After nearly 30 years of dangling from the windows of helicopters buzzing low over Arctic sea ice, world-renowned polar bear expert Steven C. Amstrup ’75 is trading in his tranquilizer gun for a laptop and the lecture circuit.
Amstrup, a recently retired wildlife biologist with the U.S. Geological Survey’s Alaska Science Center in Anchorage, is legendary in conservation circles for his work with polar bears.
He led the 19-member international scientific team whose nine reports convinced former Secretary of Interior Dirk Kempthorne, in 2008, to list polar bears as a threatened species, which granted them special protection under the Endangered Species Act.
Long before that, he was the first scientist ever to successfully follow the movements of polar bears with radio-tracking collars. They’re a tough fit, he said, laughing: “Even now we cannot radio-collar adult male polar bears because their necks are bigger than their heads. They’re kinda shaped like traffic cones.”
His legacy to date? Conducting, analyzing and interpreting a career’s worth of comprehensive field work to unravel such polar bear mysteries as population sizes and boundaries, den locations, year-round movement patterns, mortality rates and, perhaps most importantly, their dependence on sea ice. [Continue Reading...]