Dr. Steven C. Amstrup
Chief Scientist & Vice President, Conservation Science
Dr. Steven C. Amstrup 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 polar bear ecology research in Alaska for 30 years. He is a past chairman of the IUCN Polar Bear Specialist Group and has been an active member of the group for 32 years. He has authored or coauthored over 100 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. More recently, Dr. Amstrup led an effort showing polar bears are not unavoidably doomed. In the December 2010 paper issue of Nature, he and his co-authors showed that preserving polar bears is all about controlling human-caused temperature rise. In 2012, Amstrup was selected as the recipient of the Indianapolis Prize and a Bambi Award for his efforts in conservation.
Kathryn A. Foat
Vice President, Conservation Education & Action Strategies
Kathryn Foat provides leadership and oversight in developing programs that emphasize audience participation and stewardship. She has extensive experience with outreach in informal learning environments as well as strategic planning. She helped developed PBI fall leadership camps for students, zoo keepers, and communicators to motivate action on climate change. She also serves as our stewardship liaison with zoos and other like-minded organizations. Foat previously held positions with the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore; the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American History; and the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, among others. She earned a B.S. in Biology and Teacher's Certificate 7-12 in Natural Sciences at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, an M.A.T. in Museum Education at The George Washington University, and certification in Instructional Systems Design and Distance Education at the University of Maryland-Baltimore County.
Krista Wright 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 attended Kansas University and received a B.S. in outdoor education 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. She lives in Bozeman, Montana.
Social Media Manager
Melynda Harrison is a freelance writer for publications such as High Country News, Big Sky Journal, Backpacker, and Women's Adventure, as well as local and regional publications. She is the author of the Ski Trails of Southwest Montana and is working on a ski guidebook to Yellowstone National Park. Melynda has an MS in Environmental Studies and BS in Natural Resources Interpretation. She has worked as a naturalist at several outdoor schools, as a Wilderness Ranger for the Forest Service, and as a guide for caving trips in Sequoia National Park and West Virginia; for cross-country and winter ecology trips in Colorado, Wyoming, and Montana; and kayaking trips in Hawaii. In addition, Melynda has developed curriculum and teaching materials for Montana Outdoor Science School, Project W.E.T., the Center for Invasive Plant Management, and the Wilderness Outdoor Leadership Foundation.
Director of Field Operations
BJ Kirschhoffer began working with our 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 Study on Alaska's North Slope, to our Sound Harvesting Study along western Hudson Bay, and our Tundra Connections webcasts and video conferences. He lives in Bozeman, Montana.
Assistant Director of Education
Leah Knickerbocker has a B.S. degree in Environmental Studies and Geology and an M.S. degree in Science Education. She developed her passion as a science educator and conservationist through teaching and directing academic and wilderness programs both nationally and internationally. As Program Manager for PBI, Knickerbocker provides educational and administrative support through developing, implementing, and evaluating PBI’s educational programs. She lives in Bozeman, Montana.
Director of Communications
Barbara Nielsen 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 field editor for Better Homes & Gardens and its garden magazines. Nielsen saw her first polar bear while on assignment in Churchill in 1983. Her article for Modern Maturity on the polar bear migration there, with photos by PBI founder, Dan Guravich, helped jump-start the town's tourism industry. Nielsen has remained passionate about the bears ever since. She holds an M.A. and bachelor's degree in English. She has been involved with PBI since the organization was founded in 1992. She lives in the unarctic: hot, humid Louisiana!
Manager, Partnerships & Communications
Over the course of seven years of employment with nonprofits, Amy Shellenberger has focused on environmental conservation, youth athletics, arts and culture, and nonprofit education and consulting. In addition, she has worked in higher education, as a whitewater rafting guide, a French tutor, volleyball coach, conference coordinator, and picture framer, to name but a few. Shellenberger's M.F.A. in creative writing and bachelor's degrees in English and French have primed her to work closely with PBI's development and communications teams. She lives in Bozeman, Montana.