Zoo News

Oct 11, 2011

Day 1

Hi, everyone! I just want to thank you for your interest in reading my daily postings. I am so excited to be a part of Polar Bears International’s (PBI) Communicator Leadership Conference in Churchill, Manitoba, Canada, and I am pleased that you are joining me in learning more about polar bear conservation!

A lot went into preparing for this trip. While this experience is designed to be fun of course, it’s certainly not a vacation. Camp will require hard work.

Before I even left Buffalo, I completed five reading assignments covering the biology, management and conservation of polar bears, as well as global issue of climate change. Compiled by a number of leading scientists in the field of conservation, these readings and scientific findings made one thing very clear: The longer we wait to address the issue of climate change, the more irreversible the damage will be…and it will affect ALL of us.

I invite you to continue following my daily postings so together we can all learn what we can do to address the very important issue of climate change and how we can ultimately help polar bears.

Day 1 (Sunday, October 9, 2011)

For almost nine months, I’ve been counting down the days until the start of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity…and now that day has finally arrived!

Today, I took a flight from Buffalo to Chicago and then another one to Winnipeg. The total flying time was just a little more than three hours—not bad! Once I arrived in Winnipeg, I checked into the Four Points Sheraton, where we will all be staying for our first night. I met up with my roommate, Marla, who works at the Alaska Zoo. I really can’t complain about being tired from traveling considering she has been traveling since last night!

All of us met up for dinner during which we had our “icebreaker.” We were each assigned another Camp participant to interview and then introduce to the group. As I listened to the introductions, I was very impressed with the variety of backgrounds that make up our group. I think we will all have something to add to the mix and that we’ll be able to make great strides as a result!

We also ate with the participants who will be experiencing the teen camp. After talking to the teens, I’m even more inspired! Some have already started implementing plans to reduce CO2 in their communities and are looking for ways to do even more to help reduce their carbon footprint.

The evening drew to a close after we received an overview of the history and topography of Churchill and what to expect this week while we are there. In addition to all of the group discussions and lectures, we are going to each take turns cleaning inside the Tundra Buggy and helping with some meals—yep, it’s all a part of the experience!

What stuck out to me, however, was when Bill Watkins, a biodiversity conservation zoologist with Manitoba Conservation, talked to us about Churchill itself. He touched on town’s history and culture and even cautioned us to be vigilant since polar bears can sometimes come into the town to look for food. He described Churchill—the Polar Bear Capital of the World–as a place unlike any other. This town, which is accessible only by rail or plane, is one that is full of history (both culturally and geologically). Moreover, the locals witness climate change firsthand and recognize that something needs to be done quickly.

Sadly, there are no signs of snow yet, though the first snowfall should have already occurred this time of year. The weather report shows that temperatures will be in the low 40s for most of the week. A couple of weeks ago, Bill said they experienced record highs in the upper 80s. These certainly aren’t ideal conditions for polar bears, who are waiting for ice to form so they resume hunting for seals after months of fasting on shore.

I am intrigued by the descriptions of Churchill—a unique place that Bill himself stated will have an emotional impact on all of us.

At 5:30 a.m., we will meet in the lobby and walk across the street to the Winnipeg airport. There, we will board our two-hour flight to Churchill and finally experience this amazing place that we’ve heard so much about. Our adventure is about to begin!

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