Joanna Sulich with Guests in the Polar Bears International House Interpretive Center

Photo: Kt Miller / Polar Bears International

Joanna Sulich talks with visitors in Polar Bears International House, our interpretive center in Churchill, Canada.

Why Polar Bears International?

By Amy Cutting, Vice President of Conservation



08 Dec 2022

I have always enjoyed the holiday season, but this year it’s been particularly meaningful for me to reflect on how grateful I am for my family, my friends, and the professional opportunities I’ve had in my life. Many of the most meaningful of those opportunities came through my volunteer career with Polar Bears International. For 20-plus years I’ve had the privilege to work and become friends with some of the most remarkable people in the world. The passion, positivity, talent, creativity, and drive that Polar Bears International staff bring to their work is truly exceptional—and this year I was invited to join that team as a senior leader. I could not be more honored and humbled. 

Polar Bears International staff in Churchill during the fall 2022 polar bear season. Joanna Sulich, Sonya Faria, Emily Ringer, Marissa Krouse, Amy Cutting, and Dave Allcorn.

Photo: Shervin Hess / Oregon Zoo

Polar Bears International staff in Churchill during the fall 2022 polar bear season. From left: Joanna Sulich, Sonya Faria, Emily Ringer, Marissa Krouse, Amy Cutting, and Dave Allcorn.

After spending time in Churchill recently for bear season, it struck me once again how efficient and effective Polar Bears International’s programs are. You would be boggled by the extensive “matrix” we use to guide our work during the season and the daily briefings required to run so many simultaneous activities. These range from greeting and educating guests in our interpretive center, Polar Bears International House, to holding science team meetings in the conference room. From hosting “Good Morning America” live from the tundra to working with other press. From building and installing a “Detect to Protect” radar system to test on polar bears near the coast to hosting our Climate Alliance training sessions. And that’s without even factoring in our Polar Bear Cams and Tundra Connections webcasts, which collectively reach hundreds of thousands of viewers around the world every fall!

It occurred to me that, with so many deserving causes competing for your dollars this time of year, you might be asking yourself, “Why Polar Bears International?” I generated the list below when I was asked why I had decided to change careers. Hopefully it speaks to you.

BJ Kirschhoffer, Flavio Lehner, and Alysa McCall on a Tundra Buggy

Photo: Kt Miller / Polar Bears International

Polar Bears International's BJ Kirschhoffer runs the tech for a Tundra Connections webcast live from Tundra Buggy One with staff scientists Alysa McCall and Flavio Lehner during the fall 2022 season.

Ultimately, so much of my gratitude is truly for the sponsors, partners, investors, and donors that support the work that we do—for it would not be possible without you. Thank you for giving so many of us a home where we can do the work we are so passionate about. 

So, why Polar Bears International?

  • Polar Bears International is the only nonprofit committed exclusively to preserving polar bears and their sea ice habitat. Others may use the polar bear for fundraising and include polar bear projects in their portfolio, but our specialization allows us to be laser-focused on addressing the challenges faced by this iconic species.

  • Our priorities are science-driven. Since the beginning, Polar Bears International has been committed to using sound science to understand polar bear ecology. When we know what matters most to polar bear survival, we can better target our efforts in conserving them. 

  • Polar Bears International directly funds and supports polar bear science. Historical government and academic funding sources have become scarce and the biologists exploring new frontiers in polar bear biology need our support. It is rare for nonprofits to directly fund the scientists studying the effects of warming on polar bears or testing technologies that help keep humans and bears safe in polar bear country.

  • We do our own science. Free from the constrictions of government or academic institutions’ limitations, our research team can invest 100% of their effort into the most critical research questions and technologies.

  • We have great people. For over 20 years Polar Bears International has been a leader in assembling teams of talented, passionate and innovative individuals from a variety of disciplines. We are known for being nimble and responsive as the situation evolves in the north.

  • We create solid partnerships. Polar Bears International prides itself on having a big tent approach to conservation. Everyone is welcome in the conservation conversation! Preserving sustainable polar bear populations into the future is a complex challenge with diverse rights holders and stakeholders. We believe that everyone has a stake in the future of polar bears and our planet. 

  • We build relationships, do lots of listening, and look for intersectionality—places where we can agree on pieces of the puzzle, rather than insisting on a single, monolithic view of polar bear conservation that alienates or silences voices.

  • We honor the people of the north. Climate change disproportionately affects the people coexisting with polar bears and threatens their way of life. We work directly with northern communities to provide the tools they request to keep humans and bears out of conflict while respecting and incorporating their cultural values and traditional knowledge.

Researchers mount a "Detect and Protect" radar system in Churchill.

Photo: Kieran McIver / Polar Bears International

Polar Bears International's BJ Kirschhoffer, below, and two researchers mount a radar system as part of our "Detect to Protect" project in Churchill.

I am also drawn to this work because polar bear conservation has an impact far beyond polar bears and far beyond the Arctic. As a mother of two children and a citizen of this planet, that’s important to me.

So, why polar bears?

  • It’s not just about polar bears. By helping to sustain the polar bears’ future, we’ll help improve conditions for people too. Our futures are intertwined.

  • Sea ice is important to all of us. Sea ice is the earth’s air conditioner. By saving sea ice for polar bears and other Arctic wildlife, we’ll help stabilize the climate that has allowed people to flourish.

Thank you for being part of this community and for your compassion and caring. I’m honored to be a part of this remarkable team, one that includes loyal supporters like you.