Eminent polar bear scientist Ian Stirling.

© Daniel J. Cox/Natural Exposures

6/13/2013 5:57:07 PM

Dr. Ian Stirling Honored for Polar Bear Work

World-renowned polar bear scientist Ian Stirling, a member of our Advisory Council, has been awarded honorary doctorates from the University of Alberta and the University of British Columbia in recognition of achievements in polar bear research and the effects of climate change on this iconic species.

Krista Wright, PBI's executive director, said the honors are well-deserved for the scientist, who has spent more than 40 years studying polar bears—longer than anyone else in the world.

"Ian Stirling's long-term research and passionate commitment to conservation have helped draw attention to the urgent need to take action to save polar bears," she said. "His dedication to science and generosity of spirit have earned him respect and admiration around the globe."

Dr. Stirling served as a research scientist for the Canadian Wildlife Service from 1970 to 2007, where his work focused on polar bears and other arctic wildlife, including ringed and bearded seals, beluga whales, and walruses. His research on the Western Hudson Bay polar bear population provided the first clear evidence of the impact of climate change on these ice-dependent mammals.

Over the course of his career, Stirling has authored or co-authored more than 200 scientific articles and three books, including his most recent, Polar Bears: The Natural History of a Threatened Species. He is an Officer of the Order of Canada and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada.

Dr. Stirling earned a Bachelor's and Masters of Science degree from the University of British Columbia and a Doctorate from the University of New Zealand. Since 1979, he has served as an adjunct professor in the University of Alberta's Department of Biological Sciences, where he has directly supervised or co-supervised 10 master's students, seven Ph.D.s, and two post-doctoral fellows.

Although these responsibilities are not typically part of a government scientist's role, in a news article on the University of Alberta's website, the scientist called the unsalaried work with the students among the most satisfying of his career.

"Sometimes the most valuable contributions that you can make to society are those that you undertake simply to help make this a better place, independent of remuneration," he said.

In that same article, Stirling urged the graduates to discover and document truth as scientists, to "test the limits of your minds, work in other countries, collaborate with other scientists and evaluate ideas that challenge your own beliefs."

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