Thanks to Polar Bears International (PBI), we're reporting directly from the Arctic tundra this week during a Communicators Leadership Camp in Churchill, Manitoba, observing polar bears in the wild, and most importantly, studying the effects of accerlerating climate change on the environment.
We started the day with a visit from one of Churchill's signature species, a polar bear wandering right next to our Tundra Buggy Lodge. But today was also a full day of inspirational presentations, notes and news from our climate change experts, and close encounters with elementary students via Skype...and close encounters with polar bears. From a World Wildlife Fund conservation officer to elementary students via digital conference we explored the world of the Arctic and the environmental changes taking place. We also hit the tundra but it was for an exploratory trip to a forest with one of our camp facilitators, Avery Dorland, a forestry expert with the Wisconsin DNR. Check out his quick video primer on why forests are a "win-win" when it comes to reducing our carbon footprint:
We really began our day of learning via Skype, hearing from Geoff York, a polar bear biologist and World Wildlife Fund Senior Conservation Officer with the Arctic Network Initiative, who broke down WWF's international projects on climate change and the organization's dedicated role in saving the polar bear and its Arctic habitat.
Next we turned around the cameras around on ourselves, connecting via Skype with two elementary schools located in rural North Carolina, giving them background facts on polar bears, a few tidbits on life on the Tundra Buggies, and our impressions of Churchill wildlife. They also showered us with questions, including why we chose to not shower for the five days on the Tundra Buggy Lodge! (We doing our part to reduce water usage at this remote location and we were challenged by zookeepers...if you really want to know).
After saying goodbye to the students, we hit the tundra in search of forest land, seeing snow buntings, ptarmigan birds (like prairie chickens), arctic fox...and polar bears along the coast of Churchill Bay, waiting for the sea ice to form. We found a thin tree line not far from the tidal flat and we piled out to hear from Avery Dorland, a forestry expert with the Wisconsin DNR playing the role of camp facilitator. The surprisingly diverse area includes lichens, a staple of caribou herds that will wander through these parts, usually in winter. After that, back on the Tundra Buggies for the trip back to the Lodge.
Here's a few photos from the day, another jam-packed immersion training day...and yes, polar bears.