UAF Scientist Tapped to Lead Polar Bear Study

Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks

A University of Alaska Fairbanks scientist is being tapped by the state to look at how polar bears have adapted to climate changes historically.  The Alaska Department of Commerce, Community and Economic Development is providing a $400,000 grant for a study lead by Matt Cronin, a UAF animal geneticist based the Palmer Experimental farm.  Cronin says the idea is to gain perspective on how the bears may respond to current climate warming.

Cronin says looking back may shed light on predictions which point to the demise of polar bears due to sea ice loss. Cronin says one way to tease out information is by comparing polar bears with brown bears, species which share common genetic ancestry.

Cronin’s past research has included work for the oil industry, and other partisan funders, but he says he’s not concerned about his data being misused to advocate for a particular position.

Cronin will work with scientists from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and three other universities on the state-funded polar bear genetics project. He says they’ll also be reviewing existing genetic data on sea lions and Beluga whales, two other species whose decline has been linked to climate change, and for which protective measures could impede development efforts in Alaska.

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