Ian Stirling (biologist)

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Ian Grote Stirling
Born(1941-09-26)September 26, 1941
Nkana, Zambia[1]
DiedMay 14, 2024(2024-05-14) (aged 82)
Edmonton, Canada
Alma mater
Known forPolar bears
Scientific career
ThesisPopulation ecology of the Weddell seal (Leptonychotes weddelli) in McMurdo Sound, Antarctica (1968)
Doctoral advisorBernard Stonehouse
Other academic advisorsJames F. Bendell
See obituary in The Vancouver Sun

Ian Grote Stirling OC FRSC (September 26, 1941 – May 14, 2024)[2][3] was a research scientist with Environment and Climate Change Canada and an adjunct professor in the University of Alberta Department of Biological Sciences.[4][5] His research has focused mostly on Arctic and Antarctic zoology and ecology, and he was one of the world's top authorities on polar bears.[6]

Stirling authored five non-technical books and more than 250 articles published in peer-reviewed science journals.[4] Over the course of his career, and well into his retirement from Environment Canada in 2007, when he became a scientist emeritus, he wrote and spoke extensively about the danger posed to polar bears by global warming.[7]

Early life and education[edit]

Ian Stirling was born to Andrew and Margaret Stirling on September 26, 1941.[2] He completed his B.Sc. at the University of British Columbia (UBC) in 1963, and his M.Sc. in zoology at UBC in 1965, where he met his spouse, Stella.[2]

For his M.Sc. thesis, Stirling studied captive blue grouse under James F. Bendell.[8] In 1968, Stirling received his doctorate from the University of Canterbury, New Zealand having done his field work in Antarctica.[9] His three children were born in New Zealand, Australia and Canada, respectively.[2]


From 1970 to 2007, Stirling was employed as a research scientist for the Canadian Wildlife Service.[4] His research focussed on polar bear biology and ecology, with his most notable work being a long-term study of polar bears in western Hudson Bay near Churchill, Manitoba. He was among the first to draw attention to the potential impacts of climate change on polar bears.[10] Stirling retired in 2007.

Stirling has served as a member of the Committee of Scientific Advisors of the Marine Mammal Commission, and he was the first Canadian to be elected president of the Society for Marine Mammalogy.[11] He was a long-standing member of the IUCN Polar Bear Specialist Group and was also a scientific advisor to Polar Bears International.[12]


Stirling was diagonized with lymphoma in 2019. The illness advanced to leukemia in 2023 and he died of effects of cancer in 2024, at age 82. [13]

Awards and recognition[edit]

Selected publications: academic papers[edit]

  • Stirling I (1997) The importance of polynyas, ice edges, and leads to marine mammals and birds. Journal of Marine Systems 10, 9–21.
  • Stirling I, Lunn NJ, Iacozza J (1999) Long-term trends in the population ecology of polar bears in western Hudson Bay in relation to climatic change. Arctic 52, 294–306.
  • Stirling I, Parkinson CL (2006) Possible effects of climate warming on selected populations of polar bears (Ursus maritimus) in the Canadian Arctic. Arctic 59, 261–275.
  • Stirling I, Derocher AE (2012) Effects of climate warming on polar bears: a review of the evidence. Global Change Biology 18, 2694–2706. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2486.2012.02753.x

Selected publications: non-technical[edit]

  • Stirling, I. (1988). Polar bears. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. ISBN: 9780472101009, 0472101005
  • Stirling, I. (1992). Bears. United States: Sierra Club Books for Children. 9780871564412, 0871564416. IRA Teachers' Choice. NSTA-CBC Outstanding Science Trade Book for Children
  • Stirling, I (ed). (1993) Bears: Majestic Creatures of the Wild. United Kingdom: HarperCollins. ISBN: 9780002199865, 0002199866
  • Stirling, I (2011) Polar Bears: The Natural History of a Threatened Species. Fitzhenry and Whiteside. Markham, ON. 334 pp. ISBN: 978-1554551552


  1. ^ "Ian Stirling". remembering.ca. Retrieved May 26, 2024.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  2. ^ a b c d "Remembering the life of Ian STIRLING". vancouversunandprovince.remembering.ca. Retrieved 2024-05-24.
  3. ^ Wenger, Dr Michael. "The polar retrospective – Polar bear researcher Ian Stirling dies at 82". Polarjournal. Retrieved 2024-05-26.
  4. ^ a b c d "Kenneth S. Norris Lifetime Achievement Award". Marine Mammal Science. 32 (1): 10–12. 2016. doi:10.1111/mms.12294. ISSN 0824-0469.
  5. ^ "The Council of Science Editors (CSE) - 2007 Annual Meeting". Councilscienceeditors.org. Archived from the original on April 3, 2008.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  6. ^ "CBC News Indepth: Polar Bears". Cbc.ca. 6 July 2004. Archived from the original on October 12, 2007.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  7. ^ Post, Eric; Forchhammer, Mads C.; Bret-Harte, M. Syndonia; Callaghan, Terry V.; Christensen, Torben R.; Elberling, Bo; Fox, Anthony D.; Gilg, Olivier; Hik, David S.; Høye, Toke T.; Ims, Rolf A.; Jeppesen, Erik; Klein, David R.; Madsen, Jesper; McGuire, A. David (2009-09-11). "Ecological Dynamics Across the Arctic Associated with Recent Climate Change". Science. 325 (5946): 1355–1358. doi:10.1126/science.1173113. ISSN 0036-8075.
  8. ^ Grote, Stirling, Ian (1 January 1965). Studies of the holding, behaviour and nutrition of captive blue grouse (Thesis). University of British Columbia. doi:10.14288/1.0302522. hdl:2429/37452.{{cite thesis}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  9. ^ Stirling, Ian (1968). Population ecology of the Weddell seal (Leptonychotes weddelli) in McMurdo Sound, Antarctica (Doctoral thesis). UC Research Repository, University of Canterbury. doi:10.26021/6015. hdl:10092/6646.
  10. ^ Stirling, Ian; Derocher, Andrew E. (1993). "Possible impacts of climatic warming on polar bears". Arctic. 46 (3). Arctic Institute of North America: 240–245. doi:10.14430/arctic1348.
  11. ^ "TheStar.com - Arctic In Peril - Polar bear population on thin ice". Thestar.com. 26 November 2007. Archived from the original on April 3, 2008.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  12. ^ a b "Scientist Ian Stirling Receives Ice Bear Lifetime Achievement Award | Polar Bears International". polarbearsinternational.org. Retrieved 2024-05-18.
  13. ^ "Ian Stirling Obit". polarbearscience.com. Retrieved May 26, 2024.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  14. ^ "Polar Bear Range States - Ian Stirling - Conservation Award Winner 2020". polarbearagreement.org. Retrieved 2024-05-18.
  15. ^ "Weston Family Prize for Lifetime Achievement in Northern Research - ACUNS/AUCEN: Association of Canadian Universities for Northern Studies / Association universitaire canadienne d'études nordiques". Acuns.ca. Retrieved 2016-07-08.
  16. ^ "Society for Marine Mammalogy". Marinemammalscience.org. Retrieved 2016-07-08.
  17. ^ "Dr. Ian Stirling, O.C. - Graduation at UBC". Graduation.ubc.ca. Retrieved 2016-07-08.
  18. ^ "Arctic champion receives honorary degree". www.ualberta.ca. Retrieved 2024-05-18.
  19. ^ Canada, Polar Knowledge (2015-12-29). "Ian Grote Stirling". www.canada.ca. Retrieved 2024-05-24.
  20. ^ "Mr. Ian Grote Stirling". The Governor General of Canada. Retrieved 2024-05-18.

External links[edit]