Heartfelt Reflections from the Tundra

By Barbara Nielsen, Senior Director of Communications



04 Dec 2023

Back in the early 1980s, I traveled to Churchill, Manitoba, Canada, for the first time, bumping over the snowy tundra in an early version of a Tundra Buggy® — swept up by the sight of wild polar bears padding across the landscape with a slow, easy gait; of delicate Arctic foxes prancing lightly on the snow; and of flocks of ptarmigan whirring up in sudden clouds before settling down.

The vastness of the open tundra, the beautiful, subtle light — it was a world that captured every tingling fiber of my being, and it has never let go.

Changes over time

Recently, the U.S. Ambassador to Canada visited Churchill, and I was privileged to join him on a Tundra Buggy for a day of bear-watching, sharing memories and stories about polar bears along with information on the threats they face. As we talked, I was struck by the depth of my feelings — more than 40 years later — for polar bears and the singular beauty of their icy home. And I realized: I can’t imagine a world without polar bears and without the wonder of the sea ice where they roam.

When I think back to my first trip to Churchill, I’m amazed by how different the experience was then. Moms with triplet cubs were not unusual, and fat, healthy bears were the norm. In the 1980s, the population was roughly twice the size that it is now, and freeze-up occurred in a timely fashion — giving the bears an annual seal-hunting season that was three to four weeks longer than it is today.

As one of our loyal supporters, I know you share my passion for polar bears and their Arctic home. And I know you’re committed to doing all you can for their conservation. Will you make a difference for them today with a generous gift?

Small team, big impact

Over my years of working with Polar Bears International — beginning as a founding volunteer and later as part of the first paid staff — I’m extremely proud of the impact of our small but mighty team. 

We have been tireless in working to address the overarching threat of climate change, sharing the polar bears’ story with the world and building coalitions of positive change-makers. We also lead the way with research projects that impact polar bear conservation, helping to effect change based on data and the needs of the bears. 

And we strive to ensure healthy populations of polar bears thrive in the short-term. This includes working to protect moms and cubs during the vulnerable denning period and supporting communities to reduce conflict between polar bears and people, focusing on solutions that promote coexistence, allowing bears and people to thrive.

Barbara In Svalbard, looking out to the landscape

Photo: Kt Miller / Polar Bears International

Our shared vision

I’ve dedicated almost my entire adult career to the polar bears’ conservation, and I can’t think of a better legacy to leave behind than to sustain their future. Together we can make a difference for polar bears and a difference for the Arctic — and for that, I thank you, from the bottom of my heart.