November 1, 2022

Shawnee State University’s Dr. Sarah Ivers took on an experience of a lifetime when she journeyed across the Arctic tundra observing polar bears just outside of Churchill, Canada. An Associate Professor of Biology in the SSU Department of Natural Sciences, Dr. Ivers took part in this project hosted by Natural Habitat.

Polar Bear
A young male polar bear cub plays with the remains of a wooden dog sled, one of 19 sightings SSU Professor Dr. Sarah Ivers encountered during a trip to Canada.

“Seeing your first polar bear in the wild is something you will never forget,” she said. “I was quite fortunate – we were able to have 19 separate sightings across approximately 72 hours of monitoring.”

Being a professor of Mammalogy and Animal Behavior, plus a lover of wildlife and nature photography, Dr. Ivers knew this was an experience she could not pass up. While observing the bears, some of her favorite encounters were seeing mothers interacting with their cubs.

“I very much enjoyed watching an approximately 18-month-old male cub play with what remained of an old dog sled in the way a domestic dog would play with a toy,” she said.

She also experienced a close encounter with a young female being spooked once she sensed an older male in the area.

“She stood on her hind legs to get a better look,” she said. “Even as a subadult, she was close to nine feet tall when standing. Fully mature polar bears are simply enormous.”

Sara Ivers
SSU Professor of Natural Sciences Dr. Sarah Ivers documented 19 sightings of polar bears during her trip to the region outside Churchill, Canada.

Dr. Ivers was excited to be able to bring her experiences and knowledge from the trip into her classroom with her students and hopes to share information on the impact polar bears are facing from climate change. She is also proud of how her project demonstrates equity and inclusion in the field.

“I believe it is important to set an example for young women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) in Appalachia,” she said. “If the opportunity to do something remarkable presents itself to you and you can find no legitimate reason to say no – then do it! Do not let a lack of knowledge or self-doubt get in the way.”

To learn more about Natural Sciences at Shawnee State University, visit