|The Polar Bear Scientists
Scientists in the Field Series
written by Peter Lourie
Follow scientists as they scan the Alaskan wilderness for these magnificent creatures.
It is springtime on the North Slope of Alaska, and the U.S. Geological Survey team—the polar bear biologists Kristin Simac and Mike Lockhart—is gearing up for polar bear capturing. During a capture, all information is collected on the sea ice. The scientists locate bears from a helicopter, tranquilize them, give them tattoo ID numbers and tags, and collect data such as height, weight, and body fat measurements and samples such as blood, hair, feces, and even teeth.
All this information goes into a large database studied by scientists such as Drs. Steven Amstrup and George Durner, the former and current leaders of the Polar Bear Research Project.
For more than forty-five years, scientists have been capturing bears in order to get information. What has this information been telling scientists about polar bears and global warming?
Behind the Book
This photo was taken on the Southern Beaufort Sea north of Barrow, Alaska, on March 27th. It was 35 below zero and the field biologists had just darted this 1000-lb male polar bear with enough sedative to keep it calm for an hour so they could measure, weigh, and take blood samples.
Long-term monitoring of polar bears in Alaska will help scientists and managers know what to do as the ice and the seals that polar bears depend on disappear.
The weight of this fella's head was like a cannon on my legs. It's so eerie to be this close to such a magnificent creature. His eyes were open and I could hear him breathe.
A few hours later he was up and about, carrying on with his life, so supremely adapted to the stark and extreme conditions of the Arctic.
Awards and Recognition
“Lourie joins the field research team on several dramatic helicopter expeditions, called captures, in search of polar bears to measure and tag. … He then takes us back to the lab to see the painstaking care scientists take to properly process and store these data. Interspersed with the field report are commentaries from the project directors, who spend their time analyzing the data and publicizing their results. Crisp photographs of the polar bears and researchers effectively convey the massive size and beauty of the animals and the details of the equipment needed to do scientific research in such extreme conditions.” (The Horn Book)
“For those readers who are concerned with our vanishing wildlife and want to know more about what is being done to save them, especially the polar bear, this book is a must–read.” (National Science Teachers Association)
"The full-color photographs are nothing short of stunning. They provide images of the animals staring up at the looming helicopter, mother bears with cubs, and scientists carefully and almost tenderly working on the sedated bears.” (School Library Journal)
“As a professor of a wildlife biology program, I was impressed that he conveyed, in fewer than 100 pages, concepts that we teach in our bachelor's degree in wildlife science. Although a college program goes into more detail, Lourie provides substantial details that I have not read in a book about wildlife biology that was meant for the general public, and school age readers at that! The photos are distinctive and uniquely suited for the theme of the book.” (Science Books & Films)
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