The schedule for this spring’s fireside lectures at the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center is in, with topics ranging from the ancient forest emerging from the Mendenhall Glacier, to “the secret lives of crabs and spot prawns,” to the impact of glaciers on Southeast Alaska’s bears.
Next Friday’s lecture is called “Polar Bears in Alaska’s Chukchi Sea: Climate Change and Conservation” and will be given by Eric Regehr, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Polar Bear Expert, and Kim Titus, Chief Wildlife Scientist with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.
The Chukchi sea has one of the United States’ two polar bear populations, Titus said, and it is “truly international” in that most of the female polar bears den and give birth to their cubs on Wrangel Island, in Russia, each year. The U.S. shares its other polar bear population, in the Beaufort Sea, with Canada. The talk will address differences between these two populations.
Titus said Regehr has been studying the Chukchi Sea polar bear population’s health, movements and fitness, and the sea’s ice conditions, since 2008. Despite the fact that late summer sea ice is changing, the Chukchi Sea’s polar bear population seems to be “doing fairly ok,” he said.
Visitor Center Director John Neary said in a press release that the visitor center wants “to become a climate change education center for Juneau.”
“We feel well-qualified since the Mendenhall is under rapid retreat and our role is to communicate what that means to hundreds of thousands of visitors and residents,” he said.
Visitor Center Lead Naturalist Laurie Craig said the lectures “(feel) like hosting a party every Friday night where folks are educated and entertained at the same time.”
The free lecture series takes place in the Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center auditorium and runs from Jan. 10 to March 28. Each lecture is on a Friday evening and is given twice: once at 6:30 p.m. and once at 8 p.m. The lectures draw around 200 people each night, with the first session more crowded than the second, Craig said.
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