A federal wildlife biologist who sounded the alarm about drowning polar bears in the midst of global warming has been placed on leave pending the outcome of a scientific misconduct probe. Charles Monnett is being investigated for unspecified "integrity issues" apparently linked to his report that polar bears could face an increased threat of death if they're forced to swim farther as Arctic ice recedes, reports AP. But environmental watchdog group the Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility is filing a complaint against the suspension, charging illegal scientific interference, and claiming that the Obama Administration is "actively persecuting" Monnett and that he was "harassed" by agency officials after he wrote his paper.
Monnett is in charge of monitoring some $50 million in studies from his Anchorage office of the US Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation, and Enforcement. He and fellow researcher Jeffrey Gleason spotted four dead polar bears in the Arctic sea during an aerial survey following a 2004 storm in the first known sighting of bears floating offshore and presumed drowned while apparently swimming long distances. They theorized that bears' "drowning-related deaths may increase if the observed trend of regression of pack ice and/or longer open water periods continues." Monnett's conclusions helped galvanize the movement to stem global warming, and the drowned polar bears were cited by Al Gore in his film An Inconvenient Truth. Gleason was asked by an "integrity" investigator his thoughts on the bear citation in the Gore film, according to transcripts. Gleason responded by saying that none of the polar bear papers he has written or co-authored has said "anything really" about global warming. (Read more Charles Monnett stories.)