A Champion for Polar Bears

Steven Amstrup braved a frozen seascape where temperatures plummet below zero and the sun isn’t seen for months and sacrificed a decades-long research career—all for the sake of saving polar bears.

The chief scientist of Polar Bears International is the winner of the 2012 Indianapolis Prize, the world’s leading award for animal conservation from the Indianapolis Zoo. The public learned about his life and work on October 2, 2012, in two simulcasts, “Can Polar Bears Be Saved? A Conversation with Steven Amstrup.”

Amstrup spent 30 years studying polar bears and led groundbreaking studies that resulted in the 2008 listing of the animals as a threatened species under the U.S. Endangered Species Act because of global warming.

“If we don’t mitigate greenhouse gas rise, all the polar bears will ultimately disappear,” he told The Indianapolis Star. “We will no longer be polar bear researchers. We’ll be polar bear historians.”

The live, interactive programs from Ball State’s cutting-edge virtual studio featured video biographies of Amstrup and his research with polar bears, an in-depth interview, plus an opportunity for viewers throughout the world to ask questions. Amstrup explored why the polar bear habitat is disappearing, his battle to help protect polar bears, and his current educational efforts to help save these giants of the Arctic. In the studio, Amstrup was interviewed against a green background, but to the broadcast audience and on studio monitors, it appeared as if polar bears were outside the windows.  

The first simulcast was primarily geared for middle school and high school students worldwide, while the evening simulcast was intended for a general audience. Both programs were available via the Indianapolis Prize website and select public television stations such as Muncie’s WIPB.

“With Dr. Amstrup’s groundbreaking work, it is only fitting that Ball State’s state-of-the-art resources and expertise in emerging media help bring his inspiring story to a worldwide audience,” said Phil Repp, vice president for information technology.

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“If we don’t mitigate greenhouse gas rise, all the polar bears will ultimately disappear. We will no longer be polar bear researchers. We’ll be polar bear historians.”

— Steven Amstrup, chief scientist of Polar Bears International