11/4/2010 12:56:27 PM

One Green Act a Day ... for the Polar Bears

As we wrap up our day in Tundra Buggy® One, a polar bear sleeps soundly outside in the same spot it has been in for the last seven hours. It was a rather grey day until about 4 p.m. when the sky opened up and the sun came out. The Hudson Bay is 20 yards away and a brilliant blue, and we can see for miles across the tundra.

Resting polar bear

We were out here for the day videoconferencing with groups of high school and elementary school students, teaching them about polar bears and how they can help conserve these animals and the habitat that they live in. I'm also learning a lot this week because this is my first time ever in Churchill and my first time seeing these incredible white bears.

I'm a graduate student at the University of Alberta, just starting my MSc in Ecology under the supervision of Dr. Andy Derocher. I've known for months that my project would involve polar bears in western Hudson Bay, but it's only now sinking in that I get to study one of the most fascinating animals on the planet! It was just a couple weeks ago that I was told I would be going to Churchill in early November to participate in the Polar Bears International Tundra Connections program. Now here I am in northern Manitoba feeling extremely fortunate to have been given the opportunity to meet some of the top polar bear biologists in the world and to experience firsthand what many people will only ever see in pictures.

Polar bear along the shore

Watching polar bears wait around for the ice to form has motivated me even more to do as much as I can do at home to be more environmentally friendly. Sometimes in a big city (I currently live in Edmonton), trying to save energy or recycle can at times feel pointless while watching thousands of cars whizz by and garbage blow around the streets. But even little things like hanging clothes to dry, using recyclable grocery bags, or walking/biking to school can add up for one person. Imagine the collective energy savings if we all could do one green act a day! Making informed decisions about where we buy food, clothes, and other products can also make a big difference. One of my new favourite websites is www.climatecounts.org which rates companies by the effort they are making to be more environmentally friendly. I'll definitely be changing some of my consumer habits after reading this site!

Polar bear on rocky shore

One of the most valuable things I have learned so far while in Churchill is how Polar Bears International operates. I didn't know a lot about the organization before coming here, and I know that there can be some suspicion about where donations go after you give to groups similar to PBI. But the people that work for PBI are some of the most passionate and intelligent people I've ever met. Every dollar goes straight to the welfare of polar bears and there is a concentrated effort put into educating the public about the importance of conservation. I think that one of the most important things they do is educating young people about things they can do that WILL make a difference, now and in the future. Videoconferencing with the kids today and listening to their thoughtful questions made me hopeful for the future of the polar bears and their environment.

Poalr bear in glow of pink sunsetAs the sun sets here in Churchill and the sleepy polar bear finally opens its eyes to a pink sky, I'm overwhelmed by the beauty, strength, and intelligence of these animals. I'm greatly looking forward to being able to contribute information to the understanding of how these animals are dealing with their changing environment and I know that even when my project is over, I will continue to do my part for polar bear conservation.

Photo Credits: ©Mike Lockhart.

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