Susan Janet Crockford (born 1954) is a Canadian zoologist, author, and blogger specializing in Holocene mammals. From 2004 to 2019 she was an adjunct professor in Anthropology at the University of Victoria. She is best known for her blog posts on polar bear biology, which oppose the scientific consensus that polar bears are threatened by ongoing climate change.
Early life and education
Crockford first gained her interest in the Arctic in elementary school, when she read about Inuit life and Arctic fauna. Her scientific interest in the Arctic was stoked when she received her first Alaskan Malamute at age eleven.
Crockford received her Bachelor of Science in Zoology at the University of British Columbia in 1976 and her doctorate in Interdisciplinary Studies from the University of Victoria in 2004. Differing from a normal Zoology degree, she chose to focus on speciation in mammals, with a focus on thyroid function.
Susan Janet Crockford (born 1954) is a Canadian zoologist, author, and blogger specializing in Holocene mammals. From 2004 to 2019 she was an adjunct professor in Anthropology at the University of Victoria. She is best known for her blog posts on polar bear biology, which oppose the scientific consensus that polar bears are threatened by ongoing climate change
A 33,000 year old canid skull from Siberia analyzed by Pacific Identifications.
In 1988, Crockford, along with colleagues Rebecca Wigen and Gay Frederick, founded the contracting company Pacific Identifications Inc. in Victoria. The company specializes in offering bone and shell analysis of skeletal elements of fish, mammals and birds from western North America and maintains a prominent library of reference animal remains. Since the start of her career, she has worked primarily through paid contracts for specific work on a variety of topics.
In 2006, she published the book Rhythms of Life: Thyroid Hormone and the Origin of Species, explaining the effect of thyroid hormone secretion upon evolutionary change. She hypothesized that the thyroid is the key to controlling species-specific growth and for maintaining homeostatic conditions for individuals. The species-specific flow of hormones would therefore be the root cause of why—for example—a chimpanzee would develop into a chimpanzee while in its mother’s womb, instead of a human, despite possessing 99% of the same genes. The most controversial portion of her book was the challenge to the idea that humans alone domesticated animals. She argued species adapted to fulfill the ecological niche provided by becoming the companions of humans or by living within their communities.
Crockford is a specialist on the evolutionary history of dogs, especially in regards to their domestication and speciation. In 2007, she was called upon as the scientific consultant for the PBS documentary, Dogs that Changed the World, focused upon the domestication of dogs. In the two-part documentary, she was called upon multiple times to give insight into the process of domestication and the emergence of dogs as a separate species from wolves. She has also written several peer-reviewed papers on this topic.
Crockford blogs about polar bears.
Crockford has been a constant voice of disagreement with the mainstream opinions of polar bear scientists, notably Steven Amstrup and Ian Stirling, regarding polar bears’ current status and level of endangerment. Declining levels of summer sea ice and the corresponding levels of polar bear population decline from 2004-2010 was published in a study and used for the popularization of the polar bear as the symbol for climate change. Crockford suggests that the decline in the polar bear population was in fact caused by unusually thick spring ice that year, a recurring trend every decade for the past century, which led to a shortage of their preferred prey, ringed seals. Either the subsequent seal shortage or declining ice levels was the cause of an approximately 40% decrease in polar bear numbers in the Beaufort Sea area. She charges that this study, which only used data up to 2010, despite being available until 2013, used cherry picked results due to an undisclosed conflict of interest to cause the species to be categorized as “Threatened” in the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s 2015 Red List. A response to her op-ed was written by Amstrup and Andrew Derocher, to which she replied on her blog.
Crockford is a signatory of the International Conference on Climate Change’s 2008 Manhattan Declaration, which states that “Carbon dioxide and other ‘greenhouse gas’ emissions from human activity…appear to have only a very small impact on global climate,” and “Global cooling has presented serious problems for human society and the environment throughout history while global warming has generally been highly beneficial.” Between at least 2011 and 2013, she received payment from The Heartland Institute, in the form of $750 per month, which Crockford states was to provide summaries of published papers that might not have been covered by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Fifth Assessment Report. This payment has been construed as an undisclosed conflict of interest, by blogs such as Desmog Blog. Her response to such claims was a disclosure of the job description, how much she was paid, and the duration of the contract.
Although polar bear scientists disagree with Crockford’s claims, her blog has been widely cited by websites that either deny or are skeptical of climate change, with over 80% citing it as their primary source of information on polar bears. Critics point out that none of Crockford’s claims regarding the effects of climate change on polar bears has undergone peer review, nor has she ever published any peer-reviewed articles whose main focus is polar bears.
In 2018, Crockford published the State of the Polar Bear Report 2017 for the Global Warming Policy Foundation. In 2019, Crockford published a follow-up and updated report the State of the Polar Bear Report 2018.
After 15 years as an adjunct professor, University of Victoria did not renew her contract in May 2019, possibly for her climate change views.