Zoo News

Oct 13, 2011

Day 4

Day 4 (Wednesday, October 12, 2011)
Today, we took the Tundra Buggy® out for a work day. We’re gearing up for our webinar tomorrow (Thursday, October 13), which will be held at 1:00 p.m. CDT. During the webinar, we will talk about what we’ve learned as well as our experience at the Tundra Lodge.
Riding on the Tundra Buggy® and staying at the Lodge is an adventure in its own right! Tundra Buggy Adventures® is owned and operated by Frontiers North Adventures. The Tundra Buggy® itself is able to be driven across the tundra on roads that were constructed during the 1940s by members of the U.S. and Canadian militaries.  There was military presence here during World War II and through the Cold War as military personnel practiced Arctic maneuvers. The roads aren’t exactly what we would consider to be “roads”—they are often obstructed by large rocks and water. The Tundra Buggy® reminds me of a spacious school bus that is set on HUGE wheels, which lifts the body of the vehicle almost 12 feet off the ground. It keeps us safe from the reach of the polar bears and also helps us to travel across the rugged terrain. Today, each of us got to have a turn driving the Tundra Buggy®. It’s definitely harder than it looks!
The Tundra Buggy® also transports us to the Tundra Buggy Lodge, which is comprised of specialized modules that link together (stretching a total of approximately 328 feet). The Lodge consists of two sleeper cars (which each has 18-20 bunk beds), the lounge, dining and utility car. Despite close quarters, the beds are quite comfortable. Curtains surround each bed, and we all have our own light, window and small mirror. I have written most of my blogs from my bunk as I occasionally stop to scan the area for polar bears and the Northern Lights (though so far, I have been unsuccessful with the latter because it has been too cloudy).
The food is great and is prepared daily by some of the PBI employees and volunteers. We each take turns at cleaning. Last night, I replaced towels in the bathrooms and this morning, I was on kitchen duty. (I helped wash dishes after breakfast.) I should also mention that in order to be more “green,” we have joined our previous Camp participants in the “No Shower Challenge.” We aren’t really telling people that in order to be green, they can’t practice personal hygiene. However, the water has to be driven out to the Tundra Buggy® for our use.  Because we are limited in terms of water supply, we decided to save the time, effort and gas for that water to be transported to us. I have to admit that the challenge really hasn’t been that difficult. All of the Camp attendees (in BOTH the teen and communicator camps! )this year happen to all be females. We’re doing well with the challenge, though almost all of us have either pulled our hair back into ponytails or are wearing hats. Of course, this is also due in part to the strong Arctic winds!
It is truly a pleasure to stay at the Lodge and experience the Tundra Buggy®. Last night, we were joined by John Gunter, the General Manager of Frontiers North. The company is a platinum sponsor of PBI and without their support, we would not have this once-in-a-lifetime experience.
I was thoroughly impressed with the management and operation of this company. John Gunter was born and raised in Churchill, and his family has helped to put Churchill on the world map for tourism in order to help raise awareness about this unique area. 
Frontiers North is also constantly coming up with ways to be greener. The hydraulic fluid they use in their vehicles is biodegradable. If there is ever a leak, it will have a negligible impact on the surrounding environment. The company has also undergone an energy audit and is now using cleaner burning engines.
Frontiers North has also been instrumental in contributing to a new recycling program in Churchill. Since there are no roads to Churchill, it is difficult to transfer recyclables somewhere else. Instead, Frontiers North works with the charter flights that come into Churchill. Planes that are already traveling south are now taking recyclables and are not charging for the service. Waste Management has also gotten involved and uses the recyclables for roads and other products. They, too, do not charge for this service. By simply working together and incorporating practices that were already in use, it has been a win-win situation for everyone involved.
The purpose of this Leadership Camp is to give us a better understanding of what is occurring in the polar bears’ habitat as well as take this knowledge and turn it into a forward action plan. Seeing a company use existing tools (roads, transportation, etc.) and having an impact on so many visitors certainly helps us provide a model for how we, too, can implement change. 
Today, Nichols School in Buffalo, NY will be one of the groups participating in our webinar tomorrow. Earlier this year, the Buffalo Zoo and PBI awarded Nichols School with the Paw of Approval Award for their green practices. I hope that these young bright students, along with other groups will be joining us in this webinar, will get a sense of what we are experiencing in Churchill and how it will take all of us to make changes in order to make a positive impact on climate change.
I’ve learned many things during this conference, but something stood out today during one of our group discussions. Even as individuals, we don’t have to do EVERYTHING—we just have to do SOMETHING. 
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