreated. He emphasizes that the Arctic’s unique ecosystem supports large polar bear populations, while adjacent terrestrial environments, home to grizzly bears, can only sustain small numbers of smaller bears. Steve concludes that maintaining healthy populations of the world’s largest bears requires preserving the sea ice and the nutritious food source it provides for them.

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Steve Amstrup, Chief Scientist for Polar Bears International, works to raise awareness about the impact of global warming on polar bears and their Arctic habitat. He believes polar bears’ iconic status draws public attention to climate change. While more people are concerned about global warming, translating it into action and policy changes remains a challenge. Steve connects the polar bear’s plight to the changing climate worldwide, emphasizing the far-reaching consequences of climate change. He hopes to inspire action by keeping climate change in the public eye. Steve envisions a future where the world embraces cleaner energy options to mitigate climate change and reduce conflicts over fossil fuels. Ultimately, he remains hopeful for a sustainable and climate-resilient future.

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Steve Amstrup reflects on his thrilling years conducting polar bear research, capturing (darting and collecting data and samples) and studying these majestic creatures in the Arctic. Despite missing the excitement of fieldwork with the US Geological Survey, he made a conscious decision to focus on polar bear conservation with Polar Bears International. Witnessing the profound changes in the bears’ habitat due to global warming, he emphasizes the importance of understanding and preserving these ecosystems. Steve believes their work at Polar Bears International contributes to the cause of polar bear conservation, aiming to safeguard these iconic creatures and their Arctic environment from the increasing human impacts.

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Dr. Steve Amstrup and his colleagues published a groundbreaking paper in 2020, shedding light on the future plight of polar bears in different regions. By analyzing the energetics of polar bears and their ability to fast during ice-free periods, they predicted when different sub-populations will face challenges due to climate change. The study, involving 13 of the world’s 19 sub-populations of bears, provided valuable insights into the impending risks polar bears are likely to encounter. For example, in Hudson Bay and the Beaufort Sea of Alaska, polar bears are already facing significant challenges. This information is crucial not only for scientific understanding but also for policymakers and conservation managers.

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Dr. Steve Amstrup, former Polar Bear Chief Scientist for the USGS (US Geological Survey), transitioned to working with Polar Bears International in 2010 to address the main threat to polar bears: global warming and habitat loss. As a small non-profit, the focus of PBI is on outreach and education to raise awareness about the challenges polar bears face due to climate change. Through research projects and supporting other scientists, they aim to disseminate current science and emphasize the importance of collective action to combat global warming. Their mission is not only about polar bear conservation but also about safeguarding the planet as a whole. Through media engagement and website stories, they strive to keep the plight of polar bears in the public eye, inspiring action to protect these iconic creatures and the environment.

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Eugene Brower

Former President of the Barrow Whaling Captains Association, Whaling Captain, and Iñupiaq Elder

Inupiaq Eskimo elder and whaling captain Eugene Brower knows the ice in the Chukchi Sea off Barrow, Alaska, through many thousands of hours hunting the bowhead whale. Out there, he has seen some amazing things.

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2009

Iñupiaq elder Eugene Brower in Utqiaġvik, Alaska, recounts a remarkable encounter with a polar bear, which he considers the most memorable experience from his lifetime of hunting and observing wild game. He describes the scene on the shorefast ice, where he and his family witnessed a polar bear about a quarter of a mile away. As they watched, belugas at the edge of the ice. Suddenly, the massive polar bear emerged from the water and climbed onto the ice. Eugene marvels at the bear’s strength as it effortlessly lifted and maneuvered blocks of ice. The bear stood on its hind legs, surveying the surroundings, and then dropped the ice on a beluga and with a single swipe of its paw extracted the prey from the water.

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Eugene Brower, Iñupiaq elder from Utqiaġvik, Alaska, discusses the challenging transition from a subsistence lifestyle to a cash-based economy. He explains that while the availability of cash brought convenience and access to necessary products like groceries, ammunition, and rifles, it also introduced financial burdens with the high cost of supplies for hunting such as the casings, fuses, black powder, and plastic caps. Eugene acknowledges that the rate of return on their investments is uncertain, but it is necessary to continue spending significant amounts, ranging from $10,000 to $15,000 per season, in order to continue the traditions of the Iñupiat. Maintaining snow machines alone requires a substantial financial commitment, with annual costs reaching approximately $1,000. Eugene expresses his concerns about replacing outdated snow machines, highlighting that some of his equipment dates back to the 1980s with 15,000 miles of use. These remarks shed light on the financial pressures faced by individuals transitioning from traditional subsistence practices to a cash economy in the context of hunting and living in the Arctic region.

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Eugene Brower, an experienced observer of Arctic ice and whale migration, in the days before satellite technology, relied on his own observations while walking across the frozen landscapes. He explains how he would search for logical spots and landmarks, such as the Will Roger Wiley Post monument, to gauge the movement of ice and the path of the whales. The whales, he notes, follow a specific route between points, avoiding sudden turns along the shoreline. Eugene recounts a journey that took 16 days to cover a trail of about 16 miles, highlighting the challenges involved. He describes the presence of multiple crews and the teamwork required to track and strike the whales. Eugene reflects on the migration patterns of the whales, noting how they steadily travel north while communicating with each other through sounds that carry over long distances. His firsthand experiences offer valuable insights into the behavior and movement of these majestic creatures in the Arctic waters.

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Eugene Brower reflects on his various roles and positions of leadership in the community of Barrow, now called Utqiaġvik, Alaska. He mentions becoming the president of the Barrow Whaling Captain Association in 1972 and subsequently being re-elected and serving as president multiple times. Eugene also mentions stepping down from the position, hoping that someone else would take over the responsibility of managing the whalers. He briefly mentions his three-year term as the mayor of Barrow for one term, and his involvement in the city council. Eugene highlights the need to be a jack of all trades to survive in the old days, mentioning his varied roles as an equipment operator, laborer, and electronic technician. Eugene shares his humble beginnings in a sod hut, where he never could have imagined one day becoming the mayor of Utqiaġvik (Barrow), Alaska.

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Iñupiaq elder Eugene Brower shares his knowledge about the design and behavior of sealskin boats in the Arctic. He explains that sealskin boats are intentionally designed to be quiet, allowing hunters to approach seals without being detected. Eugene emphasizes the importance of paying attention to wind direction, as seals have a keen sense of smell and can detect human presence. To minimize any scents, one side of camp on the ice is kept clean, while activities such as cooking, disposing of coffee grounds, and using the bathroom are carried out on the far side of camp, away from passing whales. This careful separation ensures that whales won’t catch any human scent from the camp. The bowhead whale, Eugene says, can even sense the presence of humans underwater and can react by submerging deeper or altering their behavior. Hunters have to remain still and quiet while observing approaching whales. These insights provide a glimpse into the tactics and strategies employed by hunters in sealskin boats as they navigate the Arctic waters and interact with the natural behaviors of whales.

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Eugene Brower of Utqiaġvik, Alaska, discusses his role as a whaler and the responsibilities he took on when his father fell ill. He talks about being a half owner in his family’s whaling crew from the age of 27. Taking on a crew at a young age, Eugene learned how to select the campsite, determine the placement of the boats on the ice, and assess the ice conditions. He reflects on the challenges of interpreting ice formations, pressure ridges, currents, and the impact on the ice of winds from different directions. Eugene acknowledges that he made a few mistakes initially but managed to survive and learn from those experiences. He mentions their preparations for the upcoming whaling season. He notes that the crew size varies from 12 to 16 members, depending on the year and the level of success in their whaling activities. Eugene emphasizes that a successful season leads to a larger crew over time.

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Iñupiaq elder Eugene Brower recounts a memorable encounter with a white whale. He describes how he was initially preparing to harpoon the whale, estimating it to be around 25 to 27 feet long. However, his father, who had been sleeping in the tent, suddenly emerged and urged him not to strike, emphasizing the rarity and preciousness of this white whale. Frozen in response to his father’s intervention, Eugene ultimately decided not to throw the harpoon. He reflects on how he now finds himself in a similar position, advising his own crew members and saying “no” when necessary, explaining the reasons behind his decisions. Eugene shares that he has encountered the same white whale four different times, recognizing it by a distinct mark on its blowhole. He mentions that each whale has unique markings, allowing each one to be identified over time.

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Eugene Brower recounts an encounter with a rogue walrus that lives in the pack ice year-round and preys on seals. As they paddled closer, the animal’s massive grayish head emerged from the water, revealing its impressive size. Excitedly, Eugene and his companions started paddling back to shore, fearing it might attack them. Their boat was moving so swiftly that when they reached the ice, it launched them into the air. The ice was only about as thick as their arms’ length. The walrus came alongside them and emitted a loud noise, stopped to observe the men closely. Eugene estimated the walrus to be about 12 feet wide and over 20 feet long, making it the largest walrus he had ever seen. Initially, the group considered shooting the walrus, but Eugene’s father intervened, reminding them that it was an animal living in its natural habitat, sustaining itself by feeding on seals. His father emphasized the importance of letting the walrus be, as provoking it could result in destructive behavior, such as breaking up the ice they were on. Eugene’s father warned that the walrus could easily break the ice if it came in fast and went on top. This captivating story offers a glimpse into the awe-inspiring encounter with a magnificent marine creature and the wisdom of respecting nature’s balance.

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Eugene Brower, an experienced Alaskan whaler, shares his journey from a young helper to a skilled harpooner and captain, demonstrating deep knowledge of whale anatomy and behavior.

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Iñupiaq elder Eugene Brower shares memories of his childhood and the challenging living conditions his family faced. He describes their small living space, which was about 8 by 10 or 10 by 12 feet in size, with a unique makeshift stove made from a five-gallon GI can. The stove was fueled variously by blubber, wood, and coal obtained through bartering. Eugene reminisces about their modes of transportation, from using small boats made with caribou skins and dog sleds in winter to later transitioning to snow machines. He recounts the journey they would take from their camp down the river and along the coastline to reach Browerville, a cluster of houses where his grandfather’s two-story house stood. He mentions the original trading post, which is now a restaurant, and how they would visit the store for supplies, traveling with dog teams and sleds. Eugene reflects on the isolation of their living situation and the changes they experienced over time. This narrative provides a glimpse into Eugene Brower’s upbringing in a remote area before Barrow, now Utqiaġvik, Alaska, was a bigger town, and the resourcefulness required to navigate the harsh Arctic environment.

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In this conversation with Iñupiaq elder Eugene Brower describes the process of setting up a fishing net under solid ice. He explains that his father used a two-by-four piece of wood, cut to about half an inch thick, and wrapped the ends tightly with grooves. This created a 16-foot long stick. They would start by cutting a hole in the ice, then lay out the net, cutting holes along the way until reaching the other end. A twine with a weight would be dropped through the holes, and a piece of wire with a coil was used to hook and pull the twine from hole to hole, eventually reaching the other side. They would then place the net on that side and pull it underneath the ice, spanning about 50 to 60 feet. Eugene’s father had homemade tools, including a small block to measure the width of the mesh. He would continually adjust the net. Additionally, pieces of whale ribs, obtained after drying out and removing the meat, were used as weights for the net. A float, made from a flat piece of wood about three to four inches long, was attached to the top of the net.

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Eugene Brower shares his experiences as a harpooner during his whaling days. At the age of 27, after 19 years of experience, Eugene became a harpooner. He recalls his first harpooning attempt, where he mistakenly threw the harpoon like a javelin, missing the whale entirely. This frustrated his father, who left in silence and returned hours later with a wooden post. Eugene’s father crafted a new harpoon handle by attaching the brass portion of the harpoon to the post and securing it with a small nail. After reloading the harpoon, Eugene tested its weight and found it to be heavy but satisfactory. Another whale surfaced in front of them, and Eugene, using all his strength, successfully struck it with the improved harpoon. The harpoon penetrated and immobilized the whale. Overjoyed by his first successful strike, Eugene and the crew tightly secured the whale and paddled back to shore. His father, impressed by the accomplishment, advised him that he didn’t need to throw the harpoon as forcefully next time. Eugene reflects on the exhilaration and sense of achievement he felt in that moment, as he had struck his first whale and experienced an indescribable rush of emotions.

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2022

Peter Lourie, Paul Shepson, Craig George, and Eugene Brower engage in a conversation discussing Eugene’s retirement from the Barrow Whaling Captains Association after 41 years as president. Due to health issues, he transferred his whaling equipment to his son Frederick Brower, who has become a successful and confident young captain. The crew consists of family members, including Eugene’s brother, uncle, and other experienced whalers. Recently the town has had a successful whaling season, landing all 15 whales without any losses. The crew size varies but is typically around 16 people. While traditional skin boats are still used, the process of preparing the boats and equipment has evolved over time, with advancements like ready-made skins and synthetic materials simplifying the process compared to traditional methods.

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In a captivating zoom conversation with Peter Lourie, Paul Shepson, and Utqiaġvik resident Dr. Craig George, Iñupiaq elder Eugene Brower shares his early experiences with whaling and how it has evolved over the years. He recounts his childhood initiation into whaling, learning from his father and his uncle, Luther Leavitt Sr. Eugene reflects on the past, reminiscing about the challenges of traversing pressure ridges with dogs and sleds. He describes traditional techniques for safe ice travel and the importance of understanding whale behavior. As the conversation progresses, Eugene and Peter discuss the changing population of whales and their awe-inspiring presence in the ocean. Eugene also discusses the practical aspects of whaling, from cooking blubber to the construction of skin boats using driftwood. Despite the physical demands and harsh conditions of whaling, Eugene’s passion for the hunt perseveres, and he proudly shares the legacy of his family’s involvement in this ancient Arctic tradition.

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Iñupiaq elder Eugene Brower recounts his early experiences as a harpooner and the techniques he learned. He describes how he was taught to throw harpoons balancing them like javelins, while also learning where and how to strike a moving whale. Eugene explains the use of explosive tips and black powder projectiles, highlighting the importance of timing and precision. He shares thrilling encounters with whales, including an albino beluga and a whale saving another from danger. Eugene’s stories showcase the intelligence and remarkable behaviors of these majestic creatures, leaving the listeners in awe.

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In a conversation with Peter Lourie, Paul Shepson, Iñupiaq elder from Utqiaġvik, Alaska, Eugene Brower discusses changes in whaling due to climate change. Eugene shares how whaling methods have remained the same, but melting ice makes finding suitable spots to harvest whales challenging. He notes that younger generations are taking over as older whalers retire. The discussion turns to how whales can detect scents and the overall conversation highlights the importance of indigenous wisdom and its contribution to understanding the natural world.

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Eugene shares his perspective on the lack of knowledge about the International Whaling Commission (IWC) and the federal government’s involvement in whaling among indigenous communities. He recounts the uproar caused by the moratorium on whaling imposed by the government, and the formation of the Alaska Eskimo Whaling Commission to protect the Iñupiaq way of life. Eugene also describes his defiance during a grand jury hearing and the subsequent intervention of Alaska Senator Ted Stevens. He highlights the unique cooperative agreement between the Alaska Eskimo Whaling Commission and the federal government, emphasizing the importance of enforcement and registration for whaling captains. Eugene expresses gratitude for Dr. Tom Albert’s support in documenting their whaling history and fighting for Iñupiaq rights. The conversation jokingly touches on Craig George, who arrived in Utqiaġvik with an Afro and was initially seen as a “hippie freak!”

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Craig George, in response to kind words from his friend Eugene Brower, explains that he started working at the animal research facility in 1977, where he met Tom Albert and developed a good working relationship. He became involved in logistical tasks and eventually joined the bowhead whale research team. In order to set up acoustic arrays and track the whales’ migration, the scientists incorporated traditional Iñupiaq knowledge about the bowheads, including their ability to swim under the ice undetected. This approach led scientists to increase abundance estimates and the verification of a population increase over time, as the Iñupiaq hunters had been telling the scientists all along. In turn, Eugene acknowledges the valuable training he himself received from both local and renowned scientists.

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Eugene discusses changes in working safely on the ice over the years. He and Craig mention the disappearance of multi-year ice, the presence of jumbled first-year ice, and the extended periods of open water due to climate change. They also mention the dangers of ice collisions and the responsibility of ensuring safety.

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Iñupiaq elder Eugene Brower is a deep well of whaling knowledge and Iñupiaq traditions. Here he talks about how much he really knows and is honored by Eskimo communities throughout the North Slope.

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Yves Brower

Yves Brower is the chief of operations at the Barrow Utilities and Electric Cooperative Inc. (BUECI) and manages the wastewater collection, distribution, and treatment. 

2009

Yves Brower shares his experiences and preparations for a winter hunting trip. He discusses packing gear, setting up camp, hunting successes, traditional foods like muktuk, and the importance of self-sufficiency in his community. He also reflects on the influence of his grandfather, a reindeer herder.

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Yves Brower describes the uniqueness and beauty of the Arctic during winter. He expresses admiration for the pristine white landscape, the crunching sound of snow, and the incredible friendliness of the people in the close-knit community of Utqiaġvik, Alaska. Yves shares his strong attachment to the Arctic, the longing he feels when away, and his reluctance to live elsewhere. He reflects on his father’s experience being sent to school in Sitka, the loss of his grandmother, and his own return to the Arctic. Yves discusses the different hunting seasons throughout the year, including whaling, caribou hunting, fishing, and trapping, highlighting the constant activity and engagement with nature in his life. He contrasts this with the perceived boredom of newcomers who spend their winters indoors, emphasizing his own full schedule and lack of time for television.

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2022

Yves Brower, a water management professional in Utqiaġvik (formerly Barrow), Alaska, had a successful spring whale hunt. The community caught 16-17 small whales and enjoyed abundant muktuk (whale blubber) and festive celebrations. Yves reflects on the friendly and family-oriented atmosphere in Utqiaġvik, where neighbors treat each other like relatives. While he loves his job, Yves contemplates a potential career change to the wildlife department.

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Geoff Carroll

Areas Wildlife Biologist, Alaska’s Department of Fish & Game

2009

Wildlife biologist Geoff Carroll recounts his work as an area wildlife biologist for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. His responsibilities encompass a vast 56,000 square mile area, primarily focused on land mammals, caribou in particular, which he considers a crucial land resource. He explains the ongoing project of conducting regular counts, including photo censuses every few years and yearly assessments of calf production and survival rates. To aid in the studies, Geoff uses radio collars providing valuable data on caribou movements and behaviors. The North Slope alone is home to four caribou herds, each with populations ranging from 60,000 to nearly half a million. Managing and monitoring these herds necessitates meticulous observations, sampling, and statistical analysis.

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Geoff Carroll recalls his encounters with polar bears during his work on the whale census. Camped on the edge of the open lead (open water) in spring, Geoff and his team made efforts to keep the bears away from their camps. While they generally had benign experiences with polar bears, Geoff shares a particularly memorable incident. One day at their census camp, with separate sleep and cook tents, Geoff was asleep in a sleep tent while one of their whale counters was cooking in the cook tent. Suddenly Jim noticed a polar bear halfway through the front door of the tent, and the gun happened to be near the bear. Jim yelled and threw a frying pan at the bear, hitting it on the nose, causing it to retreat.

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Geoff Carroll reflects on the untouched wilderness of the North Slope, particularly the vastness of the sea ice and the sense of freedom it provides. He describes the pristine environment that re-forms every year, offering a fresh start and the opportunity to explore uncharted territory. Geoff expresses his gratitude for experiencing this untamed beauty before the onset of oil development and seismic exploration on the North Slope. He acknowledges, however, that change is inevitable and he anticipates a gradual degradation of the region’s natural state, understanding the need for economic development. Geoff highlights the significant changes in the sea ice that he has witnessed, with open water lasting longer into the fall season and the landfast ice becoming less stable, increasing hazards for travelers on the ice. He mentions the diminishing extent of ice in the Northwest Passage, and predicts future ship traffic in the summer, transforming the Arctic forever.

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Wildlife biologist Geoff Carroll talks about his journey to the Arctic, driven by his lifelong fascination with Northern and Arctic environments. Originally from Wyoming, he made his way to Alaska in his early 20s and enrolled at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, to study wildlife, which included studying bowhead whales. Initially hired to collect samples from harvested whales, Geoff recognized the need for a more accurate population estimate and convinced his colleagues to start a bowhead whale census. With limited experience living and working on the ice, he collaborated with Iñupiaq whaling crews, assisting them with whaling even as they helped him count whales for science. Eventually, funding became available, and a dedicated census crew was formed to conduct a 24-hour watch and count bowhead whales every spring.

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Wildlife biologist Geoff Carroll recounts the story of muskoxen in Alaska. Eradicated in the 1800s, they were reintroduced in the 1930s, and the population grew rapidly but faced predation and health issues, leading to a decline from 800 to 200 animals today. Efforts are underway to understand and protect this unique creature crucial to Alaska’s ecosystem.

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Wildlife biologist Geoff Carroll discusses ice fishing to feed his sled dogs, which are Greenland huskies. Geoff mentions his previous experience with Greenland huskies and how they differ from Alaskan huskies. The conversation touches on ther athleticism and fighting tendencies.

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In 1986, wth years of ice experience from his work in the Utqiaġvik, Alaska, area wildlife biologist Geoff Carroll discusses how he overcame months of obstacles and faced extreme conditions to fulfill his dream of reaching the North Pole. With a team of experienced mushers and resilient Greenland sled dogs, his team navigated treacherous ice, freezing temperatures, and open leads of water. Through unwavering determination and resourcefulness, they triumphantly reached the North Pole, leaving an inspiring mark in the world of polar exploration.

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2022

Geoff Carroll shares his extensive experience as a biologist and wildlife manager in northern Alaska for over three decades. He worked as an area biologist for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, overseeing a vast territory and monitoring various land mammals, including musk oxen, caribou, moose, wolves, and bears. Geoff describes his job as multi-faceted, involving research, monitoring, problem-solving, and educational outreach. He enjoyed the freedom to prioritize tasks and work independently. Having retired in 2016, Geoff now spends his time in Utqiaġvik (formerly known as Barrow), maintaining his dog team and embarking on occasional trips around town. He reminisces about the dog team’s past significance in his work, often using it to visit villages, gaining a warm reception from the locals. Nowadays, he focuses on smaller trips and continues to cherish his connection with the Alaskan wilderness.

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Geoff Carroll, a biologist with 30 years of experience in northern Alaska, discusses the notable changes in the region. He mentions the diminishing ice cover, flakier ice formations, and the shift from traditional to modern methods in whale hunting. Despite the changes, Geoff acknowledges the resilience of local hunters and their determination to preserve their cultural practices.

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Geoff Carroll reflects on the fascinating whale counting program that began in 1974. Over the years, the count has improved and provided valuable insights into the whale population’s growth and health. The population has significantly increased, but due to changing ice conditions, the census has become more challenging. The whales are now staying farther from the shore, making it harder to observe them closely. As a result, local whalers are sometimes foregoing the traditional sealskin umiaq and using outboard motors to intercept the whales in their new habitats.

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Geoff Carroll discusses his love for traveling on the ice with his dog team, but notes that the ice conditions have changed significantly. In the past, the ice was more stable, allowing for enjoyable expeditions, but now it has become rough and less safe. He reminisces about his record-breaking sled-dog trek to the North Pole in 1986 with Will Steger and observes that modern North Pole expeditions have adapted their styles due to the less stable ice conditions, with more emphasis on manhauling and the use of dry suits to navigate open waters.

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Geoff Carroll reflects on the changes in the Arctic and how they have and have not impacted the sense of freedom and open spaces he once cherished. While the ice conditions have become less stable, leading to some frustrations and adaptations, he notes that people in the region are generally adaptable and find new ways to navigate the changing environment. While there is a sense of nostalgia for the past, people continue to move forward, embracing new challenges. Geoff also points out that the changes in ice conditions can sometimes show exceptions, with variations occurring in different years, making it a complex and dynamic situation in the Arctic.

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Geoff Carroll discusses the significant decline in caribou herds in the Arctic over the past 15 years, with some populations experiencing at least a 50 percent decrease. This decline is likely linked to warmer winters, leading to icing events that make it difficult for the caribou to access their food. As the population declines, the predator-to-prey ratio changes, resulting in more caribou being preyed upon by wolves and bears. Although there have been signs of recovery, the Western Arctic Caribou herd experienced another decline recently. Despite this, there have been reports of caribou coming close to Utqiaġvik in the last two years, leading to local perceptions that the caribou population is increasing.

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Geoff Carroll discusses the status of Musk Oxen populations on the North Slope, highlighting a positive trend of growth in the southwestern region. He reminisces about his time conducting aerial surveys, covering a vast area of 56,000 square miles, but also acknowledges the inherent dangers in so many flights in small planes and recalls some close calls, leading to mixed feelings of missing the work while being grateful to have come through it all. Despite the challenges, Geoff remains passionate about the Arctic and its wildlife, sharing valuable insights into the changing conditions and the adaptability of both animals and people in the face of shifting environmental dynamics.

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Revisiting Geoff Carroll, now-retired wildlife biologist from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, Arctic Stories’ Pete Lourie listens to Geoff’s memories of studying land mammals in northern Alaska for over 30 years. Geoff says he had the privilege of overseeing a vast territory, monitoring and researching various species including muskoxen, caribou, moose, wolves, and bears–an extremely rewarding job. He also highlights the educational aspect of his work, involving high school classes in tracking caribou across the North Slope. After retiring in 2016, Geoff has downsized his dog team and now enjoys smaller trips around town, observing the changing environmental conditions in the region, particularly the declining ice stability and the impact on traditional whaling practices. Despite the challenges, Geoff remains fascinated by the resilience of wildlife in adapting to their changing environment and the ongoing efforts to preserve their populations.

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Dr. George Divoky

Seabird Biologist studying in Arctic Alaska since 1970.

Dr George Divoky has been studying seabirds in arctic Alaska since 1970 and holds a Ph.D. from the University of Alaska Fairbanks. He is the founder of Friends of Cooper Island, a nonprofit scientific/education organization that maintains the long-term study of seabirds on Cooper Island and preserves and distributes Cooper Island data for use by current and future researchers studying climate change and other Arctic phenomena. Divoky also has an active outreach program speaking to conservation organizations and school groups.

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2009

Dr. George Devoky is a biologist who has been studying black guillemots on Cooper Island, 20 miles east of Point Barrow, for the past 40 years. He first went to the island in 1970 while studying birds in the Beaufort Sea, and then returned in 1975 to study the black guillemot colony he found on Cooper Island which is ideal for black guillemots as they feed at the edge of the pack ice. Divoki built boxes for the birds to occupy and studied their demographics over time, including egg-laying, adult survival, hatching success, and fledging success. Guillemots have an 80-day nesting period, which is long for any species anywhere but in the Arctic. Divoki has been studying the guillemots annually and has records of their demographics for around 35 years, making him one of the few people to any animal for that long. He has named individual birds based on the color bands he places on them and has recognized them over the years. Guillemots are excellent monitors of conditions because they are active all summer long, so any changes that happen during that time can affect their breeding success.

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George Divoky discusses the changing dates for egg laying in a colony of Arctic birds–black guillemots. He relates the changes in temperature in Northern Alaska and Cooper Island over the past 30 years. He describes the challenges of setting up support systems on the island and dealing with the new thermal regime, but also talks about his love for working in such a bright Arctic environment.

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Dr. George Divoky recounts his experience with bears invading his campsite in 2002, where one bear backed him and his team out of their campsite and destroyed two of their tents. After realizing the potential danger of bears ripping up tents and being unable to see anything the windowless tents, in 2003 Dr. Divoky built an 8 by 12 cabin. But the cabin was broken into and trashed by bears in his absence. To avoid such incidents, he now takes great pains to board up the cabin as much as possible before leaving. Dr. Divoky visits the cabin every early April to check on it and board it up as necessary. He also uses this opportunity to reconnect with the Utqiaġvik community and check on the nest sites on the island. Since the ice has been pulling farther and farther offshore, polar bears have been visiting annually since 2002, looking for food. Dr. Divoky expresses mixed emotions about seeing the bears; his first concern is his own safety, but he also feels upset seeing the bears eating the chicks or eggs.

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2022

Dr. George Divoky explains that he uses geolocators to track bird movements, specifically how they migrate north after breeding and occupy the Bering Sea. He mentions a significant ice reduction in 2017, which led to birds wintering for the first time in the Chukchi Sea. This shift in wintering distribution and the availability of fish in the Bering Sea had an impact on bird survival. Dr. Divoky notes that annual adult survival rates remained stable, but breeding success was affected, resulting in fewer pairs laying and incubating eggs. Experienced birds had better reproductive outcomes, indicating a potential selective process. The changes in wintering grounds present challenges for bird adaptation.

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Dr. George Divoky discusses the state of Guillemots and whether there is any hope for their future in the Arctic. He mentions that certain “more experienced” birds are successfully raising their young, reminiscent of the past, which is a positive sign. He acknowledges, however, that rapid changes in the Arctic pose challenges for their adaptation. Dr. Divoky refers to the situation as a “train wreck” and is curious about the current population of birds. Recently he has been collaborating with French researchers and computer modelers and their analysis of egg sizes, which have shown a decrease over time. This suggests potential changes in prey availability or the condition of female birds upon their return. They plan to further investigate these findings and their implications for climate change.

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Bird biologist, George Divoky has been visiting Cooper Island every year to study the Guillemot colony for nearly half a century. Despite challenges and setbacks, he continues his work because he feels a strong connection to the island and its inhabitants. Over the years, he has witnessed changes in the bird population due to climate change. The recent decline in breeding pairs has taken an emotional toll on him, but he remains committed to monitoring and documenting the colony’s demographics. Dr. Divoky hopes to inspire others to carry on his work and is actively involving researchers and students in his study. He believes that as long as there is support and interest, he will continue his lifelong research.

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Dr. George Divoky, a researcher with a 48-year-long study on Cooper Island, shares his remarkable journey. He highlights the changes he has witnessed in both the physical world and himself. From the support of the now defunct Naval Arctic Research Lab to the challenges of being alone on the island, he reflects on the risks and transformations. The arrival of bears due to shifting ice patterns was a paradigm shift for him. Bear encounters have become more frequent. He also mentions the scarcity of fresh water on the island, forcing him to adapt his methods. Overall, his story offers insight into the evolving environment and his personal growth during this extended research endeavor.

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Dr. George Divoky had already been studying Black Guillemots on Cooper Island just off Point Barrow, Alaska, for 28 years, in relative obscurity, until a New York Times article in 2002 brought attention to his work on the melting Arctic. His research on one bird population on one island was already revealing the devastating impact of climate change and declining sea ice. By monitoring nesting cycles and observing migration patterns, he discovered that the decline in Arctic bird populations was primarily due to decreasing migration rates from source colonies in other parts of the Arctic. Dr. Divoky’s findings highlighted the collapse of an important ecosystem and emphasized the need for long-term monitoring of the cryopelagic system. Dr. Divoky’s work on Black Guillemots continues after 48 years and serves as one of the most detailed long-term research projects highlighting how global warming is affecting the planet’s climate.

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Florent Domine

Florent Domine is currently a “Directeur de Recherche”, a CNRS position at Takuvik Joint International Laboratory

Website: https://sites.google.com/site/florentdomine/accueil

Florent Domine is a Senior Scientist and Research Director at the Takuvik Joint International Laboratory at the University of Laval, in Quebec City, Canada.  His research focuses on snow physics and chemistry.  He has pioneered novel methods to measure snow specific surface area (SSA), which is used for understanding atmosphere-snowpack exchange of gases, and for energy budgets and climate applications.  SSA is also useful for understanding the microphysics of snow metamorphism, and the study of the thermal conductivity of snow, which determines snow temperature and the heat flow between the ground and the atmosphere.  His group has studied chemical impurities in snow which can determine light absorption in the visible, and therefore snow albedo. Absorbing species such as hydrogen peroxide can generate chemically active radicals such as OH, which initiate active photochemistry in the snowpack. This leads to the emission to the atmosphere of highly reactive species such as formaldehyde (HCHO), nitrogen oxides (NO + NO2) and halogens (Br2 and BrCl). These latter molecules start oxidation cycles in the polar atmosphere, that lead to high rates of mercury deposition and to rapid ozone destruction.  In 2021 he published a co-edited volume (with Paul Shepson) called “Chemistry in the Cryosphere”.

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2009

Domine describes his experiences in Norway’s Svalbard region, an archipelago located a thousand miles north of Norway’s North Cape in the European Arctic. Svalbard is one of the most beautiful and scenic places on Earth, but also dangerous due to the presence of polar bears. Dr. Domine shares that he always travels with an experienced guide. And he has stopped counting the number of polar bears he has encountered, there are so many bear encounters. He jokes about how to evaluate the danger level when meeting a polar bear by looking at the color of its butt – if it’s white, he quips, it’s dangerous; if it’s brown, it’s safe. (Brown because it has just eaten a seal!) Dr. Domine also mentions that Svalbard is warmer than its latitude might indicate due to the Gulf Stream and seldom drops below -35 degrees Celsius. Finally, he notes that polar bears are rare on the west coast of Svalbard due to the lack of sea ice.

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Dr. George Durner

Formerly a polar bear expert with the US Geological Survey (USGS) in Anchorage, Alaska

George Durner is a research zoologist with the US Geological Survey, Alaska Science Center polar bear research program.  He entered this position in 1991 and currently works with a team of USGS scientists to identify and describe the mechanisms that drive the response of polar bears to a changing Arctic ecosystem. He has a BS in biology from East Stroudsburg University, an MS in wildlife biology from Frostburg State University, and a PhD in zoology and physiology from the University of Wyoming.

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2022

Research zoologist with the US Geological Survey Alaska Science Center, Dr. George Durner discusses his extensive involvement in studying polar bears and their sea ice habitat use. For decades he has researched various aspects of polar bear behavior, health, and reproduction, with a particular focus on their responses to changing sea ice conditions. Dr. Durner also led a project assessing stress hormones using polar bear fur samples collected over the years. He explains the challenges faced by the Southern Beaufort Sea subpopulation of polar bears due to sea ice loss during summer months, leading to a decline in their numbers. He noticed some improvement in survival rates after 2008, and the population has remained relatively stable since then even as the bears face significant changes and challenges in the Arctic environment.

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Dr. George Durner, a research zoologist at the US Geological Survey Alaska Science Center, has extensively studied polar bears’ response to changing sea ice conditions. His team found that polar bears are fasting more due to reduced access to Ringed seals, their primary food source, leading to negative effects on their survival and reproduction. Additionally, cortisol levels in polar bear fur has indicated nutritional stress during periods of low survival. These findings underscore the challenges polar bears face in a changing Arctic environment.

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Over the past 30 years, the Arctic has undergone significant changes, especially in the region where polar bears are studied, the Southern Beaufort Sea. The loss of sea ice has increased in duration and extent, causing polar bears to be displaced from their optimal habitat on the continental shelf to deep waters of the Polar Basin during summer months. As a result of finding less to eat in these deeper waters, polar bears experience reduced body condition, muscle mass loss, decreased activity, and challenges in reproducing and raising cubs. Dr. George Durner, a research zoologist, highlights the complexity of these changes and acknowledges the substantial amount of research conducted by his team and collaborators to understand the impacts on polar bear populations.

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Dr. George Durner emphasizes the significance of long-term data collected through the polar bear research program, which owes much to the efforts of Dr. Steve Amstrup in establishing it back in the early ’80s. Extensive data and samples have proved invaluable in understanding the changing dynamics of polar bears in the Southern Beaufort Sea. With advancements in analytical techniques, both chemical and computational, and with the collaboration of brilliant minds, researchers have been able to gain insights into the effects of a warming climate on polar bears. The data derived from this research is crucial for regulatory agencies in developing conservation policies to protect polar bears in the face of ongoing climate changes.

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Despite the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr. George Durner and his team were able to continue their polar bear research with determination and adaptability. While most team members worked from their homes, the research progressed seamlessly through the use of modern technology, allowing remote discussions and data analysis. The pandemic did impact some aspects of fieldwork, particularly in the interactions with native cultures, but the team took necessary precautions to ensure everyone’s safety. In 2020, they had to cut short their field season, but subsequent years saw successful research operations in Utqiaġvik and Prudhoe Bay, demonstrating their dedication to understanding polar bears’ responses to a changing Arctic environment.

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Dr. George Durner expressed deep gratitude for the opportunity to study polar bears and witness the Arctic’s majestic beauty over the past 30 years. He acknowledges the significant changes that have occurred in the region due to climate change and human impacts. Despite these challenges, he remains optimistic about the future, emphasizing the importance of understanding the relationships between polar bears and sea ice. He believes that by curbing greenhouse gas emissions and addressing climate change, it is possible to create a sustainable Arctic that can support polar bears for generations to come.

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Dr. Hajo Eicken

Glaciologist, Professor of Geophysics at the Geophysical Institute and the Department of Geology and Geophysics at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks

Dr. Hajo Eicken is Professor at the Geophysical Institute and the Department of Geology and Geophysics at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks. Before joining the University of Alaska, Dr. Eicken was a senior scientist at the Alfred Wegener Institute where he was the head of a research group for sea ice physics and remote sensing. Dr. Eicken’s research interests include studies of the growth, evolution, and properties of sea ice in the Arctic and Antarctic. He is particularly interested in determining how microscopic and macroscopic properties affect larger-scale sea-ice processes and its role in the climate system. In Alaska, Dr. Eicken has spent time on the ice to learn more about the different uses of the sea ice environment and its role in polar ecosystems. Dr. Eicken has participated in several icebreaker expeditions in both hemispheres.

https://seaice.alaska.edu/gi/people/eicken/

In his own words: My main research interests are in the field of sea-ice geophysics. In particular, I am interested in how small-scale properties and (micro)structure of sea ice impact processes on a larger scale as well as the role of sea ice in the climate system. As part of the International Polar Year (IPY) 2007-2009 I am part of an international group that is studying the seasonal Arctic ice zone through an observing network (SIZONet). You can learn more about this project by visiting the SIZONet site or one of the following web pages: Arctic Observing Network Data site, Alaska Ocean Observing SystemBarrow Sea Ice Observatory.

One of the main interests of our group here at the University of Alaska Fairbanks is to study in more depth the multiple uses of sea ice as well as its important role in coastal environments. This work ties in with a broader range of activities at the University of Alaska that aim to examine how we as scientists can improve access to the vast amount of data collected during the IPY and beyond in order to help different users of the sea ice (local communities, indigenous populations, industry, government and others) make better planning decisions.

In a rapidly changing Arctic, where sea ice plays an important role not just in the physical environment but also in the context of ecosystems, geopolitics, indigenous knowledge and use as well as economic development, it takes communication and collaboration between different disciplines and interest groups to help us address the challenges and take advantage of the opportunities that come with change in a responsible and sustainable fashion. I invite you to visit the web pages describing the sea ice research, look at publications by our group or visit the UA IPY North by 2020 Forum‘s web site. If you are a student interested in working on these topics, please get in touch, visit the Department of Geology and Geophysics‘ web pages or have a look at the Resilience and Adaptation Program (RAP) here at UAF which provides opportunities for research and education on these issues in a broader, interdisciplinary context.

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2022

Dr. Hajo Eicken at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, discusses the impact of changing sea ice conditions on the migration patterns and cultural activities of bowhead whales in North Slope communities. Collaborating with wildlife management departments, researchers have observed that bowhead whales benefit from less summer ice, enabling them to feed more effectively. The presence of open water and ice leads also allows bowheads to be present throughout the winter, facilitating hunting and whale observations. However, the timing of the fall hunt has shifted significantly, with the fall freeze-up occurring later by two to three weeks every decade. This change presents challenges for communities as they navigate wavy conditions and adapt to the absence of ice in the water.

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Dr. John C. "Craig" George

Senior Wildlife Biologist (Bowhead Whales), Department of Wildlife Management, North Slope Borough, Barrow, Alaska

Craig George has worked as a Wildlife Biologist with the North Slope Department of Wildlife Management in Barrow, Alaska for 25 years.  Craig earned a B.S. in Wildlife Biology from the Utah State University in 1976 and recently completed his Ph.D. in bowhead whale energetics, age estimation and morphology (comprehensive exams 2001).  Beginning in 1982, Craig worked on and later coordinated the bowhead whale ice-based population assessment project on the sea ice near Point Barrow for nearly two decades.   He also has conducted many postmortem exams on bowheads harvested by Alaskan Eskimos (since 1980) and published a number of papers on this work ranging from evidence of killer whale predation to structural anatomy to population biology. Craig has attended IWC meetings since 1987 focusing mainly on aboriginal whaling management procedures and assessments and population estimation. He has also participated in Eskimo traditional knowledge studies on the North Slope. Craig has lived in Barrow since 1977 and is married to Cyd Hanns, a wildlife technician. Together they enjoy community and outdoor activities with their two sons Luke and Sam.

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2009

Dr. John C. “Craig” George, a senior wildlife biologist in the Department of Wildlife Management for the North Slope Borough, shares his experience and involvement in Arctic research, particularly focused on bowhead whales. He describes his initial work at an animal research facility, his fascination with the Arctic ice, and his transition to studying bowhead whales. Dr. George highlights the significance of the native community’s knowledge and Iñupiaq collaboration in understanding the bowhead whale population. Through acoustic research and refining census techniques, scientists have discovered that a larger number of whales migrated under the sea ice than previously thought. The research findings confirmed the native hunters’ observations, leading to a better understanding of bowhead whale populations and their recovery.

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Dr. George reflects on his unexpected decision to raise a family in Barrow, Alaska, despite the expectations of leaving for better education opportunities. He highlights the unique and appealing aspects of the community, including its small size, diverse activities such as dog mushing, fishing, hunting, Eskimo dances, and the vibrant whaling culture. Dr. George emphasizes the positive aspects of the local schools and the supportive community. He expresses satisfaction with the experiences his family has had, including participating in whaling, festivals, outdoor activities, and encountering wildlife like caribou and polar bears. He appreciates the sense of safety and freedom for children to explore and enjoy the natural surroundings, which he believes is increasingly rare in urban areas. Overall, Dr. George describes his time in Barrow as a rewarding and enriching experience that has offered his family a unique and vibrant slice of America.

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An enthusiast of climbing mountains in the western states of the Lower 48, Craig found a similar sense of fulfillment when he came to the North Slope and in his decades-long exploration of the sea ice. He is passionate about the untouched, pristine nature of the ice and how it creates a feeling of being part of a renewable wilderness area. As a member of the close-knit Utqiaġvik community of whalers and scientists, Dr. George focuses on bowhead whales, emphasizing their extraordinary characteristics. Bowheads are massive creatures, known to reach lengths of up to 60 feet, and potentially even larger based on historical records. They possess thick blubber, long baleen plates used for filtering prey, and remarkably large heads that continue to grow throughout their lives. Bowheads captivated even Charles Darwin, he says, who recognized the uniqueness of their baleen structure. Additionally, evidence suggests that bowheads live exceptionally long lives, potentially exceeding 150 years. Various techniques, such as chemical aging and baleen analysis, provide insights into their slow growth and delayed maturity in frigid Arctic waters. The bowhead whale’s longevity and reproductive patterns contribute to their cultural significance among Eskimo communities, where whaling plays a central role. The act of hunting and sharing the harvested whale is a cooperative endeavor that brings joy and happiness to the community, highlighting the selfless nature of their sharing network. The experience of witnessing the communal celebration and the deep connection to this important resource leaves a lasting impression on Dr. George.

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Dr. Craig George discusses his experiences living and working on the ice and learning from the Iñupiaq about the complexity of ice dynamics and ice safety. The preparations for his study of whales start in winter. He and his crew typically begin moving out onto the ice around mid-April, setting up a 24-hour watch. Due to the changing conditions, they now have to end their work in late May as the ice becomes too soft to remain on the ice pack. Challenges he faces include dealing with polar bears and the risk of ice breaking off and stranding the scientists. Craig talks about when their camp drifted in 1987 and when the ice shattered in 1985, he narrowly escaped onto safer ice. Craig relates stories of his encounters with bears and the need for safety measures and training. His scientific crew consists of scientists and local Iñupiat, and the work is intense and unpredictable, with each year presenting different circumstances. The location of their work along the coast is uncertain, as ice conditions and pressure ridges vary annually. Despite the uncertainties, he acknowledges the success of bowhead whale conservation, with the population rebounding to approximately 13,000 or more after facing the brink of extinction due to commercial hunting early in the 20th century.

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Dr. George reflects on raising a family in the Arctic. Despite suggestions from family and friends in the lower 48 states to leave for better educational opportunities, Craig loved the small Utqiaġvik community, which offers good schools, a supportive community, dog mushing, fishing, hunting, Eskimo dances, and a vibrant whaling culture. He and his wife have had experiences unmatched elsewhere. The region is filled with beautiful rivers, a vast roadless region with few people and abundant wildlife. Utqiaġvik, Alaska, formerly Barrow, provides a sense of safety, allowing its children to freely explore and engage in activities that may not be possible in urban areas.

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2022

Dr. Craig George discusses fascinating new cancer research in bowhead whales. As long-lived mammals, bowheads have unique mechanisms for tumor suppression and DNA repair, similar to other long-lived species like elephants and naked mole-rats. Bowheads also exhibit low body temperatures and metabolic rates, which may contribute to their longevity. The research has implications for human medicine. Dr. George expresses excitement about the work but also emphasizes the importance of including the native community that provided the specimens in any major breakthroughs or benefits that may arise from the research.

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Dr. Craig George expresses his enduring passion for going out on the sea ice to observe and study whales, particularly during the spring whaling season. He describes the excitement of the upcoming whale migration, beluga sightings, and the impressive scale of the wildlife spectacle in the Arctic. The conversation also touches on a memorable moment when Dr. George had to briefly leave a whale study to attend a wedding, and upon returning, he was struck by the beauty and joy of being out on the ice. The strong connection between the local community and the whales is emphasized, and Dr. George reflects on how it took time for him to truly understand and appreciate this profound relationship.

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Dr. Craig George talks about local impacts of global warming and changes in the traditional whaling practices of the Iñupiat . The migration of bowhead whales seems to be happening earlier, and there are adjustments in hunting due to weaker ice. The opening of the Arctic has allowed for a more extended fall hunting season, and there are speculations about the potential reasons behind the variations in whale presence, including food availability and the influence of killer whales and vessel traffic. Despite changes, some communities still use skin boats, preserving this traditional method of whaling. However, the impacts of climate change and the ice retreat continue to affect whaling practices and the bowhead whale population.

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Dr. Craig George talks about the rapidly changing Arctic and exciting developments in bowhead whale research. Dr. George reflects on how much has been learned over the past 40 years, transforming our understanding of these creatures. He emphasizes that it’s an equally exciting time for young researchers to get involved in bowhead studies. Native communities have also stepped up their involvement, contributing to a successful integration of native and western science. Dr. George mentions some promising young researchers who are making significant contributions to the field.

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Dr. Craig George and Peter Lourie discuss the remarkable adaptability of bowhead whales in the face of climate change. Despite the retreat of sea ice, the whale population has thrived, surprising researchers. Yet Dr. George highlights the emergence of new challenges, such as infections in adult bowhead whales and changes in Arctic biodiversity. Overall, the conversation offers valuable insights into the resilience of the Arctic species amid a changing climate.

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Dr. George reflects on raising a family in the Arctic. Despite suggestions from family and friends in the lower 48 states to leave for better educational opportunities, Craig loved the small Utqiaġvik community, which offers good schools, a supportive community, dog mushing, fishing, hunting, Eskimo dances, and a vibrant whaling culture. He and his wife have had experiences unmatched elsewhere. The region is filled with beautiful rivers, a vast roadless region with few people and abundant wildlife. Utqiaġvik, Alaska, formerly Barrow, provides a sense of safety, allowing its children to freely explore and engage in activities that may not be possible in urban areas.

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Mike Lockhart​

Field Biologist with ten years experience capturing polar bears on the Southern Beaufort Sea.

Mike Lockhart has provided field assistance on polar bear research projects for the U.S. Geological Survey and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service since 2001.  He has extensive experience with wildlife survey, capture, and telemetry techniques which have been put to use in polar bear field studies.   Mike has an M.S. in Biology and has worked in wildlife conservation since 1975.  He retired from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 2008 after 33 years with that agency, but continues to work actively as a consultant and field biologist.  During his tenure with FWS, Mike conducted and/or participated in a host of research projects on birds of prey, carnivores and ungulates; investigated energy development, contaminant, and oil spill effects on wildlife and developed management responses; helped establish a new National Wildlife Refuge near Denver, Colorado;  assisted with regulation development and management of the Federal subsistence program in Alaska; and, finally, served as the Species Coordinator for the Service’s endangered black-footed ferret recovery program.   Mike now lives in Laramie, Wyoming.

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2009

Mike Lockhart is a biologist who has dedicated his career to wildlife conservation and environmental consulting. With 33 years of experience working for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service focusing on various projects involving endangered species, raptors, carnivores, and more, has recently been heavily involved in both addressing polar bear issues in the Arctic and assessing the environmental impact of wind farms in Wyoming. Mike’s expertise lies in aerial wildlife work and telemetry. He has spent nine field seasons in the Arctic, primarily in the South Beaufort Sea region, conducting hands-on work such as “capturing” bears, collecting biological samples, and fitting radio collars. Mike’s typical day involves early mornings, meticulous equipment preparation, and helicopter missions to locate and capture polar bears, which can be challenging due to the vastness of the Arctic terrain.

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Arctic explorer and wildlife biologist Mike Lockhart recounts his initial apprehension and subsequent fascination with the Arctic. Working in a challenging and unsafe environment made venturing into the Arctic daunting. However, his experiences flying over the frozen ocean, witnessing the majestic ice formations, and encountering polar bears have left him in awe. Mike admires the intelligence and motherly instincts of the bears, while also acknowledging their potential for aggression. Despite the risks, he has developed a deep love for the Arctic and its unique beauty.

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Mike Lockhart, an expert Arctic researcher, discusses the meticulous measurements and data collection involved in studying polar bears. These measurements include standard parameters like age, condition, skull measurements, total length, weight, and various samples for chemical analysis and genetics. Each bear is uniquely identifiable through ear tags and lip tattoos, which allow for accurate identification and tracking. The extensive database built from these efforts over decades provides crucial information on the population structure of polar bears in the Beaufort Sea, making it one of the most comprehensive datasets available. Lockhart emphasizes the challenging nature of working with polar bears and acknowledges that climate change is expected to have a significant impact on the species.

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Mike Lockhart discusses the challenges faced by polar bears in the face of rapid climate change. He emphasizes the concern that bears may not be able to adapt quickly enough to the changing ice conditions, often getting stranded on shore or succumbing to long swims in harsh weather to reach the retreating ice. Lockhart highlights the remarkable ability of polar bears to locate food, especially seals, even in vast and icy environments. He mentions their skill in tracking scents and finding hidden breathing holes in the ice, where seals are hiding. Lockhart also shares anecdotes of capturing polar bears, including instances where bears instinctively dive into water to escape helicopters, underlining the importance of ensuring their safety during research efforts. He touches upon the interaction between polar bears and Iñupiaq communities that harvest whales.

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Dr. Paty Matrai

Senior Research Scientist Emerita at Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences, Boothbay Harbor, Maine.

Interim Technology Transfer Officer

Air-Sea Exchange Laboratory

Biological Oceanographer Paty Matrai from Bigelow Lab, Boothbay Harbor, Maine. Dr. Paty Matrai is a Senior Research Scientist at Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences in beautiful mid-coast Maine. Trained as a biological oceanographer, she became interested in biological-chemical interactions at the air-sea interface and, in polar regions, at the seawater-ice-snow-air interface. Her group focuses on biological production of gases and aerosols that are exchanged with the overlying atmosphere, both in the lab and in the field. The hardship of frequent sampling in and over the Arctic Ocean has led to build and/or deploy automated and autonomous systems that can sample the atmosphere and the ocean for chemical and/or biological processes; this is essential in a changing Arctic.  Dr. Matrai is now retired.

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2009

Dr. Patty Matrai, a biological oceanographer originally from Chile, shares her journey into the field of Arctic research since the early 90’s. Her first experiences in the Arctic were in the Beaufort Sea, around 72 degrees North, but it was her voyage to the North Pole, deep within the pack ice, that truly revealed the essence of the Arctic to her. As a biologist, Dr. Matrai studies microscopic algae, specifically marine phytoplankton and ice algae, which release compounds that influence climate, cloud formation, and ozone destruction. These algae play a crucial role in the ecosystem and are interconnected with the air, water, and ice. Dr. Matrai collaborates with atmospheric and marine chemists to understand the production and effects of these compounds. Her research aims to account for the sources and sinks of these compounds, contributing to a deeper understanding of climate change. The Arctic, with its short and intense period of ice melt and limited light availability, becomes a concentrated and productive region during late spring and summer. This productivity supports a complex food chain, from plants to fish and seals, and ultimately humans who rely on hunting for their sustenance. Dr. Matrai’s work sheds light on the intricate dynamics of the Arctic ecosystem and the interplay between its various components.

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Dr. Lily Peacock

Research biologist for the US Geological Survey, Anchorage, AK. Lily has studied Polar Bears in Canada where they are still harvested by native peoples.

Lily Peacock is a Research Wildlife Biologist with the United States Geological Survey at the Alaska Science Center, Anchorage, AK. She specializes in population ecology, harvest management, ecological genetics, polar bear conservation.

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2009

Polar bear biologist with the U.S. Geological Survey, Dr. Lily Peacock discusses the effects of climate change on polar bear populations and emphasizes the importance of monitoring polar bear harvests. While climate change is likely the primary factor impacting polar bears, monitoring harvests (in Canada native people still hunt the polar bear for food) is crucial for several reasons. Firstly, continuing to harvest polar bears adds to the overall decline caused by climate change. Secondly, climate change is expected to increase polar bears’ interactions with humans, leading to a potential increase in harvest rates. Additionally, due to the heightened international scrutiny surrounding polar bears and their conservation, understanding the impacts of a harvest on bear populations is essential.

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Dr. Lily Peacock had no idea she would end up studying polar bears and large mammals in the Arctic. Originally majoring in entomology and focusing on insects, her interests shifted while studying salmon in Alaska during graduate school. Fascinated by the impacts of human activities on animals, she began studying black bears and their population management in Southeast Alaska. Dr. Peacock found counting animals to be challenging yet intriguing, appreciating the complexity and mathematics involved. Eventually, she applied for a job studying polar bears in Nunavut, an opportunity that led her to a remote Arctic hamlet near Baffin Island. Living there for four field seasons, she and her husband embraced the adventure and the opportunity to immerse themselves in the local culture. The traditional lifestyle, language, and food captivated them. After deciding to return south, Dr. Peacock took a job in Anchorage, where she continues her research.

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Dr. Lily Peacock, a research biologist for the U.S. Geological Survey, is actively involved in polar bear monitoring and research. With a long-term data set spanning back to the 1980s, her work focuses on understanding polar bear ecology and assessing the impacts of climate change on these iconic creatures. Previously serving as the polar bear biologist in Nunavut, Canada, Dr. Peacock engaged in both research and management, collaborating closely with Inuit communities and hunting organizations to set sustainable harvest quotas based on scientific evidence. Her research primarily centered on the Eastern Arctic, particularly Baffin Island, where she studied seasonalized populations of polar bears that spend several months on land during the ice-free period. Through her fieldwork experiences, she gained invaluable insights into the challenges and rewards of conducting research in remote and rugged Arctic environments, relying on specialized techniques, bear-proof cabins, and logistical support from local communities. Dr. Peacock’s dedication to studying polar bears and her contributions to understanding their behavior and conservation have made her a respected figure in the field of wildlife biology.

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Dr. Lily Peacock provides insights into the population dynamics and behavior of polar bears across the Arctic. Based on professional knowledge and scientific data, she estimates that there are between 20,000 and 25,000 polar bears divided into 19 subpopulations. These subpopulations exhibit varying levels of interconnectivity and are managed and researched accordingly. Alaska is home to two subpopulations, those in the Southern Beaufort Sea and others in the Chukchi Sea, while Canada has 13 subpopulations, including the South Baffin, Kane Basin, and Davis Strait. Dr. Peacock highlights the distinction between seasonal ice populations–some bears spend several months on land during the ice-free period. Other populations have ice cover year-round, such as those in the Canadian archipelago. She mentions ongoing research focusing on understanding the changes occurring in the polar bears’ behavior, specifically regarding their choice to stay on the ice or come ashore in the fall.

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Dr. Lily Peacock discusses the primary objective of her research, which is to understand and regulate the sustainable harvest of polar bears. To achieve this, she and her colleagues gather extensive population data by marking and tracking individual bears over time. They aim to determine population size, growth rate, survival rates, and birth rates through intensive population ecology studies. The research involves catching and marking a significant number of bears, with capture rates of 20 to 25 bears per day. Permanent marking is crucial to ensure accurate identification, so tattoos are applied to the inside of each upper lip, providing a permanent and unique mark for each bear. These tattoos are used to track bears’ lifespans and mortality rates. In addition to tattoos, satellite tracking devices are attached to some bears, allowing researchers to monitor their movements and behavior. Dr. Peacock mentions the advancement of non-color tags, such as ear tag transmitters and glue-on transmitters, which provide more comfortable tracking options for bears, particularly adult males whose necks are too large for traditional collars. This new technology allows researchers to study the movements of adult males and sub-adults, expanding their understanding beyond just female bears.

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Dr. Cheryl Rosa

Polar Research Biologist and Wildlife Veterinarian, North Slope Borough, Dept. of Wildlife Management, Barrow, AK

Dr. Cheryl Rosa is Deputy Director and Anchorage-based Alaska Director of the United States Arctic Research Commission (USARC). She helps the seven-member, presidentially appointed Commission in its efforts to strengthen Arctic research and ties to the State of Alaska and international partners. Dr. Rosa, a Research Biologist and Wildlife Veterinarian for the North Slope Borough (NSB) Department of Wildlife Management in Barrow, Alaska, received a Doctorate in Veterinary Medicine from Tufts University and a Doctorate in Biology from the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

Dr. Rosa has been active on the North Slope in a wide range of studies, including wildlife health and zoonotic disease, marine mammal stranding response, subsistence food safety and oil spill/offshore discharge research. She is a member of the International Whaling Commission’s Scientific Committee, the Science Advisory Panel of the North Pacific Research Board and the Polar Bear Technical Committee (past). Dr. Rosa has worked and lived in the Arctic for almost a decade.

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2009

Dr. Cheryl Rosa, a research biologist and wildlife veterinarian, talks about her journey to Alaska and her work with bowhead whales. She explains how she started working in Alaska after a large oil spill and eventually ended up working for the North Slope Borough Department of Wildlife Management. Dr. Rosa describes her fascination with bowhead whales and how she got involved in a project to assess their health. She talks about the various methods used to collect data and analyze the samples, including examining the tissues microscopically and looking at the health indices. Dr. Rosa notes how healthy the bowhead whales are compared to other marine mammals and how important it is to talk to local hunters and understand the culture in the region.

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Dr. Cheryl Rosa, formerly Deputy Director and Anchorage-based Alaska Director of the United States Arctic Research Commission (USARC), discusses her experience of going on her first whale expedition. She describes the challenges of working in a harsh environment with little shelter, and the need to ensure that sufficient data is collected prior to any development in the area, so that changes in animal populations can be tracked and understood. She discusses her work with bowheads, caribou, seals, and walrus, and the importance of collecting and archiving samples for future use. She also demonstrates a double-headed microscope that she uses for her work, which allows her to take pictures of slides and make measurements and color analyses.

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Dr. Paul Shepson

Dean of Stony Brook University School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences (SoMAS) & Cofounder of ArcticStories.net

Paul Shepson was born and raised in Elmira, N.Y., a child of the Finger Lakes.  He is an atmospheric chemist, and SUNY Distinguished Professor and Dean of the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences (SoMAS), at Stony Brook University.  From 2014 – 2018 he served as Director of the Division of Atmospheric and Geospace Sciences at the National Science Foundation, as a “rotator”, on leave from Purdue University, where he was a member of the faculty from 1994 – 2018.  He obtained a B.S. in Chemistry from State University of New York College at Cortland, and a Ph.D. in analytical/atmospheric chemistry from Penn State.  He worked for Mobil Oil Corp. (Paulsboro refinery) in 1982, before moving to a research position in the Atmospheric Sciences Research Laboratory at the U.S. EPA in Research Triangle Park, N.C., from 1983-1987.  From 1987 – 1994 he was a Professor in the Chemistry Department at York University in Toronto, where he was also Director of the York Centre for Atmospheric Chemistry.  Most recently at Purdue he held an appointment as Distinguished Professor of Chemistry, and Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences.  From 2008 – 2013 he was Head of the Department of Chemistry, and was also the founding Director of the Purdue Climate Change Research Center (PCCRC) in 2004. He is an avid pilot with instrument, commercial, and multi-engine ratings, and has done experiments with his airplane flying over 49 of the 50 states.  Professor Shepson is keenly interested in understanding and communicating about the impacts of anthropogenic activities on the composition of the atmosphere, and how that relates to climate change and ecological impacts.  With Peter Lourie, he is co-creator of the website arcticstories.net.  He is a Fellow of the American Geophysical Union, and has ~250 peer-reviewed publications on various issues related to atmospheric and analytical chemistry, and climate change impacts and mitigation.

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2022

Paul Shepson discusses the rewarding aspect of inspiring the next generation to be excited about the Arctic. As a teacher, he takes pride in seeing his former PhD students pass on their knowledge and enthusiasm to their own students. However, he also acknowledges the sobering reality that the Arctic, due to human activities, is undergoing irreversible changes, possibly losing its summer sea ice in his students’ lifetimes. This has serious consequences for the non-human creatures that call the Arctic home. He expresses a sense of ethical responsibility, believing that humans shouldn’t have the right to make decisions that harm other living beings and their habitats.

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John Tidwell

Polar Bear Photographer

2009

Polar bear photographer and local Utqiaġvik resident, John Tidwell talks about how the bears can survive on land. He agrees that ice is getting thin and that bears are having a hard time finding seals on the dwindling ice, but he also has what he considers evidence that there’s plenty of food on land for the bears.

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Photographer John Tidwell reflects on his experiences in the Arctic, sharing intriguing stories about polar bears and their behavior. He recalls a time when bears were attracted to the smell of pizza from a local restaurant, and how they showed a strong preference for honey over other food options. Joe explains his tactics for photographing bears, including setting up bait and observing their footprints to determine the best time for sightings. He also shares his unique camouflage techniques, using a vehicle with a tarp and umbrella to blend in with the surroundings. John discusses the bears’ aggression towards each other and their cautious nature to avoid getting hurt. He mentions his preferred vehicles for exploration and taking visitors to see bears. Despite some misconceptions, John believes that bears in far-off Churchill on Hudson Bay in Canada are well-fed and can be found along the beach during the summer, where they fish and scavenge for food.

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Barrow (now Utqiaġvik) photographer John Tidwell opposes carrying guns while photographing bears, advocating for peaceful coexistence of man and animal. John shares stories of memorable encounters with bears. He also highlights the difficulty of capturing stunning shots, often incorporating elements like crashing waves and flying seagulls. Recently, John has ventured into selling his bear photographs on cups. Through his work, he conveys a deep appreciation for wildlife and the importance of non-invasive observation.

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Geoff York

Senior Director of Conservation and Staff Scientist At Polar Bears International.

Geoff has more than 20 years of Arctic field experience, including 14 consecutive years of polar bear capture and handling efforts in the Chukchi and Southern Beaufort Seas. Prior to joining Polar Bears International, Geoff was the Arctic Species and Polar Bear Lead for WWF’s Global Arctic Program. While at WWF, Geoff immersed himself in international policy issues and was fortunate to work on field projects in Canada, Norway, Russia, and Alaska. Prior to that, he worked as a biologist and program manager for the U.S. Geological Survey’s Polar Bear Project, the leading polar bear research team in the U.S., headquartered in Anchorage, Alaska. Since joining PBI, Geoff has continued his interest in field-based work across the Arctic, including a focus on reducing conflict between polar bears and people. He is a member of the Polar Bear Specialist Group of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, the U.S. Polar Bear Recovery Team, a past chair and active member of the Polar Bear Range States Conflict Working Group, and sits on the advisory board for the International Polar Bear Conservation Center in Winnipeg, Manitoba. He has a M.S. in biology from the University of Alaska Fairbanks and a B.A. in English from the University of Notre Dame—the perfect combination for communicating science. Geoff has dedicated his career to the conservation of polar bears and their Arctic home. He is based at PBI Headquarters in Bozeman, Montana.

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2010

When Arctic Stories first meets biologist Geoff York, a member of the polar bear program at USGS and Arctic Species and Polar Bear Lead for World Wildlife Fund’s (WWF’s) Global Arctic Program, he reflects on the early days of his involvement. Recounting his initial encounters with polar bears, he emphasizes their surreal appearance and the stark contrast of their white fur against the barren landscape. He also shares a harrowing experience from his time with the Marine Mammal project, when they found themselves unexpectedly approached by an adult male polar bear while sampling carcasses. The incident escalated as they attempted to deter the bear, with one team member resorting to firing warning shots and another charging at the bear with a snow machine. Despite their efforts, the bear remained aggressive, displaying intense jaw-popping and pursuing them for a considerable distance. This encounter left a lasting impression on Geoff, as he had never seen such aggressive behavior from a polar bear before or since.

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Biologist Geoff York, a passionate advocate for the Arctic and polar bears, is drawn to the vastness and untouched beauty of the region. With a deep connection to the Arctic’s dynamic environment, he explores the sea ice and witnesses the incredible resilience of polar bears in their frozen habitat. Geoff’s career transition from a researcher with the US Geological Survey to a conservation leader at the World Wildlife Fund reflects his commitment to collaboration, knowledge sharing, and influencing positive change. With an optimistic outlook, he believes that by addressing climate change and protecting the Arctic, we can secure a future for polar bears and the unique ecosystem they call home.

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Geoff York, an Arctic enthusiast and polar bear advocate, shares a captivating story of his closest encounter with a polar bear. While conducting research on the ice, Geoff and his team often attract the curiosity of other bears. One particular incident stood out when they unintentionally disturbed a female bear in her den. As they were examining the den, the bear unexpectedly emerged, causing a moment of panic. However, the bear displayed non-aggressive behavior, merely investigating their presence. Geoff recounts the intense moments when he thought his life might end, but he was amazed by the bear’s lack of aggression. Eventually, with the combined efforts of the team and their quick reactions, the encounter ended without harm to anyone involved. This incident reinforced Geoff’s understanding of the bears’ behavior and their focus on ensuring their own safety rather than attacking humans.

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Geoff York, a conservationist with WWF, shares his passion for the Arctic during a recent conversation. As he glances at the map behind him, he expresses how it resonates with his worldview. Although he doesn’t live in the Arctic now, having formerly spent three years in Fairbanks, he feels a deep personal connection to the region. His drive to work towards its conservation stems from an unexplainable pull he feels towards the high north. In his new role at WWF, he coordinates their work throughout the circumpolar region, which has allowed him to broaden his understanding of the Arctic and its diverse peoples. Geoff’s upcoming travels to places like Svalbard and Wrangel Island will offer him a chance to gain insights into the different Arctic communities.

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2022

Conversing with Pete Lourie and Dr. Paul Shepson, Geoff York shares his transition to Polar Bears International (PBI) from the World Wildlife Fund. PBI has grown rapidly over the years, expanding its research programs and focusing on advocacy and policy work. Despite their dedicated efforts, Geoff expresses concern about the state of polar bears and the impacts of climate change. He emphasizes the urgency of taking action and the lack of progress on the political front. But he also highlights positive developments such as advancements in electrification, renewable energy, and increased awareness of the impacts of oil and gas activities. When it comes to storytelling and outreach, Geoff finds videos to be the most powerful tool to educate the public, as they provide a visual and immersive experience for the audience. He believes in showcasing compelling visual assets and sharing genuine on-the-ground experiences to engage and educate people about the Arctic. Geoff and his team actively work with native peoples and communities, building relationships and collaborating on projects. They aim to involve local voices in the dissemination of information, ensuring a more comprehensive and authentic representation of the Arctic. Despite challenges, Geoff remains dedicated to his work, striving to make significant strides in conservation, even as the urgency to protect polar bears and their habitat continues to grow.

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Geoff York’s career trajectory has taken him from a pure research position at the United States Geological Survey (USGS) to a more general role working across the Arctic. Currently, as part of Polar Bears International, he is involved in funding research programs, policy work, and advocacy. The organization has grown significantly over the years, expanding its reach and impact. However, when discussing the state of polar bears and the impacts of climate change, Geoff admits to being far from optimistic. The constant flow of bad news highlights the urgency of the situation and the challenges ahead in protecting polar bears and their Arctic habitat.

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Geoff York’s job has allowed him to move beyond the confines of a specific research area and gain a broader perspective on polar bear habitats. Working for organizations like the World Wildlife Fund and Polar Bears International, he has had the opportunity to travel extensively across the Arctic, visiting various polar bear habitats and building connections with partners and communities in different regions. This broader geographic scope has given him unique insights into how the impacts of climate change are affecting polar bears differently in various areas. Geoff’s experiences on the ground have been instrumental in his ability to share stories and raise awareness about the challenges polar bears face due to climate change.

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According to Geoff York, one of the most effective vehicles for storytelling is video. He believes that video is a powerful tool as it allows Polar Bears International and other environmental organizations to visually take people to different places and include diverse voices from their team and partner organizations. By embedding videos in presentations, Geoff can create a more engaging and immersive experience for the audience, showcasing compelling visual assets of the Arctic and its wildlife. Geoff also highlights the significance of using visual imagery, especially in portraying animals like polar bears, which many people may never get a chance to see in the wild, except in local zoos or aquariums.

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Geoff York and Polar Bears International collaborate with native communities, including Cree, Dene, Métis, and Inuit. They work on polar bear safety projects and engage students through coloring books. Polar bear hunting is managed at the provincial and federal levels in Canada and Alaska, with hunting quotas varying among regions. Over time, hunting levels have decreased, and it remains a challenging and risky activity due to harsh conditions.

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Geoff York highlights the urgency of facing up to negative impacts on polar bears due to downstream changes, some of which may be irreversible and damaging. He emphasizes the need to consider not just wildlife but also the people in the Arctic and beyond. Geoff believes in framing communications to connect with people’s lives, making them aware of climate threats and encouraging specific actions. Balancing public sympathy with the complexities of conservation, he navigates the challenges of addressing individual cases while focusing on broader population conservation efforts.

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Geoff York shares his experiences with varying perspectives on renewable energy, where enthusiasm and optimism often come from younger generations. He observes that even among conservation-minded individuals, there can be infighting and resistance to certain renewable energy projects. However, he remains hopeful and continues to advocate for a broader perspective, considering the bigger picture and the trade-offs for any solution. He emphasizes the need to focus on the positive impacts of renewable energy, despite the challenges of nimbyism and political divisions. Geoff also highlights instances of unexpected support for renewable energy, even from conservative individuals, which gives him hope for a more inclusive and sustainable future.

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Geoff York works now at Polar Bears International (PBI) and he used to work for the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), each of which focus on science and outreach rather than heavy lobbying in Washington. These nonprofits leverage scientific expertise for submissions in changing government policy and provide scientists for congressional testimony. PBI is expanding its policy and advocacy work and collaborates with zoos and aquariums to reach millions of people and influence policymakers indirectly through their advocacy efforts.

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Geoff York, representing organizations like Polar Bears International (PBI), recognizes the importance of promoting renewable energy and the shift to electric vehicles. While some NGOs lobby and invest in renewable energy, PBI’s approach is more science and outreach-oriented. PBI collaborates with zoos and aquariums to reach millions of people and influence policymakers indirectly through their advocacy efforts. Geoff is hopeful that once the social tipping point for electric vehicles is reached and people realize their benefits, the transition to renewable energy will accelerate. He believes that economic pressures, such as insurance companies facing the financial impact of climate change-related disasters, could also drive positive change.

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Geoff York’s voice plays a significant role in promoting progress for climate change. He emphasizes the importance of conversations and cultural values in driving change. Through Arcticstories.net, these discussions create connections and evolve over time. Geoff mentions the significance of engaging with people who hold different perspectives, even if disagreements arise. He believes that corporations, despite their past actions, have the potential to change and become part of the solution. Although some corporations have made strides in promoting renewable energy, Geoff highlights the need for a genuine commitment to sustainability to create a positive impact on the planet.

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