Arctic scientist under investigation

(AP) -- A federal wildlife biologist whose observation in 2004 of presumably drowned polar bears in the Arctic helped to galvanize the global warming movement has been placed on administrative leave and is being investigated for scientific misconduct, possibly over the veracity of that article.

Charles Monnett, an Anchorage-based scientist with the U.S. Bureau of Management, Regulation and Enforcement, or BOEMRE, was told July 18 that he was being put on leave, pending results of an investigation into "integrity issues." But he has not yet been informed by the inspector general's office of specific charges or questions related to the scientific integrity of his work, said Jeff Ruch, executive director of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility.

On Thursday, Ruch's plans to file a complaint with the agency on Monnett's behalf, asserting that Obama administration officials have "actively persecuted" him in violation of policy intended to protect scientists from political interference.

Monnett, who has coordinated much of the agency's research on Arctic wildlife and ecology, has duties that include managing about $50 million worth of studies, according to the complaint, a copy of which was provided to The Associated Press.

The complaint seeks Monnett's reinstatement along with a public apology from the agency and inspector general. It also seeks to have the investigation dropped or to have the charges specified and the matter carried out in accordance with policy. The complaint also says that investigators took Monnett's computer hard drive, notebooks and other unspecified items from him, which have not been returned.

A BOEMRE spokeswoman declined to comment on an "ongoing internal investigation." Ruch said BOEMRE has barred Monnett from talking to reporters.

Documents provided by Ruch's group indicate questioning by investigators has centered on observations that Monnett and fellow researcher Jeffrey Gleason made in 2004, while conducting an aerial survey of bowhead whales, of four dead floating in the water after a storm. They detailed their observations in an article published two years later in the journal Polar Biology; presentations also were given at scientific gatherings.

In the peer-reviewed article, the researchers said they were reporting, to the best of their knowledge, the first observations of polar bears floating dead offshore and presumed drowned while apparently swimming long distances in open water. Polar bears are considered strong swimmers, they wrote, but long-distance swims may exact a greater metabolic toll than standing or walking on ice in better weather.

They said their observations suggested the bears drowned in rough seas and high winds and "suggest that drowning-related deaths of polar bears may increase in the future if the observed trend of regression of pack ice and/or longer open water periods continues."

The article and presentations drew national attention and helped make the polar bear something of a poster child for the global warming movement. Al Gore's mention of the polar bear in his documentary on climate change, "An Inconvenient Truth," came up during investigators' questioning of Gleason in January.

In May 2008, the U.S. classified the polar bear as a threatened species, the first with its survival at risk due to global warming.

According to a transcript, investigator Eric May asked Gleason his thoughts on Gore referencing the dead polar bears. Gleason said none of the polar bear papers he has written or co-authored has said "anything really" about global warming.

"It's something along the lines of the changing environment in the Arctic," he said.

Gleason said others put their own spin on research or observations.

The complaint alleges Gleason and Monnett were harassed by agency officials and received negative comments from them after the article was published. Gleason eventually took another Interior Department job; he didn't respond to an email and a BOEMRE spokeswoman said he wouldn't be available for comment.

Ruch also claimed the investigation is being done by criminal investigators with no scientific background, even though the case is an administrative matter.

Explore further

Governor opposes polar bear protection

©2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Citation: Arctic scientist under investigation (2011, July 28) retrieved 15 October 2019 from
This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.

Feedback to editors

User comments

Jul 28, 2011
"Gleason said none of the polar bear papers he has written or co-authored has said "anything really" about global warming."

I want to award the scientist of the year award to Gleason for this statement. I wish all scientists would stick to facts and not fall prey to conjecture.

Jul 28, 2011
More evidence that government employees or government grant recipients are more interested in the money than in the truth. Scientists, when offered money to provide alarmist reports that coincide with political desires to control energy use, are as corrupt as criminals, and those who want to use false science to promote their power and wealth.

Jul 28, 2011
It is both absurd and disturbing that these scientists are under fire for their observations. They are not responsible for the sensationalism stirred up by the public or the government around their work.

Unless this 'sensationalism' causes them to fudge, hide, obscure, or otherwise change data measurements (hockey sticks, anyone, CRU anyone?).

Jul 28, 2011
- 4 dead polar bears floating in the ocean after a storm
- and?

- they died from drowning
- apparently swimming long distances

- drowning-related deaths of polar bears may increase in the future if ...

This is NOT SCIENCE. This is opinion.
If this was published in a peer-reviewed article, I suggest the reviewer (and the publisher) were not doing their job.

Beyond all that, I believe scientists:
- have a professional responsibility to put the record straight when their work is used to draw unwarranted conclusions
- need to be more aware of the misuse made by the public media of their own work

After all, if another scientist misquoted you, you would publish a rebuttal automatically! Wouldn't you?

Ignoring public media misuse of your work promotes the belief that you agree with the media statements... and undermines the quality of your work.

Jul 28, 2011
Boo hoo hoo, ye drumbeaters and noisemakers. Never miss an opportunity to tar with an extra-broad brush of generalization, do you.

You'll notice I didn't end that last sentence with a question mark.

Because it was a rhetorical question, that doesn't require an answer from any of you--which is a good thing, since none of you could rise to the occasion by responding in a clear and cogent fashion, anyway.

Mssrs Monnett and Gleason bear as much responsibility for the misquoting or misuse of their article's content as Nietzsche's concept of the "Overman" does to the political ideology of the Nazis: exactly NONE.

Next you morons will claim that Einstein launched the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs.

Jul 28, 2011
I'm with Toyo on this one. It was highly irresponsible to, without even so much as landing to investigate, go into print with the assumption that the bears drowned. To then draw a conclusion that the "drowning" deaths of these bears was the result of global warming is about as valid as saying that they were killed by drunken angry leprechauns.

Should Monett be charged? Not so sure about that one. Cautioned or reprimanded for sloppy science, yes. But as Toyo says, the peer review process should have seen the unsubstantiated references to the bears removed.

Jul 29, 2011
FYI, Dr. Monnett's original publication (regarding the 'drowned' polar bears) can be found at http://www.alaska...lity.pdf
Read it before you draw your conclusions. (Many of the above comments are opinionated beyond what the evidence suggests reasonable.)

Jul 29, 2011
Thank you for that link FroShow. I am curious as to why you gave Caliban a one as he is one of the few on the thread that is not ranting and raving for blood.

There is nothing in the paper deserving of the level of vitriol on this thread. The authors had every right to make a reasonable assumption that the bears drowned. They had NEVER observed dead bears in the water in years of survey flights. They had never seen so many bears that far from land either.

Everything in that paper is well reasoned and within the evidence. The ranting here is neither reasoned nor based on evidence. I am pleased that were several moderate voices. I am displeased that there were so many who did give a damn what the evidence was they just want blood.


Jul 29, 2011
Read it before you draw your conclusions.

Thank you, FroShow!

Jul 29, 2011
Extract from NYT July 29, 2011
.".no other documents have been made available specifying the accusations against Dr. Monnett. But a transcript of a Feb. 23 interview of Dr. Monnett by two special agents for the bureaus inspector general indicates that they questioned him about a contention in the 2006 report that no dead bears had been seen in aerial surveys for 17 years before the 2004 sighting.
Dr. Monnett said that information had been relayed by a predecessor in his position, Steve Treacy. In an interview, Dr. Treacy said that when he was in charge of the surveys on Alaskas North Slope, We recorded all the polar bears we saw. If there were dead ones, we would have noted that as such. He added, I dont remember anything in the way of dead polar bears. He said of Dr. Monnett: I think his integrity is good. What Ive seen of it, hes an honest guy who would tend to treat fairly with the data.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more