More Questions about Polar Bear Researcher

An investigation into a polar bear scientist’s suspension raises more questions than it answers.

Aug 12, 2011
Tia Ghose

Polar BearFLICKR, LONGHORNDAVE

The mystery surrounding the investigation into Charles Monnett, the wildlife biologist who was suspended for undisclosed reasons, has deepened, ScienceInsider reports.

Initial media reports claimed the biologist had been suspended by his employer, the US Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement (BOEMRE), and was being investigated because of a 2006 paper which tied an increase in Arctic polar bear deaths to climate change.

And though the director of BOEMRE, Michael Bromwich, had previously claimed the investigation has nothing to do with Monnett’s scientific work, auditor questions in a three-hour interview yesterday largely focused on the peer-review process behind the acceptance of the article.

In response to the investigation, James Inhofe, a Republican Senator from Oklahoma and the ranking member on the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, sent a letter to  BOEMRE. The 2006 paper laid the foundation for establishing the polar bear as a threatened species, he wrote, so accusations could have far-reaching consequences. He’s also asking BOEMRE to explain the reasons for its inquiry. “We don't know where this investigation came from," he told ScienceInsider. "But the bigger mystery is why they think anything needs to be investigated.”

BOEMRE has previously stated that they were investigating how Monnett managed a polar bear research project.