What do you get when you cross a polar bear and a grizzly… and why should you care?

In this episode of Nice Genes!, host Dr. Kaylee Byers and National Geographic explorer Dr. Christine Wilkinson look into the mysterious case of pizzly bears, a rare hybrid between polar bears and grizzlies. Together they speak with Dr. David Paetkau, whose team unravelled this strange genomic crossbreeding after receiving more and more sightings coming from the Arctic Circle. Is this hybridization occurring because of climate change? They also speak with Wiuikinuxv scientist Jennifer Walkus, who gained local notoriety for her efforts in ending the trophy hunt of grizzly bears in British Columbia.


7:58 - 13:28

“‘The Mysterious Case of Pizzly bears”

19:08 - 22:58

"Ending the Grizzly Bear Trophy hunt with Jennifer Walkus"

31:16 - 35:05

"Two-eyed Seeing, an approach to a more meaningful ecosystem management"



Dr. Kaylee Byers: Let’s begin with a grizzly story. It’s actually more of a love story though.

 It’s the mid 1930s and we’re at the Washington State Zoo. To the surprise of zookeepers, a female Kodiak grizzly bear named Ramona and a male polar bear named Snowy have developed, let’s call it a close bond.



Singer: ( singing)



Dr. Kaylee Byers: So close in fact, that the two had two litters of baby cubs together, a feat previously unheard of by local scientists, a polar bear and grizzly having babies.


Read Transcript


Dr. Kaylee Byers: So close in fact, that the two had two litters of baby cubs together, a feat previously unheard of by local scientists, a polar bear and grizzly having babies.



Singer: ( singing)



Dr. Kaylee Byers: The successful hybridization of two distinct bear species quickly drew the interest of scientists and newspaper headlines.



Old-Timey Guy: A biological rarity on par with the Dionne quintuplets.



Dr. Kaylee Byers: The love story rolled out like a cheesy soap opera. Snowy, the male polar bear even had another mate, Marion, who was discontent with the affair.



Old-Timey Guy: The love triangle is formed. Snowy’s other wife, a polar bear named Marion, is not impressed.



Dr. Kaylee Byers: A year later with much fanfare, a contest was held to draw names for Snowy and Ramona’s newest cubs, Pokodiak, Taku, and Fridgee.

 All three had yellowish fur and shared traits of both a polar bear and grizzly. And from then on, they were given the affectionate designation of Pizzly bears.

 Beyond the drama, what do these three cubs mean in the realm of science, or is this headline barely worth remembering?



Singer: ( singing)



Dr. Kaylee Byers: You’re listening to Nice Genes, an exploratory look into the world of genomics, sponsored by Genome British Columbia. I’m your host, Dr. Kaylee Byers, here to get into the bare necessities of genomics with you.

 In today’s episode, we’re going to root around in the mysterious case of Pizzly bears, a rare cross breeding of polar bears and grizzlies. But when we look at the phenomenon through our 21st century lens, this tale of two bears raises an interesting conversation, one about what society and science value and how those values impact the wildlife and wild communities around us.



Dr. Christine Wilkinson: Hi, hi, hi. Hello.



Dr. Kaylee Byers: Hello.



Dr. Christine Wilkinson: Hello. Beep boop.



Dr. Kaylee Byers: To get us started, I’ve called in National Geographic explorer and conservation biologist from UC Berkeley, Dr. Christine Wilkinson to host today’s episode with me.



Dr. Christine Wilkinson: Hey, Kaylee.



Dr. Kaylee Byers: Oh, hey. Excited?



Dr. Christine Wilkinson: Yes. I want to dive into talking about Pizzlies.



Dr. Kaylee Byers: Who doesn’t?

 And because our Pizzlies open us up to talking about conservation and climate change, I thought you would have an interesting perspective to explore these concepts with me.

 So to start us off, can you tell us a bit about what you do?



Dr. Christine Wilkinson: I look at how humans and wildlife interact, and I mainly focus on large carnivores and on meso- carnivores, which are essentially medium size carnivores when I’m looking at how people can interact with wildlife and also how we can coexist with them. So I’ve worked with a lot of misunderstood animals like gulls, herring gulls, which everyone calls them trash birds, and with olive baboons. But recently, I’ve done a lot of work with spotted hyenas and figuring out how they’re navigating really highly developed landscapes, human dominated landscapes in Kenya. And I also work with animals like coyotes here in the Bay Area and in Los Angeles, California.



Dr. Kaylee Byers: So with your experience from studying animals in Africa to the Western United States, are you up for a little excursion up North towards the Arctic and my home of British Columbia?



Dr. Christine Wilkinson: Of course, I am. And to get a sense of the area, I wanted to first get a pair of eyes on the ground.



Gaelen Kraus: So, let’s go out there.



Dr. Christine Wilkinson: To kick things off, I reached out to two experts on the ground. First, Gaelen Kraus, captain of the Island Odyssey, a ship that takes people on tours off of British Columbia’s north coast, as well as naturalist and hiking guide Ellie Lamb. They’re going to help paint the picture of the daily lives of grizzlies. 



Gaelen Kraus: My name is Gaelen. I’m a captain with Blue Water Adventures on the Island Odyssey. We’re on the Central Coast. We’re going grizzly bear viewing. We’ve just finished dinner, salmon dinner, curiously enough. We’ve got about an hour daylight left. It’s a fog layer, just 20 feet over the water drifting in. First bit of blue sky of the day.

 We’re in a large river estuary watching grizzly bears. Just seen a fairly healthy sub-adult come out of some crab apple trees, walk along the riverbank and into a log jam, where it’s now fished out a spawned-out salmon and it’s just walked away to eat in a little bit of privacy.

 We’ve got towering cliffs on either side with lots and lots of waterfalls all around in there.

 We’re going to move into position for a slightly better view.



Dr. Christine Wilkinson: Now over on dry land, Ellie Lamb.



Ellie Lamb: Okay. We’re going to just keep our voices low as we move through this area. It’s an exciting time of year.

 Oh, here, this is a rub tree and it’s where bears basically… They’re not a real territorial animal, but they’re just saying… when they rub on this tree, you can see hair all over this side of this tree caught in the bark and the sap. They’re basically just saying, ” Hey, you know what? This is my home.” They’re the social media of the forest.

 So let’s move on. Let’s see what we see when you get closer to the river. Oh, I just saw a little bit of a trembling bush over there and there may be a bear in the distance.

 Oh, yeah. Okay. So that bear is a female that I’ve known since she was a cub. She’s a very, very polite girl and she’s got two little wee cubs of the year, and I’ve always called her Perfect. People think that bears are just kind of primal animals, they do, they have that side to them, but they’re definitely a very civilized community of animals. There she’s just going to grab a fish. Oh yeah, the cub’s trying to take it from her. It’s pretty amazing to see this. It’s just a true gift. Yeah, she’s going to be in there for a little while, so we’ll let her carry on and we’ll carry on our walk and see what we see around this corner.



Dr. Christine Wilkinson: From what Ellie and Gaelen shared with us. We can begin peeling back the veil between us and this fascinating ecosystem. 



Dr. Kaylee Byers: And as Ellie mentioned, bears have a really interesting social and communal life. Perhaps we can begin piecing together our Pizzly puzzle and what genomics has to do with it. Off the top, we introduced a bit of an unexpected genetics math equation: grizzly plus polar bear equals Pizzly? But that was in captivity. What about in the wild? Are Pizzlies roaming the countryside?



Dr. David Paetkau: Yeah, I see…



Dr. Kaylee Byers: Meet Dr. David Paetkau.



Dr. David Paetkau: I run a private lab called Wildlife Genetics and we do genotyping for, or basically study the distribution and abundance, primarily mammals, but some other things too.



Dr. Kaylee Byers: Including work with bears, especially polar bears.



Dr. David Paetkau: We do lots of polar bear work. We’ve genotyped something like half the polar bears, 12,000 polar bear genotypes. It’s a pretty massive number really.



Dr. Kaylee Byers: On a typical workday going through bear DNA, genotyping, you know, lab stuff, David and his team were contacted for a more unusual sample collected in the field.



Dr. David Paetkau: So the NWT is the Northwest Territories Government that we work with the wildlife managers in Inuvik received this account of an unusual bear that had been killed by a hunter that looked pretty unusual for polar bear, but it was out on the sea ice where polar bears would be expected and grizzly bears wouldn’t be. So they included that sample and said, What’s the story with this? Typically, we’ll analyze about 20 different locations on the chromosome’s loci. So that’s what we did. We used our population genetic tools to work up a genotype for this individual of interest and compare that to the genotypes that we have for local grizzly bear populations on the Barren Grounds and also to the local polar bear population. That individual’s ancestry that came from those two source populations was pretty close to 50/50.



Dr. Christine Wilkinson: Meaning it was a Pizzly bear.



Dr. David Paetkau: And then NWT did a press release and then every press agency on planet Earth called and put blue lights in the lab and colored solutions in tubes and do some fake-o documentaries on the Pizzly bears.



Dr. Kaylee Byers: The discovery of Pizzlies in the wild hit the headlines, just like the story of Pizzlies back in the 1930s.



Dr. Christine Wilkinson: But with the 21st century twist, like this one.



Dr. David Paetkau: Grizzly bears, in addition to expanding their range to the north, are expanding their range to the east towards Hudson Bay across the Barren Grounds. And so there’s a hunter in Arviat on the west coast of Hudson Bay who killed an unusual bear. And what a lot of folks don’t know is that the bears up there on the Barren Grounds are often quite light colored, they’re called blonde grizzly bears. And so we looked at this blonde colored bear and decided that might be a hybrid. But in the meantime, you have news organizations like The Guardian that run a story “Oh, Harbinger of Climate Change”.

 And that story still stands, it’s still on. If you search the Guardian for ‘hybrid bears’, that story will come up in your research and they won’t correct it, I’ve asked them a couple times. It gets this kind of energy behind it where actually in that case, completely false information spun into a climate change story. And then all this solid stuff that we actually do day in and day out has no legs at all in terms of press stories.



Dr. Kaylee Byers: Classic.



Dr. Christine Wilkinson: I know right. So what is the truth behind our hybrid story?



Dr. David Paetkau: So the climate’s changing quite rapidly in the north. So there are a lot of sightings of grizzly bears quite far north of the continent where you wouldn’t have expected them historically, as much as 800 kilometers. It’s anticipated, it seems quite likely, that polar bears will lose the southern end of their range. It hasn’t really yet. So the increase in overlap is due to grizzly bears moving north from the continent into the arctic archipelago. When we analyzed the first hybrid bear, we searched all our polar bears and all our grizzly bears from that part of the world to see if we had the parents.



Dr. Christine Wilkinson: Turns out they did. And oddly for the first Pizzly sample they got, and even subsequent other Pizzlies after that, the data kept pointing them to the same mother bear, a polar bear known in David’s lab as number 10-9-60.



Dr. David Paetkau: Yeah, no, that’s her. Yeah, 10-9-60. That’s the female that mated with the grizzly bears. And she really is the entire story in a way. It’s really sort of a story about the unusual mate choices of one polar bear. And so she had four offspring that were 50% polar bear, 50% grizzly bear, and they went on to have at least four offspring. And most of those individuals, we know they’ve died.



Dr. Kaylee Byers: How did they die? Well…



Dr. David Paetkau: Most of them are known to have been killed by hunters, yeah. Being neither polar bears nor grizzly bears, there’s no real rules around managing the hunting. That’s probably the end of the story. There’s probably not going to be much follow up on what happened to those eight or more individuals of 50% or 1/4 polar bear ancestry.



Dr. Kaylee Byers: Wow.



Dr. Christine Wilkinson: I already have some thoughts.



Dr. Kaylee Byers: Yeah.



Dr. Christine Wilkinson: So you can stop me if I shouldn’t have these thoughts right now.



Dr. Kaylee Byers: No, you should have thoughts.



Dr. Christine Wilkinson: Okay. So I don’t know why it just occurred to me right now, but I’m on a paper that we’re working on right now about conspicuous color morph animals, which is what this is. And we are talking a lot about how we choose to value the morphs that are unusual in animals and what that can mean. Usually it means something more on a local level.

 There’s some cities that protect their melanistic squirrels or their albino this or that. And there’s even little ordinances about how those animals are protected and squirrel festivals or whatever. Things that kind of come about because we get so excited about these charismatic color morphs, or these conspicuous color morphs that we decide are charismatic. And so I think that really factors in here, where Pizzly bears are a conspicuous color morph that we don’t see very often. Might not necessarily mean anything about them being more fit or anything like that for their environment, but just because of their color, we have these huge news stories about them and wonder what to do about them. So it’s just something to think about when we’re talking about value judgments and conservation.



Dr. Kaylee Byers: Yeah, totally. And it gets at this, the value and why. I think one of the really interesting things that Dr. Paetkau talked about was like, well now these animals, because maybe they were interesting or they were targeted, were hunted. How might this have translated into management or protections if we value these organisms enough to try to keep them.



Dr. Christine Wilkinson: Right? And how many less conspicuous ” hybrid” species have existed on this planet? And we had had no idea about it because they came and went.



Dr. Kaylee Byers: But there’s something especially sad about losing this interesting hybrid. Like, when is the next time we’re really going to get to know more about the significance of Pizzlies, if any?



Dr. David Paetkau: Yeah, It’s more sort of “get out a coffee and ponder what does this all mean?”



Dr. Kaylee Byers: And that’s looks like where our story takes us next.



Dr. Christine Wilkinson: Hi. So can you start us off by stating your name and what you do?



Jennifer Walkus: My name is Jennifer Walkus. I’m from the Wuikinuxv Nation. I’m our research coordinator as well. It’s been nice to see a lot of changes come, especially as a lot of the Western science research backs up what First Nations have been saying through traditional ecological knowledge.



Dr. Kaylee Byers: Jennifer Walkus is a Wuikinuxv scientist. Her people’s traditional territory sits right within British Columbia’s famous Great Bear Rainforest, the coastal area Captain Kraus was showing us earlier. She studies bears a lot as they’re quite often living right in and around her community.



Dr. Christine Wilkinson So maybe can you tell me a bit about the historical relationship between bears and your community?



Jennifer Walkus: Yeah. One of the things that my aunt had always told me is that we learned a lot of what we do from the bears: we learned what to eat. We have a lot of the same needs, we both need similar amounts of space. When we came to this territory, we developed together and we found out what we could and couldn’t do by observing a lot of what the bears were doing, they’re considered a lot more closely connected, I guess to our people. We see that we have to coexist with them, they have just as much right to be here as we do.


What we all started to do is we all started to do our own bear DNA research. So when we started to look at the roll up of all of our research, they started looking at the interrelatedness of bears, how related different populations of bears were to one another. And when they started to look at it, they couldn’t figure out why this research was showing the bears are so closely related in these regions, because usually with bears you start to think that the bears are related because of a large mountain range, a large body of water, something that keeps them from traveling across.


 But that wasn’t the case because they were crossing mountain ranges, they were crossing water bodies, but there wasn’t a clear understanding of what was keeping them from going to other areas… Until they started to look at [First Nation] language groups. Because they work with the Nation so closely, they started to have a greater understanding of how the languages work because Wuikinuxv and Heiltsuk are both in one language group. Bella Coola, the Nuxalk is in another language group and Kitasoo is in another language group. And so when they started to look at how interrelated they are, those language groups overlapped really heavily with where the bears were interrelated.



Dr. Christine Wilkinson: Okay, so we can begin seeing how bears are tied to the communities of people living there too. Which takes us to another part of Jennifer’s story. For ages, bears have been hunted as trophies in British Columbia. So acknowledging the connection the various Nations had with these bears, Jennifer’s community and surrounding communities sought to end it.



Dr. Kaylee Byers: I’d really love to talk to you about as some other work that you’ve been involved in. And I actually wasn’t aware until learning more about your work that there used to be a trophy hunt of bears in British Columbia.



Jennifer Walkus: Oh, trophy hunting was around for a really long time. And so the Great Bear Initiative Nations (GBI), we all have been working on trying to close the trophy hunt in the Great Bear Rain Forest for gosh, as long as GBI has been around and we really weren’t getting any traction. Our Nations have a real problem with it culturally. We don’t have a problem with hunting for food. We hunt for food ourselves and our biggest problem with the trophy hunt is that the animals are killed, their heads taken, their paws taken, their skins taken, and the grizzlies are just left in the field to rot. And it’s really hard to see because when a bear is killed and skinned, it looks very much like a squat human being. He’s got a really long body and really short legs. This hunt that really goes against our cultural values was one of the things that we wanted to try and tackle.



Dr. Kaylee Byers: So Jennifer and the other Nations decided to look into why the trophy hunt was being continued. The government claimed to manage the hunt based on the best available conservation science. But…



Jennifer Walkus: They only count the hunt. They don’t count different kinds of mortalities, highways, trains, all of these things that end up killing bears as well. And those aren’t figured in their plans.



Dr. Christine Wilkinson: The other argument the government made was that trophy hunting brought in a lot of money for the economy.



Jennifer Walkus: When we compared how much money the trophy hunt brought in and how much money ecotourism brought in, it was something like 11 times more money. The trophy hunt had a tendency to cost more to run than it brought in revenue for the government because the only thing it brought in was just the fees and the fees aren’t all that high.



Dr. Christine Wilkinson: They put a film together to share their views and research on trophy hunting with the wider British Columbian public.



Jennifer Walkus: We put together a film called Bears Forever and we took that film on tour and it talked about why and how bear trophy hunt isn’t socially acceptable in our communities. And we put out signage that ask people to respect our traditional laws.



Dr. Christine Wilkinson: And eventually…



Newscaster: The BC government making a big wildlife announcement today ending the grizzly bear trophy hunt in this province.



Jennifer Walkus: The data that we produce helped other organizations to push for the closure to be BC- wide, not just within the Great Bear Rainforest.



Dr. Christine Wilkinson: Can you just tell us a little bit more about what it felt like for you personally when they ended the hunt?



Jennifer Walkus: It was pretty indescribable, the fact that we had actually managed to do this because when we started everybody said “It’ll never happen. The lobby is too powerful.” It was quite a sigh of relief because every year before that we would start to get, when it came time for the spring hunt and when it came time for the fall hunt, you would start to feel that heaviness that you’re going to start to encounter these carcasses that look so much like us, that we know so many of the bears that live within our community. These would be bears that we know that were shot, or they could be. And so it was really a big change for us to not feel that way.



Dr. Kaylee Byers: But…



Jennifer Walkus: It’s not a legislated closure, it’s only through policies. So it’s really easy to have reopened and there’s quite a powerful lobby right now who is pushing to have it reopened. There are a few things that tend to change government policy, it’s going to be votes, lobbying. Science really doesn’t do it unless you’ve got one of the other two behind it. So if we wanted to change the policy, we had to change the science.



Dr. Kaylee Byers: Thinking about what Jennifer said makes me think back to what Christine, you mentioned at the beginning that these issues are socio-ecological.



Dr. Christine Wilkinson: Yeah.



Dr. Kaylee Byers: And when we get into the social side of things, that socio piece, we don’t always share the same values or perspectives.



Dr. Christine Wilkinson: That makes sense, that makes sense.



Dr. Kaylee Byers: But it’s the social side that plays such a significant role in the actual decision making.



Dr. Christine Wilkinson: Yeah. Looking at the dilemma Jennifer had when trying to convince the government to end the trophy hunt gives me a question. What other perspectives do we need to embrace to protect animals and our planet for the future?



Dr. Kaylee Byers: You’re listening to Nice Genes! a podcast all about the fascinating world of genomics and the evolving science behind it. Brought to you by Genome British Columbia. I’m Dr. Kaylee Byers, your host.



Dr. Christine Wilkinson: And I’m your co- host for this episode, Dr. Christine Wilkinson. We want to get more people listening to the stories of genomics that are shaping our world. So if you like Nice Genes! hit follow on Apple Podcast or wherever you get your shows. Be the bearer of positive climate science news by telling one of your wild friends about us.



Dr. David Paetkau: Oh dear.



Dr. Kaylee Byers: I want to return to Dr. David Paetkau from Wildlife Genetics International. By using DNA and genomics, he’s able to tell the story of how various environmental pressures affect bears over time.



Dr. David Paetkau: So, I think for that perspective, actually it’s the historical time frame where that becomes interesting.



Dr. Kaylee Byers: And one of those stories unfolds all the way back to the last Ice Age.



Dr. David Paetkau: But there are these great historical incidents and one of them I’ve been working on since the nineties, which is in the ABC Islands of Southeast Alaska (Admiralty, Baranof, and Chichagof islands) where it appears that the story is that there was a population of polar bears at the end of the Pleistocene, got left behind as polar bear habitat retreated to the north. And then as brown bears reentered the area, they started swimming across to those islands. And then over a period of 10,000 years, those bears on those islands, which started out as polar bears, kept getting this input from brown bears, this gene flow that just gradually swamps out their genomes to the point where now it’s somewhere in the neighborhood of 92 to 96% brown bear genomes in those former polar bears.



Dr. Christine Wilkinson: That gene flow between brown bears and polar bears creates an almost subspecies, they’re grizzly bears with just a hint of polar bear in them. So Dr. Paetkau’s team can essentially pick out the DNA history of these bears no matter where they’re found. Which leads us to another interesting discovery. Dr. Paetkau’s team found another set of unique polar bears at the southern tip of Greenland.



Dr. David Paetkau: We were there for the same reason, to keep track of abundance. But in the process of doing some abundance work, just some clustering software just poking at the date at the end of the project revealed that there were really two very distinct genetic groups there.



Dr. Christine Wilkinson: At the time, there were 19 subspecies of polar bears. Populations that were distinct from one another. What they had stumbled across was potentially a 20th.



Dr. David Paetkau: So polar bears and brown bears caught together in Ireland at probably around the same time that the story happened in Southeast Alaska and the ABC Islands. So in this case, in southern Greenland with this new polar bear subpopulation, the genomics tools are able to look back and say it looks like something that where the isolation has probably existed for on the order of a couple hundred years at a minimum.



Dr. Christine Wilkinson: One thing that’s really cool about this subpopulation is that their adaptation may make them better able to adapt to changing environmental conditions.



Dr. David Paetkau: That southern Greenland population is interesting because it’s making their living in a place where sea ice, so polar bears hunt from sea ice, they hunt seals and that’s how they make a living. And so the sea ice is only present for about four months a year. And so what they’re depending on in addition to sea ice is the glacial ice that breaks off from these glaciers that are coming down into the ocean. And so they’re hunting from this platform of this melange of frozen sea ice and glacial ice. And that turns out to be a sufficient platform to be able to catch seals. And so ecologically that’s quite unique. Other polar bears do really hunt exclusively from sea ice. As polar bears retreat to the north, as we anticipate the range will contract towards the north with the climate change, there may be other circumstances where that glacial outflow compensates a little bit for the lack of sea ice. And so maybe there’ll be some local situations where polar bears can make a living in places where we might not have thought previously they’d be able to.



Dr. Kaylee Byers: Turns out these bears, whether it’s from their DNA or just a certain level of craftiness, maybe they know a thing or two about conserving themselves.



Dr. Christine Wilkinson: True. But with our climate changing so rapidly, is there always going to be a subspecies that can adapt quickly enough to survive?



Dr. Kaylee Byers: Let’s take it back to Jennifer Walkus. She has an excellent example of what changing conditions can do to an ecosystem and what we can do about it.

… You mentioned previously, briefly, about the Great Salmon Collapse and for listeners who aren’t familiar with it, what happened there exactly?



Jennifer Walkus: We used to be this huge producer of sockeye [salmon], so we never had a problem with having enough food to eat when I was a kid. And so as long as we had enough to eat, the bears had enough to eat, the wolves had enough to eat. Around the seventies, the salmon started to collapse. In order to get groceries in here, I live in a small community of about 60 people, it’s 45 minutes by float plane from Port Hardy. That’s where we get our groceries. Or it’s a three hour boat ride or a two day ride for the barge. And so getting food here is expensive. So we eat a lot of traditional foods, we eat a lot of crab, we eat a lot of salmon, we a lot of halibut, cod, but also for all of the predators that need that food as well. And after that collapse, they ended up shooting 15 bears. They were starving, they weren’t protecting their cubs, they were trying to get into houses. When we tried to call conservation, they, instead of relocating, they were just shooting the bears. So it was a really hard time here in the community. And so just the order of magnitude of the drop [in salmon numbers] meant there really wasn’t enough food for the bears.



Dr. Kaylee Byers: British Columbia was once known for its colorful postcards of flashing red, sockeye salmon, traveling way too far up rivers and streams throughout the province. But now they’re struggling for their very survival. That’s placed a lot of pressure on communities like Jennifer’s, fishing industries, and animals such as bears who are trying to gather enough food to sustain themselves. So what do you do?


There’s a more recent movement within the conservation science community known as One Health. The World Health Organization defines it as a ” unifying approach to balance and optimize the health of people, animals, and the environment.” But for Jennifer, conservation is also locked into traditional Indigenous ecological knowledge and that may just hold the key to balance a precarious situation back from the brink.



Dr. Christine Wilkinson: So here in my field, conservation science, we think a lot in terms of a semi-recent framework called One Health, which essentially is looking at the connections between people, wildlife and the environment. But I’m wondering for you as an Indigenous scientist and an Indigenous policy maker now, do you use any particular frameworks that you bring into your research, into your work?



Jennifer Walkus: I’ve heard of the “Two Eyed Seeing” approach, which is we look at things very differently and when we work together, we can fill in the gaps in our understanding. The way First Nations tend to look at things, tends to be a lot more holistic. We’re here all year, every year, year in year out. Researchers come in for shorter periods of time. When management happens within Western science, Western science has a tendency to silo things, fish people manage fish people. Bear people manage bear people. Government manages people, and never the three meet. But that isn’t really how it works on the land. So when we have a Two Eyed Seeing approach, it’s being able to work together to see, what are the things that fall between the cracks? How do we manage salmon for bears and people? Like it used the MSY approach (maximum sustainable yield) and it overlays the bear populations and the bear projections on how much food bears need and it overlays that over that maximum sustainable yield graph. So that way we can shift how that MSY approach works and makes it so that helps to ensure that the fish that we expect to reach the streams, reach the stream.



Dr. Kaylee Byers: You’re really talking about important questions and many of them starting in at a local scale where it’s observation of community, right? Noticing changes or recognizing the importance of something. And so how do we mobilize so that we can address these local questions, but also make sure that they’re answered appropriately and thoughtfully with community?



Jennifer Walkus: The kind of support that we need in order to make sure that we continue to do the research that allows us to put traditional ecological knowledge and Western science together in that One Health [and] Two Eyed Seeing perspective, so that way we can all work together and everybody benefits. One of the biggest issues that we’ve got right now is climate change. Who better to see what are the facts than the people who live out here 24 hours a day, 365 days a year? 


This way of looking at things is being recognized within the scientific community and it’s been proven that when First Nations or Aboriginal people, not necessarily just Canadian First Nations, but when the local communities are involved in management, it’s quite often a lot more ecologically sound. It’s been proven within research papers all over the world.



Dr. Christine Wilkinson: Thank you so much for your time, Jennifer. It has been so great to learn from you today. Thank you for sharing those stories with us.



Jennifer Walkus: Well, thank you for having me on here. I think it’s really important to get the message out that Western science has backed up these issues that we’ve brought forward on both levels, both the First Nations and the larger community at large.



Gaelen Kraus: All right, we’re just loading up the zodiac, going out for our second bear viewing of the evening. If Murray is coming, then he is still to come before the light fades.

 We’ve just had a great view of a sow and her two cubs of the year, first year cubs that were born in the den this winter, and now they’re down in the estuary eating salmon for the first time. Really playful and cute, and they all look pretty healthy. It’s good to see as the salmon start to fill in here. This bear looks quite curious. Maybe it’s going back to thinking about salmon now.



Second Singer: ( Singing)



Dr. Kaylee Byers: My guests for today have been a Wuikinuxv scientist, Jennifer Walkus and Dr. David Paetkau from Genetic Wildlife International. Special thanks to Captain Gaelen Kraus and Ellie Lamb for taking our ears along exploring the Wild West Coast. And finally, thank you of course to my fantastic co- host, Dr. Christine Wilkinson.



Dr. Christine Wilkinson: Oh, thank you.



Dr. Kaylee Byers: Well, Christine, can you finish this off for today?



Dr. Christine Wilkinson: Of course.

You’ve been listening to Nice Genes! a podcast brought to you by Genome British Columbia. If you like this episode, go check out some of our previous ones. Wherever you listen from, you can also DM the show on Twitter by going to @genomebc. And we also have ‘Learn-a-long’ sheets added to the show description, for those who want to grab a lesson from each episode.


Tune into Nice Genes! next time where we have a devilish twist on conservation from down under.



Dr Carolyn Hogg: Tasmanian Devils actually den underneath people’s houses and they scream underneath your house. And so when Europeans first arrived in Australia, to them it sounded like the devil living underneath the house. And that’s literally how they got their name.



Second Singer: ( Singing)



Dr. Kaylee Byers: Don’t forget to leave us a review. Wherever you listen. The Pizzlies would prefer a cool one. Thanks for keeping your furry ears tuned in this far, and I look forward to having another roar with you later.



The Devil’s in the Details



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