To the start
Landscapes, Wildlife, Fieldwork
I work in remote places as both a scientist and journalist. My scientific training as an ecologist specializes on the polar desert ecosystems of the high Arctic and Antarctic. I am interested in the effects of climate change on biodiversity and community patterns, and the evolution of polar landscapes.
In addition to my research, I work as a writer and photographer trying to convey stories – the background, facts, and relevance of a subject – in addition to the beauty. My media work allows me insight into how to emotionally convey a factual story and engage an audience – something that can be quite difficult in the physical sciences.
I’m currently a visiting researcher at the Center for Macroecology, Evolution and Climate at the University of Copenhagen. I am also currently employed at the BBC Natural History Unit on a new landmark television series called Seven Worlds.
2016 – Present: Researcher, Seven Worlds, BBC Natural History Unit, Bristol, UK
2014 – Present: Visiting Researcher, Center for Macroecology, Evolution and Climate, Copenhagen, Denmark
PhD – Arctic Climate Change – McGill University (2015)
I studied the ecosystem consequences of polar deserts turning into wetlands (due to climate change) in the Canadian High Arctic. Spent five seasons in the field on Ellesmere and Axel Heiberg Islands. Ran my own research program and expeditions.
BSc – Biology – McGill University (2008)
Studies focused on wildlife and ecology. Additional fieldwork on Heron Island, Great Barrier Reef and outback Australia.
WEMR – Wilderness Medical Associates (2008)
Wilderness Emergency Medical Responder (Equivalent to the United States EMT-B). +210hr course on urban and remote medical protocol.
EMPLOYMENT IN SCIENCES/RESEARCH
Visiting Researcher – Center for Macroecology, Evolution, Climate (2014-Present)
Currently a visiting scholar at the University of Copenhagen coordinating Arctic climate change research. My aim is to collaborate with European researchers on Arctic climate change and altered ecological patterns, in order to develop a more comprehensive idea of how polar regions will response to climate change.
Scientific Diver – Lake Untersee, Antartica Expedition (2012)
A two-month expedition to dive the largest ice-covered surface lake in East Antarctica. I was an emergency medic and one of two scientific divers for a 6-person scientific expedition to Lake Untersee, Queen Maud Land, Antarctica. I also wrote, photographed, and made a video of the expedition for The New York Times. Duties included diving, data gathering, field camp logistics, and field medic.
Research Assistant and Construction – Canadian High Arctic (2010)
I worked as a research assistant to Wayne Pollard at the McGill Arctic Research Station (MARS) on Axel Heiberg Island, Canadian High Arctic. I assisted in data gathering at a number of hypersaline springs on Axel Heiberg Island and performed preliminary work on my PhD thesis. Myself and two others also constructed a new research station building using only basic tools.
Field Hydrologist – Dry Valleys, Antarctica (2009)
Three months of living in remote Antarctic field camps working on glacial stream research. I was part of a small, 3-person research team with the McMurdo Dry Valley Long Term Ecological Research Project (LTER) in Antarctica. I collected field data on glacial streams levels, water quality, and chemistry. Duties included logistical coordination, stream gaging, water quality analysis, surveying, and acting medic in the event of an emergency.
Dive leader and research assistant – Prince Edward Island, Canada (2008)
I worked on marine research studying the spatial and temporal dispersal pattern of invasive tunicate species on Prince Edward Island, Canada. I captained a boat and led a team of SCUBA divers, as well as the technological and maintenance aspects of gathering oceanographic data.
EMPLOYMENT IN MEDIA
Researcher – ‘Seven Worlds’ – BBC1 7 x 1 hour (2016 – 2019) – Upcoming landmark documentary about the seven continents set to air in late 2019. I research across the series, but with a particular emphasis on our Antarctic episode. Additionally, I coordinate our involvement and grants with a number of international governmental Antarctic scientific programs.
Writer/Photographer – Michael S Becker Photography (2008-Present)
Products according to client needs. Publications include: The New York Times, Canadian Geographic Magazine, The BBC, FutureClaw Magazine, Pearson Education, The Huffington Post
Assistant Cameraman – ‘Snow Wolf Family & Me’ – BBC2 2×1 hour (2014)
Ob-doc series following cameraman Gordon Buchanan’s attempt to gain the trust of a wolf pack in the high Arctic. Assisted with time-lapses, sound, data, logistics, and safety for three months in the field.
Presenter – ‘Filming with Solar Power’ – BBC Web 3min (2014)
Appeared alongside Gordon Buchanan as an Arctic scientist on how the BBC is trying to reduce its carbon footprint by using solar panels on location. Presented at Wildscreen 2014.
Writer/Photographer – ‘Warming Temperatures Threaten…’ – New York Times (2014)
Wrote and photographed a high impact piece about how climate change is threatening the Canadian high Arctic. Based on my years of research on Ellesmere Island, Canada.
Writer/Photographer – ‘Into the Blue’ – New York Times (2013)
Wrote and photographed a nine part series about a scientific expedition to dive the largest surface lake in East Antarctica. I was also a scientific diver and medic on the trip. Shot a viral video of diving the lake.
Writer/Photographer – ‘The Dry Valleys’ – FutureClaw (2010)
Wrote and photographed a feature piece on my experiences living for three months and researching in Antarctica’s Dry Valleys.
Becker, M.S., & Pollard, W.H. (2016) Sixty-year legacy of human impacts on a high Arctic environment. Journal of Applied Ecology. doi:10.1111/1365-2664.12603
Becker, M.S., Davies, T. J., & Pollard, W.H. (2016) Ground ice melt in the high Arctic leads to greater ecological heterogeneity. Journal of Ecology. 104: 114–124. doi:10.1111/1365-2745.12491
Pollard, W. H., Ward, M. K., and Becker, M. S. (2015) The Eureka Sound Lowlands: an ice-rich permafrost landscape in transition. In: GeoQuebec 2015 – the 68th Canadian Geotechnical Conference and the 7th Canadian Permafrost Conference Proceedings.
Metcalfe, D.B., Hermans, T., Ahlstrand, J., Becker, M.S. et al. Identifying gaps and priorties in environmeantal research across the terrestrial Arctic biome. In prep. for Science.
Becker, M.S., & Pollard, W.H. (In Review) Climate-induced vegetation growth will buffer high Arctic permafrost change. Nature Climate Change.
Chisholm, C., Becker, M.S. and Pollard, W.H. Ground ice delays spring flowering in thermokarst ponds of High Arctic Canada. In prep. for Ecology.
Becker, M.S. (2015) How Norway Saved Its Vanishing Forests. BBC Earth. November 4, 2015. Available here: http://www.bbc.com/earth/story/20151104-discover-how-norway-saved-its-vanishing-forests
Becker, M.S. (2015) “Disappearing Smile”. Photograph. Nature: News & Comment. March 5, 2015. Available here: http://www.nature.com/news/zombie-ants-mummified-seals-and-a-gorilla-punch-1.17018
Becker, M.S. (2014) Arctic Wildlife in a Warming World. The British Broadcasting Corporation. Available here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/articles/2Y3BN0thkbqhzBwjLKkcfmh/arctic-wildlife-in-a-warming-world
Becker, M.S. (2014) Warming Temperatures Threaten Fragile Balance in Canadian High Arctic. The New York Times. September 22, 2014. Available here: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/23/science/warming-temperatures-threaten-fragile-balance-in-canadian-arctic.html
Becker, M.S. (2013) Into Antarctica’s Dark Depth. Blog series. The New York Times. January 16 – April 5, 2013. Available here: http://scientistatwork.blogs.nytimes.com/author/michael-becker/
Becker, M.S. (2010) Antarctic Travelogue. FutureClaw Magazine. 4: 62-65. Available here: https://issuu.com/futureclaw/docs/fcissue4daisy/64
Becker, M.S. (2016) Seven Worlds the next BBC landmark series. Oral Presentation. Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, August 20 – 30, 2016.
Becker, M.S., & Evans, P. (2014) Arctic wildlife in a warming world. Oral Presentation. Wildscreen Film Festival, Bristol, UK, October 19 – 24, 2014.
Becker, M.S., & Pollard, WH. (2014) Ice wedge thermokarst leads to greater heterogeneity of Arctic ecosystems. Oral Presentation. Arctic Change, Ottawa, Canada, December 8 – 12, 2014.
Becker, M.S., & Pollard, WH. (2014) Vegetation and permafrost interactions create wetland conditions in a polar desert oasis. Panel Discussion. Arctic Biodiversity Congress, Trondheim, Norway, December 2 – 4, 2014.
Becker, M. S., Lapointe, N., & Gibbs, K. (2013) The Role of Science in Evidence-Based Decision Making. Panel Discussion. The Canadian Association of Environmental Law Societies (CAELS) conference, Ottawa, Canada, February 22 – 23, 2013.
Becker, M.S., & Pollard, W.H. (2013) Case study: high Arctic anthropogenic disturbance to polar desert Ice-wedges and their ecosystems. Poster Presentation. ArcticNet. December 9 – 13. Halifax, Canada.
Becker, M.S, & Pollard, W.H. (2013) A case study of high Arctic anthropogenic disturbance to polar desert permafrost and ecosystem. Poster Presentation. American Geophysical Union. December 9 – 13. San Francisco, USA.
Becker, M.S., & Pollard, W.H. (2013) Vegetation and permafrost interactions in a polar desert oasis. Poster Presentation. The International Biogeography Society conference. November 15 – 17. Montreal, Canada.
Becker, M.S., & Pollard, W.H. (2012) The ecology of decaying ice-wedges. Poster Presentation. IPY 2012, April 22, Montreal, Canada.
Becker, M.S., & Pollard, W.H. (2012) The ecology of decaying ice-wedges: novel habitats in a polar desert. Poster Presentation. 42nd Arctic Workshop, March 7-9 Winter Park, Colorado, USA.
Pollard, W.H., & Becker, M.S. (2011) Thawing Ground Ice: Landscape Dynamics in the Eureka Sound Lowlands, Canadian High Arctic. Poster Presentation. 41st Arctic Workshop, March 2-4 Montreal, Canada.
Co-Instructor at McGill University:
2014 – 2015: GEOG 495- Field Studies in Physical Geography
Graduate Teaching Assistant at McGill University:
2012 – 2013: GEOG 272- Earth’s Changing Surface
2012: GEOG 210- Global Peoples and Places
2011: GEOG 200- Geographical Perspectives on World Environmental Problems
GRANTS, FELLOWSHIPS AND AWARDS
2016: Southwood Early Career Researcher Prize – Journal of Applied Ecology
2013 – 2015: Fonds québécois de la recherche sur la nature et les technologies – FQRNT ($60,000)
2013: Global Environmental Climate Change Centre ($2,000)
2012: Antarctic Service Medal (non-monetary)
2011 – 2014: Northern Scientific Training Program ($11,000)
2011 – 2014: ACUNS Research Support Opportunity (monetary equivalent $150,000)
2008: McGill University Science Undergraduate Research Award ($5,600)
American Geophysical Union, International Biogeographical Society, Explorers Club
2012: PADI Drysuit certified
2011: Canadian firearms safety
2009: TDI Nitrox certified
2009: PADI Divemaster –300+ dives in tropical, drift, deepwater, low-vis, and under-ice
2008: Wilderness Emergency Medical Responder
2008: Canadian licensed boat operator
1998: US licensed boat operator
Rockclimbing and rope management – sport climbing vertical and slab rock
Repair of technical gear and computers
ATV repair and small engine maintenance
If it’s broken, I can fix it
Avid fingerstyle/folk guitar player
Runner, cyclist, climber
Beginning woodworker that still has all my fingers
Would not starve to death in French speaking countries
Applied to be an astronaut, got pretty close