SeaWorld San Diego honored Jeni Fain Smith with a Sea Star Award for her environmental efforts. Behind her is the plastic bag polar bear that she created for outreach with schools.

© Courtesy of Jeni Fain

10/21/2015 10:11:25 PM

Climate Alliance – Where are they now? {Jeni Fain Smith}

As part of our 10-year anniversary celebration of Polar Bear International's Climate Alliance, we've been highlighting a few of our 248 graduates throughout the fall.

Jeni Fain Smith is an animal keeper at SeaWorld San Diego working with Arctic animals, and a 2012 graduate of Keeper Leadership Camp (now Climate Alliance). Thanks to her experience with Climate Alliance, and the inspiration she gained from it, "she has become the go-­to person for conservation events in (her) area."

"Being able to tell my story about seeing polar bears along the Hudson Bay allows me to share a first-hand experience with team members and guests ... it gives me more credibility," Jeni said. "More important, the constant support I receive from PBI and other alumni is so very helpful. It's motivating to see what other alumni are doing."

Jeni was recognized with a Sea Star Award from SeaWorld San Diego for her conservation efforts. She has coordinated Polar Bear Week activities and International Polar Bear Day at SeaWorld's Wild Arctic exhibit. She also spearheaded a plastic bag polar bear project for outreach with schools, and organized the first-ever employee Earth Hour event at SeaWorld.

Jeni also initiated conservation cards at SeaWorld. Conservation cards provide information about the animals at SeaWorld and why it's important to protect them. More important, they explain how visitors can help keep these animals safe in the wild.

"I'm proud to be connected with an organization that is out there and making a difference," Jeni said. "PBI is the bridge that connects myself and others to the Arctic, whether it's asking a polar bear scientist a question, providing communication as to what current research is being conducted on polar bears and climate change, or connecting like-minded people to one another to collaborate and do great things."

As one of our Arctic Ambassador Centers, SeaWorld San Diego has been an important conservation partner. PBI is fortunate and grateful for the guidance we receive from some of the world's foremost polar bear experts as well as others who bring unique skills in fields that support our initiatives. At SeaWorld, these individuals include: Bill Winhall, Mike Price, Eric Otjen, and Bill Street. Megan Owen from San Diego Zoo Global has also worked with the SeaWorld team and PBI.

  • A rescue and rehab expert, Bill Winhall is assistant curator of mammals at SeaWorld San Diego. He also served as a valuable member of the PBI Sustainability Alliance and co-chair of the PBI Polar Bear Well-being team.
  • Mike Price, an assistant curator of fishes at SeaWorld, was a 2012 Leadership Camp graduate who is committed to leading youth and has acted as a judge for our Project Polar Bear Contest for several years.
  • Eric Otjen, an assistant curator of mammals at the Wild Arctic exhibit, led the charge to host International Polar Bear Day events at SeaWorld San Diego last year. He collaborated with PBI's Steven Amstrup and BJ Kirschhoffer on a video to play during SeaWorld's special events. Eric has been working with PBI as a Climate Alliance facilitator since February and returned to Churchill for Climate Alliance 2015.
  • Bill Street, Corporate Curator of Conservation and Education, has served on PBI's Education Advisory Council.
  • Megan Owen from San Diego Zoo Global has been a long time member of our advisory board, a Tundra Connections panelist, and conducts important polar bear research. She has published papers that inform conservation in the wild. SeaWorld San Diego and San Diego Zoo Global are  working together to co-host the 2016 Association of Zoos and Aquariums national conference

SeaWorld also supports our efforts in other ways. For example:

  • SeaWorld San Diego will be announcing the Project Polar Bear winners this year with the help of some of their animal ambassadors - stay tuned for more details!
  • Additionally, in 2014 SeaWorld and Busch Gardens Conservation Fund gave PBI a grant for our Southern Hudson Bay population analysis, helping us better understand wild polar bear numbers.

PBI is immensely grateful to our platinum sponsor, Frontiers North Adventures for the complimentary use of its mobile Tundra Buggies®; to Canada Goose for warm parkas provided to participants during their week at camp; to Four Points by Sheraton Winnipeg Airport Hotel for lodging; and to Calm Air for discounted flights. We also wish to thank our education partners, Manitoba Conservation and Parks Canada.

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