Candidate Profile

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Wildlife & Nature
Dr. Charles Berger, DVM obtained his veterinary degree at Cornell University, and enjoyed a 55-year career in both Berkeley, California and rural Vermont. He rescued, raised and lectured with two Alaskan wolves at universities, ecology centers, museums and public schools, bringing to his audiences both the natural history and mythology of wolves. 

He has been a veterinarian for dozens of major sled dog races, including many Iditarods and Yukon Quests for the past thirty years. 

Incredibly his journey started in Brooklyn, New York, where he didn’t see a tree until he was twelve. He has been exploring remote wilderness areas and studying natural history ever since.

His interest in evolutionary biology has enabled him to teach courses at Dartmouth College, and other educational institutions, such as Cornell University. Internationally, he has given lectures in Norway, Canada, Costa Rica, Brazil and Bhutan, to varied groups that include scientists, naturalists, Buddhist monks and nature tour guides. 

His most recent project includes filming an episode for a reality television show called Extinct or Alive where he was the consulting wolf expert in Newfoundland, Canada.

He produced an award-winning film called, Yukon Journal, and published the first book on Alaskan Malamutes. He and his wife, for many years, have lead ecological, remote tours and canoe trips to two of his favorite places, namely, the Arctic (Alaska, northern Canada, Churchill), and Africa (Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, South Africa, Namibia, Botswana).

Charlie’s lectures are supported by power point presentations as he engages the audience, without notes, but always with a sense of humor. He will leave the audience feeling both smarter and entertained. He welcomes the chance to continue the discussion, fielding questions over gelato, good food, or hanging out in the atriums.
“The World’s Greatest Athletes: the Sled Dogs of Long Distance Races”: This talk explores the biology and challenges of the competition dogs of the 1000+ mile Iditarod and Yukon Quest Sled Dog Races. These dogs have been selectively bred to do the unbelievable: running 5 marathons/day for ten straight days in sub-zero weather. No other mammal can begin to achieve this feat. This lecture also discusses the working dogs of the north, such as the Inuit dogs of northern Canada and Greenland. This lecture draws from Dr. Berger’s veterinary experience serving as the veterinarian for dozens of these races over the past thirty years.

“From the Big Bang to the Rise of Mammals”: This lecture is Charlie’s favorite topic. It will give audiences a ‘big picture’ perspective including the concept of deep time and the various extinctions on this planet gave rise - at various times - to dinosaurs, and all mammals, including humans.

“The Mega Fauna of North America”: At one time, North America had more species of greater variety than the African Serengeti. There were mammoths, mastodons, giant bears, giant beavers, cheetahs, lions and saber tooth tigers. They were plentiful as recently as 12,000 years ago. Where did they go, and what happened to them, are two questions Charlie Berger will explore in this talk.

"Human Migration Across Beringia into the Arctic":  In this lecture, Charlie Berger explores how early man left Africa, migrated throughout most of the world, and became modern humans. He will survey the mammals they encountered, hunted and feared. He will also show how recent the qualities we attribute to being truly human, such as language, art and religion, have so recently evolved.

“The Natural History, Mythology and Behavior of Wolves”: In this lecture, Charlie will show why wolves, more than any other animal, have so inhabited our imagination. Audiences will leave understanding that rather than the killer reputation promoted by novels, the Bible, historic references and even wolf man horror films, the wolf is an incredible social carnivore that man could learn a lot from.

“Domestication: How Wolves Became Man’s Best Friend”: Did we domesticate wolves or did wolves domesticate themselves? This is a question Charlie Berger will explore by looking at the work of a brilliant Russian geneticist named Demetri Belyayev, who showed the process by which wild foxes – in a short amount of time – became tame. This work helps us understand how wolves became our modern dogs and, further, how we created the over 400 dog breeds we have today.

“The Predators of North America: Bears, Wolves and Big Cats”: This lecture discusses how the morphological (structural) differences of these animals affect their biology and behavior, as well as their hunting strategies. The cats, namely the lynx, bobcat and mountain lion - evolved as solitary ambush hunters, while the canids – the wolves and coyotes – evolved into running, social hunters. Charlie will also describe the three bear species found in the North, the grizzly, black and polar bears.

“Bears of North America”: In this talk, Charlie will present an in-depth look at the three species of north American bears: the grizzly, the polar, and the black bear, citing their differences, territories and challenges. We will also discuss the difficulties when humans become their prey and challenges for management of wilderness areas.

“Charles Darwin and Alfred Russell Wallace: the Co-founders of Evolution”: This lecture looks at how Charles and Alfred were alive at the same time, roaming the world, collecting their data, and independently came up with the same idea. This idea, explaining how life works, became the most significant biological theory of all time, namely, evolution. Dr. Berger will look at their lives, and their eventual rush to publish, celebrating how these two men, with disparate backgrounds, came up with the same, brilliant theory, and possibly the greatest idea ever conceived of by humans.

"Selective Topics from the Roof of the World": It’s hard to believe, but during World War II, a 1,620-mile road was built through some of the most inaccessible wilderness on this planet. This feat, the Alaska Highway Project, was completed in a little over eight months, before there were computers, cell phones, or exploratory drones. In 1898, Alaska and Yukon population swelled with the gold rush, drawing risk taking, adventurous spirits north in search of their fortunes. This talk will discuss how these two events impacted this land and its history tremendously. Dr. Berger will share tales from some of the northern ‘characters’ he has met, who have chosen to live in this wilderness.

“Emerging Zoonotic Diseases”: Dr. Berger as a veterinarian and with a keen interest in the concept of “one medicine” will explain the dangers inherent in viral diseases (pandemics), jumping species and their potential lethality to our own species. He will use the model of the 1918 flu epidemic, which killed more people than World War I, World War II, the Korean War combined. He will include an explanation of why the young and healthy are at risk as well as elderly.

“The State of the Herd: Africa’s Mammals and Human Population Growth”: There are now a little over a billion people in Africa. Conservative estimates project that there will be 4+ billion in 2100. Seventy five percent of the world’s children will be African. We face major management challenges, including where to put the people, and where to put the animals. War, famine and global warming also impact this region. As a veterinarian and wildlife biologist, Dr. Berger will focus on the impact of limited resources (territory, food, water) on species, as well as disease.