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, Co-founder & President Emeritus, devoted his life to bear biology, conservation, and education, working on the bears’ behalf for over 50 years. His work ranged 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. He co-drafted and was a signator of the International Agreement on the Conservation of Polar Bears (Oslo 1973), the first ever international agreement to protect and conserve polar bear populations, implementing regulations on hunting, while guaranteeing indigenous subsistence rights. As founder of the International Wildlife Film Festival, he worked for ethics and accuracy in wildlife media. Through the Great Bear Foundation, he loved to teach people about the Arctic, its people, wildlife, and the crises facing the region due to climate change. Dr. Jonkel was the Co-founder, President Emeritus and Scientific Advisor of Great Bear Foundation, and a devoted grandfather, gardener, and community member. Dr. Jonkel passed away in Missoula, Montana on April 12, 2016.
Shannon Donahue, Executive Director 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, President 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 produces our publication, Bear News. 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.
Elissa Chott is the Bears and Apples Program Coordinator and the Education Specialist for the Great Bear Foundation’s Missoula office. Her interest in bears stems from joining the first children’s Arctic Ecology field course to Churchill in 1995. She enjoys backpacking, kayaking, and hiking in Montana and Alaska. Elissa is currently working towards an M.S. in Environmental Studies with a focus on climate change and its affect on polar bears in the Canadian Arctic.
Jenny Rasche is a board member and our former office manager. 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. She worked on Alaska’s Russian and Kenai Rivers educating anglers about bear safety and ethical angling, and now works at Kenai Peninsula College’s Kachemak Bay Campus. Jenny lives in Homer, Alaska with her husky mix, Fly.