For wildlife ecologist Dr. Rae Wynn-Grant, a scientist who works to protect and restore large species like grizzlies and bison, the love of the wilderness started indoors.
“As a kid, I used to watch nature shows on TV. My passion was sparked by sitting and watching TV when I was seven,” she says with a laugh. That passion has since become an extensive education and career studying the movements and behavior of large carnivores.
“Really I just wanted to start big with the really big problem, the really big animal,” she says.
Focusing on large carnivores has a proportionally large impact. These “umbrella species,” as they’re termed in conservation, need the most space and require the most specific resources. If you work to protect them, “you’ll likely be protecting a lot of other species that fall under that same habitat,” Wynn-Grant explains.
Wynn-Grant will present her show, “The Secret Life of Bears,” at the National Geographic Live event in Spokane on January 26, 2022. During her engaging visual presentation, she’ll share some of the “really crazy behaviors” and “some of the mysteries scientists still haven’t figured out yet.”
National Geographic Live presenter: Dr. Rae Wynn-Grant holding a cub (left) and at a bear den. // Photos by Peter Houlihan, courtesy of National Geographic Live.
“There are eight species of bears around the world. In this show, I’m going to take the audience around the world to learn about all the things you were never taught about bears,” she explains.
One species of bear she’ll cover “has a fur pattern so interesting that every bear is unique—so you can actually identify a bear by the pattern on its fur, like a human fingerprint. No two bears that ever lived, ever in the history of the world, have ever matched. Scientists are just uncovering that.”
She’ll also talk about a bear species that today eats only plants—but scientists have discovered the species probably used to be entirely carnivorous. “Sometime over the past several thousand years of its evolution, it has evolved into a totally different animal than it used to be.”
Discoveries like these illustrate that even with more familiar, well-known species, “there’s still a lot of science to be done, still a lot of discoveries to be made,” says Wynn-Grant.
“For a Spokane audience, I imagine folks at that tour stop will already know a lot about bears, especially black bears . . . and that’s really cool,” she says. “They’ll know what I’m talking about in some ways, but there’s just going to be so much [new information] to talk about.”
“It gives me so much joy to talk about nature on TV, on stage, wherever it is,” says Wynn-Grant. “I’m definitely trying to inspire people to see themselves as curious scientists and people who can make a difference and keep asking questions.”
Wynn-Grant will be in Spokane for the National Geographic Live “The Secret Life of Bears” on January 26, 2022, at 7 p.m. at the Martin Woldson Theater at The Fox.