Here's a message from Indianapolis Zoo president & CEO Mike Crowther about this year's winner of the Indianapolis Prize.
You will be hearing and seeing media coverage shortly on the announcement of the Winner of the 2012 Indianapolis Prize, but it gives me particular pleasure to let you know in advance that the recipient is the world’s pre-eminent polar bear researcher, Dr. Steven Amstrup. Steve is Senior Scientist for Polar Bears International (PBI), and there is no more deserving conservationist than this champion of the iconic symbol of the potential consequences of global warming, the magnificent polar bear.
It was Steve Amstrup and his team of international researchers whose nine reports became the basis for the 2008 listing of polar bears as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act. This listing is significant because the polar bear is the first – and so far, only – species to be listed on the basis of threats posed by global warming, and Amstrup’s groundwork, while a U.S. Government employee, has increased worldwide awareness to help save the species.
During his 2007 quest, Steve and his team issued the famous projection that two-thirds of the world’s polar bears could disappear by midcentury, and all could be lost by the end of the century if greenhouse gas emissions continue on the present course. In response to that discovery, Steve’s next step was to examine whether greenhouse gas mitigation could improve the future outlook for polar bears. The result is spectacularly important: his work confirmed that polar bears could indeed benefit from greenhouse gas reduction and we were not approaching a “tipping point” beyond which polar bears had no chance for survival. Steve’s paper, published in the December 2010 issue of Nature, serves as an international call to action to help save the species.
It was a remarkable feat by a man who has spent his life accomplishing remarkable feats. Born in Fargo, North Dakota, Steve received his doctorate from the University of Alaska in Fairbanks. Prior to joining the PBI staff in 2010, he was a Research Wildlife Biologist with the United States Geological Survey at the Alaska Science Center in Anchorage, Alaska, for 30 years. Steve has authored or coauthored over 60 peer reviewed articles on movements, distribution and population dynamics of large mammals.
Of course, Steve’s most vital work doesn’t occur in his office, but rather out in the field, where he has braved some of the harshest conditions on the planet, including sub-sub-zero temperatures, to study polar bear ecology in the Beaufort Sea since 1980. Decreasing population sizes and increased scarcity of food for his beloved polar bears have served as motivators, rather than deterrents, for Steve.
It’s because of his relentless research, his passion for the cause, and his tireless dedication to the polar bears’ survival that Dr. Steven Amstrup was selected as the recipient of the $100,000 Indianapolis Prize and the Lilly Medal. He stands alongside the past Prize winners, including International Crane Foundation co-founder George Archibald, field biology legend George Schaller, and Save the Elephants founder Iain Douglas-Hamilton. What a group!
Dr. Steven Amstrup will receive the Indianapolis Prize at the Gala presented by Cummins Inc., on September 29 at the JW Marriott downtown. The Gala truly celebrates not only the winner, but all the finalists for the Prize, and I sincerely hope you will be able to join me to honor Steve as he so richly deserves.
To purchase tickets to the Gala now, click here.
Polar bear photo by Daniel J. Cox/polarbearsinternational.org.