Dr. Ian Stirling

Dr. Ian Stirling

Dr. Ian Stirling is recognized internationally as one of the world’s experts on polar bears. He is a member of the Scientific Advisory Council for Polar Bears International. He is also Research Scientist Emeritus for Environment and Climate Change Canada and an Adjunct Professor in the Department of Biological Sciences, University of Alberta. He holds a BSc and MSc from the University of British Columbia in Vancouver and a PhD from the University of Canterbury in Christchurch, New Zealand, where he studied the population ecology of Weddell seals in Antarctica.

He has conducted research on the ecology and behavior of polar bears and polar ice-breeding seals (Arctic and Antarctic) for 55 years. His studies of the population ecology of polar bears included the Beaufort Sea, Western Hudson Bay, Southeastern Baffin Island, and the Canadian High Arctic. In a separate project, he did long-tern observational studies of the behavior of undisturbed polar bears at Radstock Bay, Devon Island, Nunavut. Related areas of research interest have included the evolution of relationships between predators and polar seals, the biological importance of polynyas, and the conservation and management of polar marine mammals and ecosystems.

While an unpaid Adjunct Professor, he focused time and resources to the supervision and training of several young Canadian graduate students who desired careers conducting research on polar marine mammals. Four of those past students are now full members of the IUCN Polar Bear Specialist Group. Formally, he retired in 2007 but has continued to be active in research and writing as well as working part-time as a guide and lecturer on polar ecotourism ships in both the Arctic and Antarctic for parts of 13 summer seasons.  For his work, he has won several awards, including the Canadian Northern Science Award, appointment as an Officer in the Order of Canada, elected as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, and lifetime achievement awards from Polar Bears International, the Society for Marine Mammalogy, and the Biennial Conservation Award from the Polar Bear Range States Committee. He has authored or co-authored over 300 scientific articles (>250 in peer-reviewed journals) and 5 books on bears for the general public.

His most recent book, for both the lay public and scientists is: Polar Bears: The Natural History of a Threatened Species, which won the outstanding publication award in wildlife ecology and conservation in the Book Category from The Wildlife Society in 2013.

Some representative publications include:

Laidre, K., Stirling, I., Estes, J.A., Kochnev, A., and Roberts, J. 2018. Historical and potential future importance of large whales as food for polar bears. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment. 16:515-524.

Stirling, I., Spencer, C., Andriashek, D. 2016. Behavior and activity budgets of wild breeding polar bears (Ursus maritimus) Marine Mammal Science 32:13-37.

Stirling, I., and Derocher, A.E. 2012. Effects of Climate Warming on Polar Bears: A Review of the Evidence. (invited review) Global Climate Biology 18:2694-2706.

Stirling, I., and C.L. Parkinson. 2006. Possible Effects of Climate Warming on Selected Populations of Polar Bears (Ursus maritimus) in the Canadian Arctic. Arctic 59(3):261-275.

Stirling, I. 2002. Polar Bears and Seals in the Eastern Beaufort Sea and Amundsen Gulf: A Synthesis of Population Trends and Ecological Relationships over Three Decades. Arctic 55, Supplement 1:59-76.

Stirling, I., N.J. Lunn and J. Iacozza. 1999. Long-term trends in the population ecology of polar bears in western Hudson Bay in relation to climatic change. Arctic 52:294-306.

Stirling, I. and Øritsland, N.A. 1995. Relationships between estimates of ringed seal and polar bear populations in the Canadian Arctic. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 52:2594-2612.