Left to right: Dr. John Whiteman, Amy Cutting, and Dr. Flavio Lehner

Photo: Polar Bears International

Dr. John Whiteman, Chief Research Scientist; Amy Cutting, Vice President of Conservation; and Dr. Flavio Lehner, Chief Climate Scientist.

Expanding Leadership With New Appointments

Left to right: Dr. John Whiteman, Amy Cutting, and Dr. Flavio Lehner.



17 Oct 2022

Polar Bears International Expands Leadership With Three New Appointments

Two New Scientists and a VP of Conservation Strengthen PBI’s Commitment to Science-based Leadership and its Dedication to Polar Bear Conservation, Climate and Environment Research 

October 17, 2022 – Bozeman, Montana – Polar Bears International (PBI), the only nonprofit dedicated solely to polar bears and Arctic sea ice, today announced that it has added three new experts to its team. It welcomes Dr. Flavio Lehner; Polar Bears International’s new Chief Climate Scientist and an Assistant Professor in Earth and Atmospheric Science at Cornell University; Dr. John Whiteman; Polar Bears International’s Chief Research Scientist and Assistant Professor of Biology at Old Dominion University; and Amy Cutting; Polar Bears International’s new Vice President of Conservation.

“Dr. John Whiteman and Dr. Flavio Lehner bring extensive knowledge about polar bears, sea ice, and the impact of climate warming on the environment and ecosystems,” says Polar Bears International Chief Scientist Dr. Steven Amstrup, continuing, “Both are rising stars in their research fields and are devoted to seeing that their research is applied to societal challenges. They have a passion for conservation and moving us toward sustainable ways of living. At this point in Polar Bears International’s growth, the combination of research and conservation leadership they embody is what we need to move us forward.”

Dr. Lehner joins PBI as Chief Climate Scientist, and will continue his work at Cornell University’s Department of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences – jointly administered by the Colleges of Engineering and Agriculture and Life Sciences. His research group studies climate variability and change with a focus on physical processes that affect humans and ecosystems, from heatwaves and droughts to sea ice trends and precipitation extremes. He obtained a Ph.D. in Climate Science from the University of Bern in Switzerland in 2013. Flavio joined the Climate and Global Dynamics Lab at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in 2014 and then transitioned to a Project Scientist position at NCAR, leading fundamental and applied research projects across NCAR labs. After a year as a Senior Scientist at ETH Zürich in Switzerland, Flavio joined Cornell University as an Assistant Professor in the fall of 2020. He has contributed to the last two United Nations’ IPCC reports as well as the U.S. National Climate Assessment that is currently being written.

“I am honored to join the Polar Bears International team, and work with them and their community on driving the systematic change needed to stabilize the climate and protect ecosystems,” says Dr. Flavio Lehner, noting, “We saw during the pandemic that while everything shut down, total carbon emissions dropped by only about five percent, showing how much emissions are baked into the current systems that keep everything running.”

Dr. John Whiteman is now PBI’s Chief Research Scientist, while continuing to teach and conduct wildlife research at Old Dominion University. He received a Ph.D. in Ecology from the University of Wyoming in 2014, and is also a Conservation Fellow with the San Diego Zoo. John has authored or co-authored more than 30 peer-reviewed studies, book chapters, and commentaries on carnivore ecophysiology, and his research has been funded by institutions such as National Science Foundation, Environmental Protection Agency, and North Pacific Research Board. His recent projects have included discovering that the immune system activity of polar bears increases when they use terrestrial habitat, and quantifying how changes in polar bear body condition can influence their reproductive choices, such as prioritizing health over raising cubs. 

“While I’ve collaborated with Polar Bears International during my career, I am excited to join them in a larger role in order to advance polar bear conservation and enhance public scientific understanding,” says Dr. John Whiteman. “One of Polar Bears International’s key strengths is that it’s earned a reputation as a clearinghouse for validating and disseminating the science behind polar bears. And I look forward to contributing to that.”

Amy Cutting joins PBI as Vice President of Conservation. Amy comes from the Oregon Zoo, where she worked for 20 years as an animal keeper, senior keeper, and curator overseeing animal care and species recovery programs, and will keep ties there as an Oregon Zoo Conservation Partner. The Oregon Zoo is one of Polar Bears International’s Arctic Ambassador centers, and while there she facilitated several ex situ polar bear research projects in energetics and nutritional ecology, resulting in peer-reviewed publications. Amy is a facilitator for the Polar Bear Research Council, a team formed to guide polar bear research priorities for the zoo community, and is passionate about building capacity at zoos and aquariums to contribute to polar bear conservation science.  

“I started volunteering with Polar Bears International in 2000 and have always loved their focus on partnerships. They understood, before so many others, that we are much more effective and efficient in our efforts when we collaborate, with each bringing our strengths to the table,” says Amy Cutting. 

“We are thrilled to add Flavio, John and Amy to our team,” says Polar Bears International Executive Director Krista Wright, adding, “Their combined expertise will help Polar Bears International advance polar bear research, understanding, and collaboration across the Arctic.” 

About Polar Bears International

Polar Bears International’s 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. PBI is the only nonprofit organization dedicated solely to wild polar bears and Arctic sea ice, and our staff includes scientists who study wild polar bears. The organization is a recognized leader in polar bear conservation. For more information, visit www.polarbearsinternational.org.  

Media Contacts
Annie Edwards, for Polar Bears International 

Melissa Hourigan, for Polar Bears International