Scientific Research

© Craig Taylor

Working to save the world's polar bears

Leading scientists from around the world serve on our Advisory Council. Working with our chief scientist, Dr. Steven C. Amstrup, they guide us on the most urgent projects in a warming Arctic. Here are the projects we're supporting right now—and some we've already accomplished:

Polar Bear Population Studies
Some scientists predict that the Arctic could be ice free in summer in just ten years. Population studies track changes as the polar bear's habitat shrinks. These counts provide governments with critical data for making decisions—helping to protect the bears.

Maternal Den Studies
Understanding polar bear denning behavior is crucially important as industry moves into the Arctic. Our research helps set guidelines so mothers and cubs aren't disturbed. It will also help us understand the impact of climate change on the critical reproductive function of denning. 

Sensory Studies
What sounds can polar bears hear? What noises disturb them? Do scents play a role in finding mates? Zoo bears help us with studies that would be impossible to conduct on bears in the wild—but have important implications for their wild counterparts.

Citizen Science Project
This long-term study enlists the help of citizen scientists to gather data on the body condition of polar bears near Churchill, Manitoba, using a camera as their main research tool.

Western Hudson Bay Coastal Surveys
Aerial population counts just after the ice break-up on Hudson Bay and just before freeze-up provide an index to trends in survival rates of the Western Hudson Bay polar bears. Eventually, such coastal surveys may provide an important index to polar bear welfare range-wide.

Cortisol Study
Measuring glucocorticoid (GC) levels in polar bears in zoos will help scientists establish baseline information on this critical hormone. The data could eventually help biologists monitor stress levels in wild polar bears, including those in poor ice areas without adequate food.

Arctic Documentary Project
Documenting the changes taking place in the Arctic is an essential step to help people understand that global warming is real and is happening now—and will eventually affect life as we know it around the globe.

Past Projects
From enrichment studies for zoo bears to the impact of tourism on wild polar bears, our completed projects add to our understanding of the world's polar bears and aid policy-makers in setting regulations.