Experts to discuss polar bears' future in free zoo lecture

January 26, 2015 - 8:14pm

Talk by conservationist Geoff York will draw on 20 years of fieldwork in the Arctic

Global warming is melting the Arctic sea ice polar bears call home, and with it, access to the food and habitat necessary for the species' survival. If current trends are left unchecked, scientists predict the disappearance of up to two-thirds of the world's polar bears by 2050. Can the tide be turned in time to save them?

In a talk addressing "The Future of Polar Bears," renowned conservation scientist Geoff York and Oregon Zoo expert Amy Cutting will discuss the critical work being done to help polar bears in the wild and how the zoo is supporting these efforts. The event takes place Tuesday, Feb. 24, at 7:30 p.m. in the zoo's Cascade Grill.

This event is free but space is limited. Register here.

Dr. York, senior director of conservation for Polar Bears International, has dedicated his career to the conservation of polar bears and their Arctic home. His talk will draw on 20 years of field experience in the Arctic, where he has worked for the World Wildlife Fund's Global Arctic Program and the U.S. Geological Survey's Polar Bear Project. He is also a member of the Polar Bear Specialist Group of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, the U.S. Polar Bear Recovery Team, and sits on the advisory board for the International Polar Bear Conservation Center in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

Cutting, who oversees the Oregon Zoo's North America and marine life areas, will discuss ways in which zoo polar bears Conrad and Tasul are helping their Arctic cousins — offering researchers unprecedented access to a species that is notoriously difficult to study in the wild. In 2012, the zoo's brother-and-sister pair became the first polar bears in the world to voluntarily give blood — a significant advance that is helping researchers better understand how wild polar bears endure increasingly longer fasting periods. The following year, as part of a collaboration with the U.S. Geological Survey, Oregon Zoo keepers trained Tasul to wear a high-tech collar, allowing researchers to study how much energy these mega-predators expend in response to retreating sea ice.

Polar bears have been designated as threatened under the U.S. Endangered Species Act, and the World Conservation Union's Species Survival Commission has reclassified the polar bear as a vulnerable species and placed it on its Red List. The Red List identifies species facing a high risk of global extinction.

Polar Bears International is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the worldwide conservation of the polar bear and its habitat through research, education and action. 

As a PBI Arctic Ambassador Center, the Oregon Zoo educates the public about polar bears and climate change and plays a leadership role in inspiring carbon reductions in the community. Some of the zoo's Arctic Ambassadors will be on hand at the February lecture to recount their experiences in the Canadian Arctic and explain how people can help save polar bears through simple actions.