Gizmodo Science Fair 2023 Award

2023 Gizmodo Science Fair Award

By Barbara Nielsen, Senior Director of Communications



17 Mar 2023

We’re thrilled to share the news that our Burr on Fur tracking devices took home the gold in the first annual Gizmodo Science Fair! Developed in partnership with 3M and York University, the trackers join other innovative winners including a breast cancer vaccine, male birth control, and a fully electric aircraft developed by NASA.

In presenting the award, Gizmodo cited the Burr on Fur trackers for providing a better way to track polar bears in the Arctic, one that avoids the problems with collars and ear tags. Designed to stick to a polar bear’s fur, the trackers will provide insights on polar bear movements and use of their environment and also allow researchers to monitor problem bears.

The Burr on Fur concept is the brainchild of Geoff York, our senior director of conservation, who first envisioned a stick-on tracker more than a decade ago. He shared the idea with BJ Kirschhoffer, our director of conservation technology, and BJ took the idea to 3M.

A Burr on Fur tracking device prototype

Photo: Erinn Hermsen / Polar Bears International

A Burr on Fur prototype.

“My father, Jon Kirschhoffer, spent his career as a research scientist at 3M,” BJ said. “I grew up knowing all about the different kinds of tape and sticky products that 3M makes. And I thought, who better to work with us on this? So I asked my dad, during his last year before retirement, if the 3M tech community could figure out how to do that and they rose to the challenge, donating their time to develop prototypes. They liked the environmental aspect and the chance to contribute to polar bear conservation.”

So far, the Burr on Fur trackers have been tested on wild bears in Western and Southern Hudson Bay, and on bears in zoos and aquariums, working with partners in our Arctic Ambassador Center network. They currently last about 100 days, which is long enough to obtain data, and the team continues to refine and improve the designs based on their performance. 

In addition to 3M and York University, special thanks to partners including Manitoba Conservation; the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources; the University of Alberta, the U.S. Geological Survey, and the following zoos and aquariums: Columbus Zoo and Aquarium; Como Park Zoo; Kansas City Zoo; Louisville Zoo; Maryland Zoo in Baltimore; Oregon Zoo; Point Defiance Zoo & Aquarium; San Diego Zoo, Utah’s Hogle Zoo; Assiniboine Park Zoo and Toronto Zoo in Canada; and Skandinavisk Dyrepark in Denmark.