A multi-year study

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The Unity College Bear Study gives students the chance to tag, tattoo and radio collar bears to collect data and monitor activity. Here, faculty mentor George Matula and Jonah '14, are tracking a Maine black bear.

The multi-year bear study involves both faculty and students and includes trapping, tracking, collecting and analyzing biological and DNA data, and in at least one case, the attachment of a video camera to a Maine black bear.

In cooperation with the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, the Unity College Bear Study team does hands-on research to provide information on a recolonizing bear population in south-central Maine. Students work with faculty mentor George Matula and assistant Margaret (Peggy) Hogan, to capture, tag, tattoo, measure, weigh, collect biological and DNA data, and radio-collar bears to collect movement data and monitor activity. 

While most students involved in the study are in the Wildlife Biology and Wildlife & Fisheries Management programs, students from other disciplines participate in aspects of the Bear Study as well, another example of the College’s approach to transdisciplinary problem solving. They help obtain landowner permission; pre-bait potential trap sites; set up trail cameras; analyze video footage; analyze biological and DNA data; design educational and outreach materials; develop databases; and use GIS tools to analyze movement data, identify property boundaries, keep track of bait and trap sites, and design black bear habitat models. 

Students involved in the Bear Study have the opportunity to present their research findings as presentations and posters at scientific conferences, scientific publications, popular literature, national and local media, Facebook, video, and other outlets. After publication of its one-year study, the Unity College Bear Study has gained national attention. The second year report was released in October 2014. The third field season will be conducted May 18 – July 31, 2015 by eight student interns, three student leaders, and faculty and staff supervisors.