11/18/2010 1:47:23 PM

Inspiration on the Tundra (1)

I've had the privilege to work daily with polar bears and exotic animals for over 20 years in the zoo and aquarium industry. However, the opportunity to spend time with animals in their natural habitat is an entirely unique and rewarding experience. Friends, family, visitors, and tourists are often in awe of my profession. However, it's during weeks such as these on the tundra - surrounded by PBI scientists, colleagues, and polar bears - that I'm equally in awe of my career choice and the opportunities that my profession has given me.

Accredited zoos and aquariums in Canada reach millions of urban visitors each year with the goals of providing unique, up-close experiences with animals that will motivate and inspire them to help us to protect them and their natural habitat. Ecotourism, such as the Frontiers North Tundra Buggies here in Churchill, Manitoba, have accomplished this similar goal in a natural setting. This is a trip of lifetime which has succeeded in motivating many, including me to strive harder to inspire Canadians about the importance of protecting Canada's heritage, arctic species, habitat, and our icon, the polar bear.

Who could not be motivated by this experience? The first bear that I witnessed was on our evening trip to lodge. Yesterday, I saw so many that I could sit back and concentrate on the differences of each distinct individual. Today I'm fully enjoying watching behavior and body language. Additionally, I am surrounded by leading scientists, researchers, professionals, and general polar bear enthusiasts.

Our PBI leader, Robert Buchanan once told me that a visit to Churchill, the polar bear capital of the world, created a lot of hope and motivation ....purple juice. When I was invited to join PBI for Tundra Connections, which included the opportunity to see polar bears in their natural habitat, my first reaction was.... surely there are others more experienced or those that needed additional purple juice? However, as our trip comes towards an end, I'm convinced that these past days have brought me to a higher level of understanding and respect for the tundra, the Arctic, and polar bears. I was able to contribute and the additional purple juice will assist me to be a more effective motivator and individual. If I could make a difference, big or small, individually or within the group, I challenge you to join me in making a difference and save polar bears.

Our Tundra Connections team consists of polar bear scientists Dr. Steve Amstrup, Marie Auger-Méthé, and Dr. Ian Stirling; Lance Rougeux of Discovery Channel Education: myself,and our fearless PBI Director of Field Operations and man of all trades, BJ Kirschhoffer. We reached close 38,000 polar bear enthusiasts, educators, students and zoo and aquarium professionals in two days through Tundra Connections. 38,000!!!! That's a lot of purple juice that can save a lot of polar bears. Thank you, PBI, for including me in the PBI family.

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