Great Bear Foundation
is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization in Missoula, Montana, dedicated to the conservation of the eight species of bears and their habitat around the world.
- About Great Bear
and our Staff
The Great Bear Foundation is a non-profit organization dedicated to the conservation of bears and their habitat around the world. The Foundation was created in 1981 to be a voice for the bears. We have offices in Haines, Alaska and Missoula, Montana.
Everywhere wild bears exist, they have been forced to adapt to habitat changes caused by human population growth. In some cases, the bears have become so endangered that they are on the verge of extinction. It is possible for bears and humans to successfully coexist, but now it is the responsibility of humans to adapt and learn about ways to live with bears.
The Great Bear Foundation is primarily a member-funded organization, and the generosity and support of our members makes our work possible. You can read more about our Projects and Field Courses, find out how to become a Member or Shop to help support us, read the latest Bear News or our past Blog posts. And you can click the tabs above to read about the staff of Great Bear.
Dr. Charles Jonkel has been a biologist and researcher for over 50 years. His work ranges from researching brown, black and polar bears to arctic ecology, teaching conservation-based field courses to the general public, university classes, and wildlife research techniques. Having founded the International Wildlife Film Festival, he has worked for ethics and accuracy in wildlife media. He now strives to teach people about the Arctic, its people, wildlife, and the current crises facing the region due to climate change. Dr. Jonkel is the Co-founder and Scientific Advisor of Great Bear Foundation. He is also a devoted grandfather, gardener, and community member.
Shannon Donahue is the executive director of the Great Bear Foundation. She holds an M.Sc. in Environmental Studies from the University of Montana, with a concentration in bear conservation and education. She works out of our Northern Office in Haines, Alaska, where she monitors human-bear interactions on the Chilkoot River, and provides bear safety educational services. She has been working on mitigating the impacts of bear-viewing in various capacities since 2005. Shannon is currently working with Dr. Frank Tyro and Matt Anderson on a documentary film on the life and work of Dr. Charles Jonkel. Her research interests focus on the effects of tourism on bears in North America and human-bear interactions on multiple use salmon streams.
Dr. Frank Tyro has worked at Salish Kootenai College (SKC) in Pablo, Montana since 1984 teaching photography, TV production and mass communication. He brought local public television to the Flathead Reservation in 1988. Frank’s background includes 40 years in broadcast media. He is a recurrent visitor to Churchill, Manitoba with the Great Bear Foundation Arctic Ecology field trips as a volunteer beginning in 1984. TV production awards include Best Professional Short, International Cultural Film Symposium, Platinum Best of Show Cultural Documentary, Aurora Award, Telly and Videography Awards of Excellence, Finalist at IWFF and screenings at the American Indian Film Institute Festival, and Native Voice Festival. Frank has a B.S. in TV Production from MSU, Bozeman, an M.A. from Temple University, Philadelphia in Mass Communications and PhD from the Union Institute and University, Cincinnati in e-learning.
He received the Distinguished Service Award from SKC, was president of the Montana Public Television Association, and president, Big Brothers and Big Sisters of Lake County. He has presented on American Indian Learning Styles, Constructivist Theory and Successful Online Courses at conferences in the U.S., Norway and Canada.
Frank lives in Pablo, MT with his wife, Dr. Lori Lambert and their sled dogs.
Monica Perez-Watkins is the Office Manager for the Great Bear Foundation’s Missoula office. She has a passion for wildlife conservation and welfare and has worked with various species, from fish to primates, and is happy to now work for the protection of bears. She has a B.S. in Wildlife and Conservation Biology and an M.S. in Environmental Studies, for which she researched the inclusion of human livelihood security within international community-based wildlife conservation projects. Monica also works on the GBF newsletter, Bear News, and occasionally writes for the blog.
Chris Olsen joined the Great Bear Foundation in May 2014 as the Education Specialist and Volunteer Coordinator. He has a passion for wildlife and environmental education.Chris has a B.A. in Environmental Studies with an emphasis in Environmental Education and Communication. He is currently working towards an M.S. in Environmental Studies, where his emphasis is on early childhood development and environmental education curriculum design. Chris is looking forward to expanding the educational programs of the GBF and developing curriculum pieces to provide to classroom teachers. His favorite bear species is the Sloth Bear.
Jenny Rasche is a longtime friend and our former office manager, who continues to volunteer and work as a consultant for GBF. She has a B.S in Psychology from Virginia Tech and has gained knowledge of wildlife biology through courses at the University of Montana and field experience in Alaska. In the summers, she works on Alaska’s Russian and Kenai Rivers educating anglers about bear safety and ethical angling.
Mary Hawver is a dedicated bear enthusiast and educator. She has participated in several of the Great Bear Foundation’s Arctic Ecology Field Courses in Churchill, Manitoba, including our summer Kids’ Trip to the Arctic. She is an avid photographer and naturalist. Mary has recently retired after over twenty years as the production manager for GBF’s publication, Bear News. Mary lives in Wisconsin and spends summers in the Northern Rockies of western Montana, where she enjoys watching bears and other wildlife.