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What Bears Teach Us

And we’re off…

I’ve been pretty busy over the winter getting the ball rolling on my new book. John Marriott and I sat down and came up with a plan, ran it passed a publisher, got approval, planned a field season and now it’s all about to begin. I’ve even drafted an introduction. Game on!

My inspiration for this book comes from years of researching grizzly bear behaviour, countless hours watching a “bear just being a bear”, and almost as many hours talking, pontificating, philosophizing, and stategizing grizzly bear conservation with other biologists, advocates, and lovers of bears. I realized through all of this that grizzly bears, and all bears, have lessons to teach us all.

I’ve learned a lot about bears, but not everyone has. When people recreate in bear habitat, they have a relationship with bears whether they see them or not. Where are all of these people getting their information from? When they encounter a bear, how do they see it or understand it?

Bears learn from their mama. Who do you learn from?

There are many misconceptions about bears out there. I wanted to write a book that shared some of my experiences and those of my passionate colleagues so that maybe people could see bears as we do – as magnificent, complex, individual animals. Most bear biologists have a story or two about field work – some are thrilling, some funny, some cute. We all have magical moments where we connected with a bear… and we learned something about bears and about ourselves.

Sarah – the author

I am a scientist. Make no mistake. But I’m also a passionate conservationist. I’m a woman who has looked a mama grizz in the eye and cried a little. I’ve spent hours planning robust methods, swearing at data analyses, making maps, re-doing statistical analyses, making more maps, and trying to figure out what it all means. I’ve also watched a bear cub learn to swim, and witnessed a bear eat dandelions while surrounded by dozens of tourists who push the limits of “too close”.

Many scientists struggle with how to express their passion for their subject matter and remain objective. I don’t. I think my data speaks for itself. I pride myself in my research, it’s reliability and applicability. I also was influenced by women scientists like Jane Goodall, Rachel Carson, and Dian Fossey. Women who redefined what it meant to be a scientist and a communicator. They all had this amazing way to taking data to the people, inspiring conservation in the masses. My book is an attempt to follow in the footsteps of these amazing women – to bring bear science and magic to the people who recreate in bear habitat or who coexist with bears. I hope that passion can come across in words on the page and maybe, just maybe, help people see bears a little differently.

The Book

What Bears Teach Us is a different kind of bear book. It’s a book that combines science and experience to tell a story about bears in Western Canada. Each chapter will focus on a characteristic that bears can teach us. I will refer to the current bear biology literature, breaking down our current scientific understanding for the reader. I will also include Stories from the Field where I and other biologists will share our experiences and special moments with bears. Each chapter will end with some reflection on how we as people exhibit that characteristic. All of that complemented with the amazing photos of John Marriott. It’s easy to see why I’m so excited.

The Plan

John and I have a great field season ahead, so expect some more blog posts as I embark on this journey. I’ve never written a book before (although my PhD thesis felt like one), so I expect I’ll be learning a ton!

John and I are going to start a field season in the Khutzeymateen in the next couple of weeks. Then we’ll be off to the Yukon in June/July. August will see us in the Flathead Valley of BC. We’ll be hanging out in the Bow Valley throughout the summer. I may even squeeze a trip to Churchill to see polar bears in October.

The book is going to discuss bear behaviour and how its influenced by people. Bear characteristics, like tolerance and resiliency, shape their interaction with people. The book will explore that for all three bear species in North America.

That’s all I’ll say for now. Stay tuned. There’s an amazing summer ahead and I can hardly wait to see how this book turns out and to share it with you all!

Back to the wilds with the bears… soon.


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