© Kt Miller

1/11/2013 4:31:22 AM

Churchill Reflections Part III

Kt Miller

Snow softly fell as the sun rose over the southern horizon. The sky was gray and bland, but an excitement stirred amongst the great white bears as they frolicked in one of their most cherished substances: snow. The first significant snow of the season blanketed the tundra. After three to four months of a snow-free tundra, the polar bears rubbed and rolled in delight, cleaning their fur and enjoying the cool sensations.

After Leadership Camp 2012 ended, our first week of Tundra Connections began. When I was first brought into the PBI family I had a difficult time grasping exactly what Tundra Connections was. BJ, head of field operations for PBI, would explain that we did live webcasts from the tundra, but it was hard to image what that really meant, and how it actually materialized. Even now, when I attempt to describe to others what it is that we do, I find it difficult to explain such an immense program in only a few sentences. Check out our Tundra Connections page for the full shakedown and peruse our blog archives for entries from the scientists and educators themselves.

I was fortunate to spend the first week of Tundra Connections out on Frontier’s North Adventures’ Tundra Buggy® One. Everyone sat quietly as we waited for our first webcast to begin. I watched the screen, three viewers, seven viewers, 42 viewers, 180 viewers. Over 200 connections, many of which are classrooms were tuned in! Lets just say, for example, that 150 of those connections were classrooms of 30 students each. That alone is 4,500 students! And some of those connections are large seminars or multiple classes! That is incredible! I was blown away.

At that moment a mixture of awe, excitement, and disbelief overwhelmed me. It is incredible what a group of people can accomplish when working together. We collaborate with the Association of Zoo and Aquariums and the American Association of Zoo Keepers as well as Discovery Education and the National Wildlife Federation. Through these partnerships we have the ability to expand our audience and bring climate change education and awareness to a broad scope of people. It is empowering to feel that together we really can initiate urgent action in this important matter.

Spending time with some of the leading climate change scientists, educators, and activists was one of the most inspiring aspects of my experience in Churchill.

Lance Rougeux, director of the Discovery Educator Network, has a contagious energy and work ethic. He would finish a webcast and then quickly jump on Skype or Google hangouts to connect with a few individual classrooms and allow the students to say hello and ask a few extra questions, giving them the opportunity to make a personal connection with the scientists.

Kassie Siegel of the Center for Biological Diversity brought warm energy and a smile into any conversation. Listening to Kassie discuss climate change in the arctic was not only incredibly thought provoking, but equally inspirational and educational.

I was also fortunate to spend some time with PBI’s chief scientist, Dr. Steven Amstrup. We both sat sipping coffee one morning, each working on different things on our computers. Lacking education on the matter, I asked him if he really thought that Hurricane Sandy, and the increase in severe storms in general, was directly affected by climate change. “Absolutely!” he responded, “Let me send you something.”

The opportunity to work with such extraordinary people was truly a gift. I learned such a tremendous amount this fall. When I was a little girl, someone told me, “You are a product of the people you surround yourself with.”

I am thrilled to be able to learn and grow amongst such individuals and contribute to the ripple effect. It seems that together, instead of a ripple, we are creating a wave.

This is part three of a three-part series by Kt on this year's Churchill season.

The Tundra Connections panel connects with people from all over the world during a webcast.
© Kt Miller/Polar Bears International

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