Ian Stirling

Ian Stirling
University of Alberta and Environment and Climate Change Canada · Biological Sciences

PhD, OC, FRSC

About

343
Publications
157,582
Reads
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21,729
Citations
Additional affiliations
August 2007 - present
Department of Environment
Position
  • Research Scientist Emeritus
December 1979 - present
University of Alberta
Position
  • Professor (Associate)
Description
  • Research on ecology and behavior of polar bears and ice-breeding seals; training graduate students in marine mammal ecology
August 1970 - July 2007
Environment Canada
Position
  • Researcher
Description
  • Research on polar bear ecology and relationships with seals and sea cice; polynyas; pinniped ecology and behavior

Publications

Publications (343)
Article
Full-text available
The maximum dive duration for a wild polar bear (Ursus maritimus) of any age is unknown, and opportunities to document long dives by undisturbed bears are rare. We describe the longest dive reported to date, by a wild undisturbed adult male polar bear. This dive was made during an aquatic stalk of three bearded seals (Erignathus barbatus) lying sev...
Article
Full-text available
Ground counts during 1959–1968 compared with counts using high resolution (0.6 m2) satellite imagery during 2008–2012 indicated many fewer Weddell seals (Leptonychotes weddellii) at two major molting areas in the western Ross Sea: Edisto Inlet-Moubray Bay, northern Victoria Land, and McMurdo Sound, southern Victoria Land. Breeding seals have largel...
Article
Full-text available
Polar bears are an arctic, marine adapted species that is closely related to brown bears. Genome analyses have shown that polar bears are distinct and genetically homogeneous in comparison to brown bears. However, these analyses have also revealed a remarkable episode of polar bear gene flow into the population of brown bears that colonized the Adm...
Article
Full-text available
Climate warming is causing unidirectional changes to annual patterns of sea ice distribution, structure, and freeze-up. We summarize evidence that documents how loss of sea ice, the primary habitat of polar bears (Ursus maritimus), negatively affects their long-term survival. To maintain viable subpopulations, polar bears depend on sea ice as a pla...
Article
Full-text available
After a decade with nine of the lowest arctic sea-ice minima on record, including the historically low minimum in 2012, we synthesize recent developments in the study of ecological responses to sea-ice decline. Sea-ice loss emerges as an important driver of marine and terrestrial ecological dynamics, influencing productivity, species interactions,...
Article
Full-text available
Polar bears (Ursus maritimus) and brown bears (Ursus arctos) are sister species possessing distinct physiological and behavioural adaptations that evolved over the last 500,000 years. However, comparative and population genomics analyses have revealed that several extant and extinct brown bear populations have relatively recent polar bear ancestry,...
Article
Full-text available
Satellite telemetry (ST) has played a critical role in the management and conservation of polar bears (Ursus maritimus) over the last 50 years. ST data provide biological information relevant to subpopulation delineation, movements, habitat use, maternal denning, health, human-bear interactions, and accurate estimates of vital rates and abundance....
Article
Full-text available
Since the late 1700s, reports of polar bears (Ursus maritimus) using tools (i.e., pieces of ice or stones) to kill walruses (Odobenus rosmarus) have been passed on verbally to explorers and naturalists by their Inuit guides, based on local traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) as well as accounts of direct observations or interpretations of tracks...
Article
Full-text available
Ecological flexibility of a species reflects its ability to cope with environmental change. Although polar bears (Ursus maritimus) are experiencing changes in foraging opportunities due to sea ice loss, regional prey availability and environmental conditions will influence the rate and severity of these effects. We examined changes in polar bear di...
Article
Full-text available
Expansive study areas, such as those used by highly-mobile species, provide numerous logistical challenges for researchers. Community science initiatives have been proposed as a means of overcoming some of these challenges but often suffer from low uptake or limited long-term participation rates. Nevertheless, there are many places where the public...
Article
Full-text available
The Arctic marine ecosystem has experienced extensive changes in sea ice dynamics, with significant effects on ice-dependent species such as polar bears (Ursus maritimus). We used annual estimates of the numbers of bears onshore in the core summering area, age/sex structure and body condition data to estimate population energy density and storage e...
Article
Antarctic toothfish Dissostichus mawsoni and Weddell seals Leptonychotes weddellii are important mesopredators in the waters of the Antarctic continental shelf. They compete with each other for prey, yet the seals also prey upon toothfish. Such intraguild predation means that prevalence and respective demographic rates may be negatively correlated,...
Article
Despite the important role that population density plays in ecological and evolutionary processes, studies of solitary species that occur at low densities remain scarce. In the context of mating systems, density is expected to influence the ability of males to find and monopolize mates, in turn, influencing variance in lifetime mating/reproductive...
Article
Despite the important role that population density plays in ecological and evolutionary processes, studies of solitary species that occur at low densities remain scarce. In the context of mating systems, density is expected to influence the ability of males to find and monopolize mates, in turn, influencing variance in lifetime mating/reproductive...
Article
Full-text available
The circumpolar Arctic ringed seal (Pusa hispida) occupies its fast-ice breeding habitat for four to five months during winter and the pack ice or open water of adjacent areas for the rest of the year. From 1971 – 78 and 1992 – 2019, we sampled approximately 100 ringed seals annually from western Prince Albert Sound (WPAS), the prime ringed seal fa...
Article
Full-text available
This study provides the first documentation of polar bear (Ursus maritimus) maternity denning in snowdrifts around icebergs frozen into the fast ice or grounded on the seafloor. Based on six den observations in north and northeast Greenland during spring surveys in 2018 and 2019 (109 flight hours), together with observations of 20 adult females wit...
Article
Full-text available
The paucity of observations of wild polar bears (Ursus maritimus) caching of food (including hoarding, i.e., burying and remaining with a kill for up to a few days) has led to the conclusion that such behavior does not occur or is negligible in this species. We document 19 observations of short-term hoarding by polar bears between 1973 and 2018 in...
Article
Full-text available
The paucity of observations of wild polar bears (Ursus maritimus) caching of food (including hoarding, i.e., burying and remaining with a kill for up to a few days) has led to the conclusion that such behavior does not occur or is negligible in this species. We document 19 observations of short-term hoarding by polar bears between 1973 and 2018 in...
Article
Full-text available
Harp seals (Pagophilus groenlandicus) that breed in February and March in the White Sea migrate to open water around Svalbard and Franz Josef Land in the Barents Sea, feeding pelagically while following the receding ice edge northward to the edge of the polar pack. Although harp seals are present throughout the area during the summer, they are prim...
Article
Full-text available
It is a review chapter in a book and discusses how important maintaining long-term research studies is.
Article
Full-text available
Harp seals (Pagophilus groenlandicus) that breed in February and March in the White Sea migrate to open water around Svalbard and Franz Josef Land in the Barents Sea, feeding pelagically while following the receding ice edge northward to the edge of the polar pack. Although harp seals are present throughout the area during the summer, they are prim...
Article
Full-text available
Polar bears (Ursus maritimus) are expected to be adversely impacted by a warming Arctic due to melting of the sea‐ice platform from which they hunt ice‐breeding seals. We evaluated the hypothesis that scavenging on stranded large whale carcasses may have facilitated polar bear survival through past interglacial periods during which sea‐ice was limi...
Article
Full-text available
Increasing surface temperatures, Arctic sea-ice loss, and other evidence of anthropogenic global warming (AGW) are acknowledged by every major scientific organization in the world. However, there is a wide gap between this broad scientific consensus and public opinion. Internet blogs have strongly contributed to this consensus gap by fomenting misu...
Article
Full-text available
Recent genomic analyses have provided substantial evidence for past periods of gene flow from polar bears (Ursus maritimus) into Alaskan brown bears (Ursus arctos), with some analyses suggesting a link between climate change and genomic introgression. However, because it has mainly been possible to sample bears from the present day, the timing, fre...
Article
Full-text available
The effects of declining Arctic sea ice on local ecosystem productivity are not well understood but have been shown to vary inter-specifically, spatially, and temporally. Because marine mammals occupy upper trophic-levels in Arctic food webs, they may be useful indicators for understanding variation in ecosystem productivity. Polar bears (Ursus mar...
Preprint
Full-text available
Recent genomic analyses have provided substantial evidence for past periods of gene flow from polar bears ( Ursus maritimus ) into Alaskan brown bears ( Ursus arctos ), with some analyses suggesting a link between climate change and genomic introgression. However, because it has only been possible to sample bears from the present day, the timing, f...
Article
Full-text available
Multi-decadal time-series of biological indices that reflect the state of a population are rare in ecological studies, but invaluable for assessing environmental regulation of population dynamics. We utilized canine teeth extracted from ringed seals (Pusa hispida) killed by polar bears (Ursus maritimus) in the Beaufort Sea, Canada, in 1985–2011, to...
Article
Full-text available
Increasing surface temperatures, Arctic sea-ice loss, and other evidence of anthropogenic global warming (AGW) are acknowledged by every major scientific organization in the world. However, there is a wide gap between this broad scientific consensus and public opinion. Internet blogs have strongly contributed to this consensus gap by fomenting misu...
Article
Full-text available
Multigenerational pedigrees have been developed for free-ranging populations of many species, are frequently used to describe mating systems, and are used in studies of quantitative genetics. Here, we document the development of a 4449-individual pedigree for the Western Hudson Bay subpopulation of polar bears (Ursus maritimus), created from relati...
Article
Full-text available
Polar bears (Ursus maritimus) have adapted to an annual cyclic regime of feeding and fasting, which is extreme in seasonal sea ice regions of the Arctic. As a consequence of climate change, sea ice breakup has become earlier and the duration of the open-water period through which polar bears must rely on fat reserves has increased. To date, there i...
Article
Full-text available
Changes in the abundance and distribution of wildlife populations are common consequences of historic and contemporary climate change. Some Arctic marine mammals, such as the polar bear (Ursus maritimus), may be particularly vulnerable to such changes due to the loss of Arctic sea ice. We evaluated the impacts of environmental variation on demograp...
Article
Full-text available
Knowledge of population size and trend is necessary to manage anthropogenic risks to polar bears ( Ursus maritimus ). Despite capturing over 1,025 females between 1967 and 1998, previously calculated estimates of the size of the southern Beaufort Sea (SBS) population have been unreliable. We improved estimates of numbers of polar bears by modelingh...
Article
Full-text available
We quantify the first complete description of breeding behavior and activity budgets of an undisturbed pair of adult polar bears, observed 24 h/d for 13 d from 2 to 15 May 1997, at Radstock Bay, Devon Island, Nunavut, Canada. The male herded the female to an area of 1–2 km 2 , where we observed them throughout the observation period. All behaviors...
Article
Full-text available
We provide an expansive analysis of polar bear (Ursus maritimus) circumpolar genetic variation during the last two decades of decline in their sea-ice habitat. We sought to evaluate whether their genetic diversity and structure have changed over this period of habitat decline, how their current genetic patterns compare with past patterns, and how g...
Article
Full-text available
In the southern Beaufort Sea of the United States and Canada, prior investigations have linked declines in summer sea ice to reduced physical condition, growth, and survival of polar bears (Ursus maritimus). Combined with projections of population decline due to continued climate warming and the ensuing loss of sea ice habitat, those findings contr...
Data
Full-text available
D-statistic tests for brown bear admixture into individual polar bears.
Data
Full-text available
Tests for contamination of PB7 by Ken.
Data
Full-text available
Y chromosome pairwise difference between male bears.
Data
Methods and results indicating the unsuitability of the PB7 and LS samples for analysis by the methods described here.
Article
Full-text available
Predation is an ecological interaction influenced by abiotic and biotic factors acting on multiple temporal scales, yet multi-temporal comparisons are rare in empirical studies. For polar bears Ursus maritimus, the physical configuration of the habitat and conditions in which seals are hunted may change on intra- and inter-seasonal scales. Addition...
Article
Full-text available
We provide an expansive analysis of polar bear (Ursus maritimus) circumpolar genetic variation during the last two decades of decline in their sea-ice habitat. We sought to evaluate whether their genetic diversity and structure have changed over this period of habitat decline, how their current genetic patterns compare with past patterns, and how g...
Article
Full-text available
Carvings that represent polar bears ( Ursus maritimus ) are commonly found in Dorset Paleo-Eskimo archaeological sites across the eastern Arctic. Relational ecology, combined with Amerindian perspectivism, provides an integrated framework within which to comprehensively assess the connections between Dorset and polar bears. By considering the repre...
Technical Report
Full-text available
• We evaluated the demography and population status of the Western Hudson Bay (WH) polar bear subpopulation for the period 1984-2011, using live-recapture data from research studies and management actions, and dead-recovery data from polar bears harvested for subsistence purposes or removed during human-bear conflicts. • We used a Bayesian impleme...