• Photo: Richard Siemens

Receiving a medal in recognition of your excellence is an honour, but when that award is named after a close, now deceased, friend, it becomes especially meaningful. Here David Hik talks about his career as a northern scientist.

On the North

It’s a special place. We often think of it as remote and isolated, but it’s connected to the rest of the planet as well. When I go to the North, I go back to places I’ve been going for 30 years. In many ways, those are the places I think of as home.

On lessons from Martin Bergmann

Marty showed that the best thing you can do is bring people together and get them talking to each other. There’s nothing like infectious enthusiasm to get people doing new and exciting things.

On his current work

A lot of my work is in the mountains of the Yukon. I’m interested in how animals — herbivores, specifically — are able to find food in years with extreme conditions.

On his legacy

I’d like people to remember how much fun they had during International Polar Year 2007–2008. We found a way for people from 60 countries to work together and translate the lessons we learned into new research programs.

On what’s next

There is a large range of variability in the North, and it’s important that we study the system over a long period. I’ll mostly be trying to promote the ecological, social and environmental networks that support that work. The Canadian High Arctic Research Station (set to open in 2017) will put us in a really good position to work on this.

Receiving a medal in recognition of your excellence is an honour, but when that award is named after a close, now deceased, friend, it becomes especially meaningful.

David Hik and Martin Bergmann were colleagues, both dedicated to promoting Arctic development and science. In the decade before Bergmann’s tragic 2011 death, says Hik, the pair came up with all sorts of ways to get people interested in the North.

Among those strategies was facilitating the ongoing events of International Polar Year 2007­–2008. With a spotlight still on the world’s northern regions in the years after, it was Hik, executive director of the Canadian IPY Secretariat, who seized the opportunity to really promote Canada’s North. It was thanks to Bergmann, he says, that he understood the power of bringing people together.

And Hik, who’s also a professor of biological sciences at the University of Alberta, imparts his passion to his students. As he continues to study herbivores in the Yukon, he takes the next generation of scientists with him, promoting whole-ecosystem research (and the institutions that support it) along the way.

He’s just the second person to receive the award for excellence in Arctic leadership and science, after Bergmann’s widow received it in honour of her late husband last year.

“I’m not sure I’ve come near accomplishing what he did, but I’m trying,” says Hik. “Winning this award is such a privilege: anything to do with Marty is pretty special.”