© Daniel J. Cox/NaturalExposures.com

About Us

Polar bears are what we’re about, entirely.

Polar Bears International is the only organization dedicated solely to wild polar bears. We know polar bears--their habits, their ecology, their threats--and are recognized leaders in their conservation.

Our Story

Made up of a small group of passionate conservationists, scientists, and volunteers­­, PBI exists to help secure a future for polar bears across the Arctic.

Our commitment to innovation, science, and technology fuels our day-to-day, but our hope sustains our vision. We persevere through our inherent optimism. Collaborative by trait, we push to move beyond borders, silos, and bottom lines to prove the phenomenal impact we can have together as a global community.

We share what we know and leave our doors wide open, unifying with a broad cross-section of people who help us in our mission.

Our partners range in size and strength, but they all value the two things we know for certain: knowledge is a catalyst for change and inspiration is more powerful than fear.

Our story moves beyond the plight of the polar bears, because we know that humans are not adverse to the visible threats to our global ecosystem. The final act is unwritten and we use every resource we have to facilitate action; to combat the belief that it’s too late; and to unify the world into action. Learn more about our work and what makes us different.

© Daniel J. Cox/NaturalExposures.com

Vision

We envision the long-term survival of polar bears and the unique part of the world they call home. We see this iconic species roaming the sea ice for generations to come.

Mission

Our mission is to conserve polar bears and the sea ice they depend on. Through media, science, and advocacy, we work to inspire people to care about the Arctic, the threats to its future, and the connection between this remote region and our global climate.

© BJ Kirschhoffer/Polar Bears International

Strategic Objectives

Core Values

 

© BJ Kirschhoffer/Polar Bears International

Our Team

Senior Management


Krista Wright

Executive Director

Krista has worked with nonprofit organizations that focus on building environmental literacy and a conservation ethic for more than 20 years. Her expertise includes strategic planning, environmental education, and nonprofit management and development. She is a visionary thinker who is skilled at establishing partnerships with entities, including government agencies, other nonprofits, educational groups, universities, and the business sector. She has also volunteered as a consultant for a variety of non-profit organizations, offering expertise in development and strategic planning. Wright previously held positions with Montana Outdoor Science School, Big Sky Ski and Summer Resort, and Colorado Outdoor Education Center. She received a B.S. in outdoor education from Kansas University and later studied elementary education at Montana State University. Wright began volunteering with PBI in 2008 and joined the staff as COO and Executive Vice President in 2009. She is a passionate conservationist who is deeply concerned about the effects of global warming on polar bears, the Arctic, and the planet.

Dr. Steven Amstrup

Chief Scientist

Steven is chief scientist for Polar Bears International. He also is an adjunct professor at the University of Wyoming in Laramie. He earned a B.S. in Forestry from the University of Washington (1972), a M.S. in Wildlife Management from the University of Idaho (1975), and a Ph.D. in Wildlife Management from the University of Alaska Fairbanks (1995). Prior to joining PBI, he led research on all aspects of polar bear ecology in the Alaskan Beaufort Sea between 1980 and 2010. He is a past chair of the IUCN Polar Bear Specialist Group and has been an active member of the group since 1980. He has authored or co-authored over 150 peer-reviewed articles on movements, distribution and population dynamics of large mammals, and is the senior editor of a recent text on population estimation methods. In 2007, he led a USGS research team in production of nine reports that became the basis for the 2008 decision by the U.S. Secretary of the Interior to list polar bears as a threatened species because of the threats they face from global warming. More recently Dr. Amstrup led an effort showing polar bears are not unavoidably doomed. In the December 2010 issue of Nature, he and his coauthors showed that preserving polar bears is all about controlling human-caused temperature rise. In 2012, Amstrup was selected as recipient of the Indianapolis Prize and a Bambi Award for his efforts in animal conservation. In July 2020, Dr. Amstrup and his coauthors published a study in Nature Climate Change, following up on his 2010 study, this time using new understandings of polar bear energetics with projected sea ice loss to forecast when and where polar bear reproductive ability and survival would decline across individual subpopulations. This marked the first time that scientists answered the critical question of when the persistence of polar bear populations across the Arctic will be threatened due to sea ice loss from global warming.

Geoff York

Senior Director of Conservation

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.

Barbara Nielsen

Senior Director of Communications

Barbara is a professional writer whose articles on nature, wildlife, travel, and gardening have appeared in a number of national magazines. She is the author of Hummingbird Gardens, Night Creatures, and Great Barrier Reef and a former field editor for Better Homes & Gardens and its garden magazines. Barbara saw her first polar bear while on assignment in Churchill in 1983. Her article for Modern Maturity, the AARP magazine, on the polar bear migration there, with photos by Polar Bears International's founder, Dan Guravich, helped jump-start the town's tourism industry. She has remained passionate about the bears ever since. She holds a degree in English from LSU and has been involved with PBI since the organization was founded in 1992, first as a volunteer and later as a full-time staff member. She lives and works in Washington, D.C.

Full Time Staff


Betsy Jasper

Manager of Member Services

Betsy has a multi-faceted background in administration. Her position in member services includes fulfilling adoptions, processing donations, shipping, and other tasks that help the Bozeman office run smoothly. She embraces being part of the PBI team with her versatile behind-the-scenes skills. Betsy originally hails from Massachusetts and loves traveling back East to reconnect with her family there. She is learning to play the flute and is on a never-ending quest for better fitness. She finds happiness in the Rockies with her adult kids, long-time friends, and her stubborn but very sweet basset hound/beagle.

BJ Kirschhoffer

Director of Field Operations

BJ began working with PBI's remote broadcasting needs in Churchill in the fall of 2007 and quickly proved himself an invaluable member of the team, able to trouble-shoot technical problems in extreme conditions with no corner hardware store. He now ensures the smooth working of our field operations, from our Maternal Den Studies in Svalbard and Alaska to our Tundra Connections Webcasts, which link scientists in the field with people around the world. BJ also works to test and refine new technology that aids in polar bear research and contributes to cutting-edge fieldwork. He also oversees our Polar Bear Cam with explore.org, as well as the Beluga and Northern Lights Cams. BJ has a degree in wildlife photography from Montana State University.

Tara Kramer

Operations Manager

Tara's love of wide expanses and broad horizons began during childhood in the cornfields of eastern Iowa. She has since spent nearly a decade working in field operations for the U.S. Polar Programs at remote research sites in Greenland and Antarctica, devoting long periods of time to paddling, climbing, and fishing, and exploring quiet spaces both abroad and in the States. She studied writing at the University of Iowa, speaks French and Spanish, and works as a freelance writer for a variety of outdoor and literary publications including Patagonia and Alpinist. Tara’s reverence for the vast polar ecosystems and the profound experiences she’s encountered there inspire both her work in Arctic conservation and as a writer. Continuously torn between far away adventures and a strong cup of coffee in her own kitchen, she's currently based in Livingston, Montana with her long time love, Nick.

Marissa Krouse

Programs Manager

Marissa has a B.A. in psychology with a focus in animal behavior. She worked in a zoo setting for nine years, specifically in the fields of conservation education and animal husbandry. Her role at PBI includes leading our annual Climate Alliance training sessions for zoo staff, helping them to communicate effectively. She is the co-author of a Polar Bear Diet Trial publication in the Journal of Zoo and Wildlife Medicine (2014) and has published in the American Association of Zookeepers National Conference Proceedings (2010, 2011). Marissa is a motivated conservationist who values teamwork and is dedicated to helping others lead their communities. She believes in the legacy she will leave behind and works to leave a healthy planet for future generations.

Janette May

Director of Marketing and Membership

Janette has a B.S. in Business Administration with an emphasis in Marketing from the University of Montana. She brings to Polar Bear International a wealth of marketing and business development experience and has worked in a variety of industries, including healthcare, hospitality, and consumer goods and services. She has also served on numerous nonprofit boards. Although Janette has been a fan of Polar Bears International for over a decade, she did not join the team until the fall of 2020. Janette is responsible for overseeing the strategic marketing and development plan for membership growth and engagement. When not working, she enjoys being outdoors, whether it is hiking, biking, skiing, or camping. Born and raised in southern Alberta, she and her dog, Gerty, now live and share a workspace in Bozeman, Montana.

Alysa McCall

Director of Conservation Outreach and Staff Scientist

Alysa has a B.Sc. (Hon.) in Animal Biology from Thompson Rivers University and an M.Sc. in Ecology from the University of Alberta where her thesis focused on the polar bears of western Hudson Bay. She gained hands-on experience with polar bears from multiple fall and spring field seasons in Tuktoyaktuk and Churchill, and she has been heavily involved in the collaring and tracking of Hudson Bay polar bears. Prior to joining PBI's staff, Alysa volunteered for several years in multiple capacities, including being a panelist on the Tundra Connections program and assisting with the Polar Bear Tracker. She is passionate about science education and polar bear conservation, and is dedicated to ensuring that future generations inherit a healthy planet. She lives in Whitehorse, Yukon.

Kieran McIver

Churchill Operations Manager

Kieran McIver is based in Churchill, Manitoba, home to our interpretive center. Kieran helps with the live cam education and outreach programs— northern lights, beluga whales, and polar bears— from set up and maintenance to operation and execution. Additionally Kieran helps manage logistics and assists with research projects. His knowledge of the region’s wildlife, remote landscapes, and ability to fix almost anything has proved invaluable to the team. Kieran ran his own stone mason business in Alberta and took a break to travel to Churchill, Manitoba, inspired by his love of wilderness & animals—specifically whales. Kieran spent an entire winter on a remote trapline outside Churchill, enhancing his knowledge of the region and giving him an array of unique experiences and stories to share. He is originally from Alberta and has a passion for conservation and wildlife in Canada’s North.

Joshua Miller

Postdoctoral Researcher

Josh’s research examines the molecular ecology and population genomics of polar bears to better understand the effects ongoing climate change will have on the species. His current research will examine how genetic diversity is distributed among polar bear populations, as well as the genetic basis of important traits like survival and reproductive success. Genetic information coupled with traditional ecology can form the basis of holistic management strategies that preserve long-term health of populations. Josh earned his bachelors at the University of California Santa Cruz and then worked as an intern at the Center for Conservation and Evolutionary Genetics at the Smithsonian National Zoological Park. He earned his doctorate from University of Alberta building genetic tools to help answer the question: “Is there a gene that makes bighorn sheep have big horns?” Josh has spent the last five years as a post-doctoral researcher using genetic and genomic methods to aid conservation and management of a wide range of species.

KT Miller

Senior Manager of Conservation Communications and Outreach

Kt has been working with Polar Bears International in one capacity or another for a decade now, with particular expertise in photo and video storytelling. Prior to joining the PBI team full time Kt spent winters working as a freelance photographer, filmmaker, and professional backcountry skier. Through many hours spent walking in the mountains, avoiding avalanches, and developing an intimate connection with the Land, Kt became more aware of different ways of knowing and how her experiences influenced her worldview. Now pursuing an MA in interdisciplinary studies from Royal Roads University Kt is studying how the braiding of Indigenous ways of knowing and Western science can better inform our collective understanding of polar bears. Kt grew up on the traditional lands of the Apsaalooké, Salish Kootenai, and Cheyenne in present day Bozeman, Montana. Kt remains involved in her home mountain community as board co-chair of Montana Mountaineering Association and an ambassador for Protect Our Winters and Winter Wildlands Alliance. Kt has over a decade of ski and alpine guiding experience, including expeditions in Greenland, Norway, Bolivia and Alaska, has completed the American Mountain Guide Association’s Alpine Skills and Ski Guide Courses and is a professional member of the American Avalanche Association. Kt most recently finds joy in exploring frozen high mountain lakes on backcountry ice skates.

Emily Ringer

Senior Manager of Communications and Advocacy

Emily received her B.A. from Tufts University in 2011 and has worked in the non-profit world ever since. She has a diverse sphere of environmental and communications experience ranging from being a field technician to a wildlife research assistant to a development and communications manager. She joined Polar Bears International's staff in 2012, where she manages all social channels, designs most digital and print resources, develops campaigns, manages the Polar Bears International brand, and, each fall, broadens her net to assist in field operations. She is currently working on a master's degree in public policy at Oregon State University. When it comes to polar bears, Emily believes quality communications to be a key bridge between science and the public, motivating the political will to take needed actions. As a lifelong lover of ecology and the natural world, she is deeply motivated by the fact that a future for wild polar bears also means a more just and sustainable future for all.

Maggie Smith

Accounting and Human Resource Compliance Manager

Maggie’s love of the wilderness comes from being born and raised in Fairbanks, Alaska, although she now resides in Bozeman, Montana. Maggie holds a BA in French with a minor in Business and a BBA in Accounting, both from the University of Alaska Fairbanks. She is currently pursuing a graduate certificate in Nature Resource Management from the University of Denver. Prior to joining PBI’s staff, Maggie worked in both public and private accounting. From a young age Maggie has adored polar bears and been fascinated with them. In her free time she rides her horse, skis, bikes, and enjoys being outdoors as much as possible.

Dr. Ruth Rivkin

Postdoctoral Researcher

Ruth studies the ecology and evolution of polar bears to better understand the impacts of increasing climate change in the North. She uses cutting-edge genomic and bioinformatic tools to assess adaptation and patterns of current and historic movement of polar bears to help inform conservation and management strategies. Ruth earned her BSc specializing in wildlife biology from the University of Guelph, then continued on to complete a PhD at the University of Toronto on urban evolutionary ecology. Ruth’s PhD research combined field experiments, natural populations surveys, and next generation sequencing and genetic analyses to understand the role urbanization plays in shaping the ecology and evolution of species and their interactions with one another. Originally from Newfoundland, Ruth now lives in Ontario, where she spends her free time trail running with her dogs and baking sourdough bread.

Janet Stringer

Senior Manager of Donor Relations

Janet is a native Montanan with nearly two decades of experience working in the non-profit sector with a focus on bear conservation. Janet earned a BA from Montana State University in film and television broadcast and has worked on multiple documentary projects highlighting the importance of wildlife and wildland protection. Throughout her career, Janet has served in many roles allowing her the opportunity to experience many aspects of conservation work including program planning, advocacy, lobbying, development, and office management. She currently serves as Manager of Donor Relations for PBI where she works to connect donors to polar bear conservation and climate action. She is a passionate advocate for animals everywhere, and spends her free time enjoying the beauty of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, where she lives with her husband Chip and five animals.

Part Time Staff


Dave Allcorn

Churchill Field Assistant

Dave Allcorn is a professional naturalist guide and interpreter, specializing in the flora of Arctic ecosystems. He has over a decade of experience in many far-flung polar regions, from Canada’s fabled Northwest Passage, Greenland, Svalbard, the Russian Arctic, and even the Geographic North Pole. He’s also made many trips to Antarctica by ship. Dave moved to the Canadian Arctic in 2008 and now calls this wild region his home. In addition to guiding Arctic trips, Dave takes part in Arctic research projects, including flora surveys, bird counts, snow sampling, ice-coring, and monitoring polar bear and beluga whale populations, to name a few. He is a fan of the Arctic winter and the challenges and adventures it brings. He can also speak enough Inuktitut to get himself into trouble (but not out of it). Dave is always looking forward to being outside and sharing his knowledge through stories, exploration, and infectious enthusiasm.

Thea Bechshoft

Staff Scientist

Dr. Thea Bechshoft is a marine mammal biologist with a Ph.D. in polar bear ecology/toxicology. So far, she has spent 15 years focusing on polar bears: studying and working in Denmark, Norway/Svalbard, and Canada; conducting polar bear fieldwork in remote locations in Greenland and Canada; publishing peer-reviewed scientific papers; and guiding polar voyages in Svalbard and Russia. During her time in Canada, Thea started volunteering for Polar Bears International in the capacity of a Tundra Connections panelist and Field Ambassador. She joined our staff in 2018, with a focus on polar bear research and public outreach. As part of this, she serves as our research advisor/facilitator for EAZA BearTAG. In addition, she is the author of the popular Facebook page, “Polar Bear Questions.” Thea has a deep love of nature, especially the vast and remote Arctic regions. The state of this beautiful area is vital to everyone—polar bears and humans included—and Thea is committed to ensuring that our common future includes a healthy Arctic ecosystem. She currently lives in Aarhus, Denmark.

Jurnee Bignell-Blair

Northern Administrative and Operations Assistant

Jurnee has lived in Churchill, Manitoba, Canada for 10 years and has had many diverse experiences there, including hunting and trapping. Her extracurricular activities have taken her across Canada, from playing volleyball across Manitoba to participating in Junior Rangers in British Columbia. In 2018, Jurnee was the inaugural recipient of the SHAD-Verna J. Kirkness Education Foundation Scholarship, which allows an Indigenous student with a passion for STEAM disciplines to attend a one-month program at Mount Allison University in New Brunswick. Jurnee has worked for Polar Bears International since 2018, assisting with education and outreach and providing operational support.

Board of Directors


John Kelleher

Chair

John joined PBI's board in 2014. Born and raised in Brandon, Manitoba, his love and appreciation for the North goes back many years. The owner of several Ford dealerships in Manitoba—including one of the most energy-efficient in all of Canada—he became interested in polar bears through work-related visits to Churchill and has been on bear-watching trips there several times. The most recent was as the co-chair of the YPO/WPO Polar Bear Experience. He has completed two Ironmans and loves to swim, run, bike (then repeat), and snowboard. He has been married for almost 30 years and has two daughters.

Amy Moore

Vice Chair & Secretary

Amy Moore, executive director of PAWS of Jackson Hole, brings a range of skills to PBI along with a passion for nature and wild places. Her background includes expertise in board management, organizational administration, fundraising, marketing, program development, community outreach, and events planning. Her concern about climate change and ensuring a future for polar bears inspired her to become involved with PBI. She lives in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

Steven Dolman

CFO

Steven is a partner in Deloitte Canada’s Audit practice. He has more than 27 years of experience, specializing in assurance, review, taxation and other business-related matters. He is a business advisor to many high net worth entrepreneurial family businesses as well as a dedicated provider of assurance and tax services to private companies in real estate and manufacturing. Steven holds both his CA and CPA designations. He lives in Ontario.

Richard P. Beck

Dick joined our board of directors in early 1999 and has served at two different times as CFO and once as secretary. A retired financial officer, Dick serves on the boards of two publicly-held U.S. technology companies. He made his first trip to Churchill in 1998 and returns as often as possible. He also traveled with PBI to Svalbard. He lives in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

Valerie Beck

Val joined PBI's board in 2007 after years of volunteer work. She is a professional copywriter and graphic designer who helps PBI with its marketing communications. A serious amateur photographer, she became impassioned about polar bear conservation after seeing them in the wild in Churchill, Manitoba. She is a champion for all critters, but keeps special the place in her heart and conscience for domestic dogs, polar bears, wolves, moose, and cougars. On the human side of things, she is most passionate about literacy for young children, which spells their future. In addition to PBI, she donates her professional services to Book Trust, a non-profit that funds the choice and ownership of books for children in poverty. She lives in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

Kristin Biniek

Kristin joined Polar Bears International’s board in 2020. She has a background in finance and investments and is currently working for a private family office. She has a passion for wildlife and conservation and enjoys skiing, travel, reading, and pop art. She lives in San Francisco and looks forward to traveling to Churchill to see her first wild polar bear.

Frederica Gamble

One of the original board directors, Freddy served as PBI's vice president through 2005 and remains active on the board. She is a retired human resources consultant who worked with corporations in the publishing industry. A veteran of early bear-watching trips to Cape Churchill, she has a keen interest in nature and wildlife, and has traveled to the Arctic more than a dozen times. She lives in New York City.

Patrick Keeley

The president of Inukshuk Capital Management, Patrick has over 25 years of experience in the investment industry managing assets for high net worth clients and institutional investors. He was named one of Canada's Top 40 Under 40 in 2006 and is an active member of the Young Presidents' Organization (YPO). In addition to his position on PBI's board, he has also served as a Director of the Canadian Stage Company and as a member of the Development Committee of the Princess Margaret Hospital and the Advisory Board of the Simon Fraser University Global Asset Management MBA Program.

Dani Reiss

Canadian native Dani Reiss joined the boards of PBI Canada and PBI USA in 2007 and was elected chairman of the board of PBI USA in 2008. He is the third generation owner and operator of his family’s company, Canada Goose, manufacturer of the world's best and warmest parkas and extreme outerwear. Dani has a passionate commitment to polar bears, the Far North, and the preservation of all wild creatures and places. He lives and works in Toronto, Ontario.

Kevin D. Spreekmeester

Kevin Spreekmeester is a senior marketing executive with a background in advertising, marketing, photography, and photojournalism. From 2008 to 2017, he served as chief marketing officer for Canada Goose, during which time the company gained global recognition as a leading maker of luxury apparel. Kevin joined PBI’s board in 2014 and was appointed chair in 2017. He brings with him a passion for the Arctic and polar bears, combined with a strong desire to ensure their future. Married with two children, he is an award-winning photographer and photojournalist, outdoor enthusiast, runner, and adventure traveler whose compass often points north. He lives in Toronto, Ontario.

Founders


Carolyn Buchanan

Carolyn cofounded PBI in 2002 along with her husband, Robert. She also served on the board as secretary of PBI USA & Canada before her retirement in 2013. A skilled communicator with renowned organizing and people skills, she devoted countless hours and limitless talent to PBI initiatives, including events and workshops that focus action on climate change. Her home is in Alaska.

Robert W. Buchanan

A retired marketing director from Joseph E. Seagram & Sons, Robert and his wife, Carolyn, founded PBI in 2002, transforming it from a small organization of polar bear enthusiasts (founded in 1992 by Dan Guravich as Polar Bears Alive) to a conservation group with worldwide impact. Robert served as president & CEO of PBI USA & Canada from 2002 until his retirement in 2013. Robert's vision is to help the world understand the importance of the arctic ecosystems and to inspire individuals to take urgent action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to conserve polar bears and countless other species worldwide. His home is in Alaska.

Dan Guravich

In 1992, wildlife photographer Dan Guravich, a Canadian native internationally known for his work with polar bears, recruited a loose-knit group of polar bear enthusiasts into a conservation organization named Polar Bears Alive. Dan served as the first president and remained chairman of the board until his death in 1997. PBA later underwent a major transformation under the leadership of Robert and Carolyn Buchanan, becoming PBI, with a mission sharply focused on saving polar bears by saving their habitat.

Advisory Council

PBI is fortunate and grateful for the guidance we receive from some of the world's foremost polar bear experts as well as others who bring unique skills in fields that support our initiatives.

Our thanks is not enough.

But the survival of the polar bear species will be.

See Advisory Council

Reports & Publications