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Alaska Science Center

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Polar bears (Ursus maritimus) are one of 4 marine mammal species managed by the U.S. Department of Interior. The USGS Alaska Science Center conducts long–term research on polar bears to inform local, state, national and international policy makers regarding conservation of the species and its habitat. Our studies, ongoing since 1985, are focused on population dynamics, habitat use, foraging ecology and health. The majority of our research is conducted on the Southern Beaufort Sea population of Alaska and neighboring Canada. The goal of our current research efforts is to refine and enhance models to project the future status of polar bears in the rapidly changing Arctic environment, as part of the Changing Arctic Ecosystem Initiative.

Our most recent publications include:

McKinney, M. A., T. C. Atwood, R. Dietz, C. Sonne, S. J. Iverson, and E. Peacock. 2014. Validation of adipose lipid content as a body condition index for polar bears. Ecology and Evolution. doi:10.1002/ece3.956 [Details] [Full Publication]

Rode, K. D., E. V. Regehr, D. C. Douglas, G. M. Durner, A. E. Derocher, G. W. Thiemann, and S. M. Budge. 2014. Variation in the response of an Arctic top predator experiencing habitat loss: feeding and reproductive ecology of two polar bear populations. Global Change Biology 20(1):76-88. doi:10.1111/gcb.12339 [Details] [Full Publication]

Stapleton, S. P., M. LaRue, N. Lecomte, S. N. Atkinson, D. L. Garshelis, C. Porter, and T. C. Atwood. 2014. Polar bears from space: assessing satellite imagery as a tool to track Arctic wildlife. PLoS One 9(7):e101513. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0101513 [Details] [Full Publication]

Welch, A. J., O. C. Bedoya-Reina, L. Carretro-Paulet, W. Miller, K. D. Rode, and C. Lindqvist. 2014. Polar bears exhibit genome-wide signatures of bioenergetic adaptation to life in the Arctic environment. Genome Biology and Evolution 6(2):433-450. doi:10.1093/gbe/evu025 [Details] [Full Publication]

Herreman, J. and E. Peacock. 2013. Polar bear use of a persistent food subsidy: Insights from non-invasive genetic sampling in Alaska. Ursus 24(2):148-163. doi:10.2192/URSUS-D-12-00030.1 [Details] [Full Publication]

Primary funding for USGS polar bear research is provided by the USGS, including funding from the USGS Global Change Program, Outer Continental Shelf Program, and the Changing Arctic Ecosystems initiative.  Additional support is currently provided by the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.

1The other species managed by the DOI are sea otters, Pacific walrus, and manatees. The U.S. Department of Commerce manages all other marine mammals.

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Page Last Modified: August 19, 2014