Climate Aliance grad Margie Marks with a friend from the Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium.

© Courtesy of Margie Marks

10/7/2015 2:48:12 PM

Climate Alliance – Where are they now? {Margie Marks}

As part of our 10-year anniversary celebration of Polar Bear International's Climate Alliance, we will be highlighting a few of our 248 graduates throughout the fall. Check back every week to see what our grads are doing to take action on climate.

Margie Marks is the Curator of Conservation Education at the Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium, a graduate of Communicator Leadership Camp 2010 (now Climate Alliance), and a PBI Education Advisor. She has been instrumental in bringing the Project Polar Bear Contest to her community and expanding the number of people who participate each year.

Margie works with a team of Climate Alliance graduates at the Pittsburgh Zoo to affect real change within the zoo and surrounding community.

Clearly, Margie has a passion for polar bears and the Arctic. She credits her efforts to work for the Arctic to her time in Churchill with Climate Alliance.

"When I looked out the window of the Tundra Buggy® at my first polar bear, a big male, it had a powerful influence on me. I was speechless just being in the presence of this beautiful animal. I remember thinking to myself, 'this is something that future generations must have the opportunity to experience.' I knew then that I would try to do everything I could to help save these magnificent animals from extinction," Margie said.

She took that experience in Churchill back to Pennsylvania. 

"At the end of my time in Churchill, my group was given a very daunting challenge. We had to come up with a forward action plan that would decrease the carbon footprint of our zoos and local communities. I took this task to heart.

"The plan I developed (with the help and support of a lot of people) has had a meaningful impact on the operation of the Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium. Our Zoo staff have embraced a much more focused approach towards sustainability, and have made great strides in reducing our overall carbon footprint. We have become a partner in Sustainable Pittsburgh and a key promoter of its Green Workplace Challenge. It is an amazing feeling to get people to care about animals and take actions to save their habitat."

Pittsburgh Zoo & PPG Aquarium has been one of the most influential of PBI's Arctic Ambassador Centers in terms of bringing the Project Polar Bear Contest to their community, thanks to Margie and her team's leadership. Their reach expands each year, bringing in more classes to participate in leading their own schools and communities in carbon reduction. Winning teams in 2014 and 2015 included several teams from the greater Pittsburgh Zoo community.

"I am most proud of my involvement with Project Polar Bear and the connections that I have made with the teams. One of our teams, The Energy Angels (armed with CFL bulbs instead of guns), won the grand prize in 2010... The Energy Angels have inspired me every day with their ideas, passion and creativity," Margie said.

Margie also inspires action in others. She encouraged Jenna Whitney to mentor a Project Polar Bear Team. Jenna went on to mentor several winning teams and was recently honored in the elementary educator category from the Carnegie Science Center Honoring Innovation in Science and Technology.

Margie's experience with Climate Alliance has had a lasting impression. She said, "I think I have mentioned the need to save polar bears every day since I returned from Churchill. I don't think anyone could go there and see polar bears in the wild and not want to help in some way. I am deeply grateful that PBI gave me the opportunity to see polar bears in the wild. While I have always been a conservationist, that experience changed me. I am more motivated than ever to help animals and create awareness about wildlife conservation."

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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