BY JACK SHORT - The Gasparilla Island Conservation and Improvement Association presented photographer Dan Cox and scientist Dr. Steven Amstrup on Saturday, March 16 at the Boca Grande Community Center. They offered a glimpse into the lives and environment of the polar bear via award-winning photography, as well as data collected from Dr. Amstrup’s research.
Both men worked with Polar Bears International, a research organization formed in 2002 from a similar group, Polar Bears Alive, which was founded in 1992.
Cox has had two National Geographic cover stories and numerous awards for his photography including the North American Nature Photography Association’s Outstanding Photographer of the Year recognition. He is also listed by Nikon as a “Nikon Legend.”
His photographs, part of the ongoing Arctic Documentary Project, which has occupied Cox for the last few years, feature images of arctic environments and their inhabitants in places such as Spitsbergen, a small town 400 miles north of Norway and 600 miles from the North Pole, and the Hudson bay region south of Churchill, Manitoba.
Cox documented some of the less glamorous work of sedating, capturing and collecting data from individual polar bears. Blood, tissue and hair samples are taken from the bears, and other various measurements to determine how changes in climate and arctic sea ice are affecting them.
Time spent hundreds of miles from civilization, braving temperatures as low as 45 degrees below zero and close to beautiful but unpredictable wildlife led Cox, Dr. Steven Amstrup, and their fellow researchers to one central conclusion. Amstrup said, “That is that polar bears have essentially a complete dependence on sea ice.”
Amstrup, the recipient of the 2012 Indianapolis prize and the 2012 BAMBI award – both prestigious conservation awards, led research that became the basis for the decision by the secretary of the interior to list polar bears as a threatened species in 2007. Amstrup is the lead scientist for PBI.
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