This article is over 5 years old and may contain outdated information.

People & Culture

2013 Martin Bergmann Medal winner: David Hik

For excellence in Arctic leadership and science, and in honour of the late Arctic expert Martin Bergmann, facilitator and inspiration to scientists, business leaders, innovators and explorers

  • Dec 31, 2013
  • 513 words
  • 3 minutes
Expand Image

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.”


Are you passionate about Canadian geography?

You can support Canadian Geographic in 3 ways:

Related Content


Martinique: Exploring the Caribbean’s “island of flowers”

Renowned for its world-class beaches, ecotourism and historical sites, this tropical paradise exudes relaxation, making it the perfect destination to unwind and escape from everyday life

  • 2882 words
  • 12 minutes

People & Culture

Royal Canadian Geographical Society Awards 2020

Award recipients honoured in the first virtual Annual General Meeting and Fellows Show.

  • 2630 words
  • 11 minutes

People & Culture

Gold Medal presented to former Prime Minister Paul Martin

The 21st Prime Minister of Canada received the award in recognition of his distinguished career in public service and dedication to reconciliation efforts

  • 541 words
  • 3 minutes
Preparation of the Martin Bergmann, before it set sail on the Victoria Strait Expedition


Franklin search vessel Martin Bergmann hits a shoal – details

Aboard the RV Martin BergmannWhile searching the Queen Maud Gulf for signs of Sir John Franklin’s lost ships, HMS Erebus and HMS…

  • 425 words
  • 2 minutes