Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Day #9 on the Tundra With Zookeeper Sara **WARNING** A bit graphic!

Sara, one of our zoo keepers, is in the Arctic right now with Polar Bears International. She has been sending me great, quick reports & pictures. This is from day 9:

"Once in a lifetime viewing today, we saw a male polar bear eating a seal carcass on the shores of the Hudson Bay. Three other bears caught the scent, a female who was not successful in eating any and 2 males who took turns fighting each other off the meat. This is a very chance encounter for a bear at this time of year in Churchilll; The bears haven’t eaten in 120 days and most won’t until the ice freezes and they can hunt the seals on the ice."

Monday, October 18, 2010

Zoo Keeper reports & pictures from the Arctic

Sara, one of our zoo keepers, is in the Arctic right now with Polar Bears International. She has been sending me great, quick reports & pictures I want to share. These are from Friday - Sunday:

Day 5

The bears hunkered down today in day beds they made in the kelp. One guy took a short break from his nap to stretch a bit and play with the kelp, tossing it in the air and catching it on his paw, and then went back to sleeping. Lazy bears!

Day 6
Today we saw the first sparing of the season! With no food or females to compete for, at this time of year males will play fight on cool days. Of course scientists aren't sure why, but they think this is the bears way of going to the gym and preparing the strength they will need for hunting all winter.

Day 7
A bear that weighs far more than a human can walk on less ice without falling through because their 4 dinner sized paws distribute their weight and their 2 inch claws help them keep their grip on the ice.

Our Teen on the Tundra's Final Blog Entry

Today is my last day on this amazing and life-changing trip.
Its extremely hard to have to say goodbye to all the wonderful friends
I've made and to the tundra that has been my home for the last week.
We're flying out of Churchill to Winnipeg, and then back to our own
states, territories, and countries. Its very solemn today, we all
reminisced on the wonderful week we've had as we walked back to the one
room airport they have in Churchill. We all were in tears as we said our
last goodbyes and came together for one final group hug. We have all
become one big family and though were sad to be leaving, we are SO
motivated to work together on our group project and to stay in contact
with each other, even with our Aussies :) I have taken so much away
from this trip. It has taught me a lot about what is happening in the
world I am about to enter and about what i am able to do in order to
change these events. It has given me great confidence in myself and in
how I can spread the message of conservation. It has also given me
friendship and a great support system to help and motivate me in my my
efforts to change. What I have taken away form this trip is something
that I am certain only happens once in a lifetime and to have had the
opportunity to experience that, is something I value i with all my
heart. I want to thank the Como Zoo for sponsoring and supporting me to
allow me to go on this wonderful trip. I'd also like to thank PBI for
making it possible for teens to have this kind of experience.
Climate change is a challenge that is threatening our planet.
Just like any other global challenge, there is controversy, hesitation,
and confusion. The threats we are facing due to the results of climate
change are very scary and potentially permanent. But we have to remember
that it can be easily reversed. Looking back in history, we see several
conflicts that have taken large amounts of patience, education, and
power from the people. Our own story of the beautiful bald eagle is a
great example of just that! So let this be a sign of hope for us and a
reference that if we all put our best efforts together, use technology
to make greener innovations, and to be aware of the things we as
individuals are doing to our environment, we can flight climate change
and protect the animals that are getting affected by it. Looking into
the eyes of a polar bear has definitely changed me as a person. The
polar bear is a remarkable creature as are all the wildlife of the
arctic. Its time we worked together as a community, a city, a country,
and a world, to help these animals and the environment we all live in.
Thank you all for reading my blogs and for supporting myself
and my trip up here. This is something I really appreciate and intend to
repay with my best efforts to raise awareness, help conserve, and
ultimately change our world for the better.

-Kathryn Ravey

Friday, October 15, 2010

Day #5-Amazing Photos & Stories from Kathryn, our Arctic Ambassador


Inspirational! Unbelievable! Life-changing! These are only a few words to describe how incredible today was! Waking up in the morning in my small,warm bunk was very nice, but the huge gust of arctic wind I had to walk through to get to the dinning cart, was not! Still, the excitement of loading the tundra buggie up for our last tundra excursion was motivation enough to get ready in a hurry. The tundra was beautiful today! Clear skies, calming winds, and POLAR BEARS! Right from the get go we saw a big polar bear laying right beside the path! She was rolling around and chewing some of the bushes, as well as curling up to sleep, making the cutest picture ever!! It was incredible to see! Later we saw another polar bear in the distance. She was checking out some of the other tundra buggies! We were so jealous....until she started to walk our way. We all silently gasped in shock and anticipation! We were all quiet and smooched up against the side of the buggie with our cameras ready as she came to the side of our buggie! As she headed for the back of our buggie we all quietly ran to the outdoor observation deck of the buggie. I got the very corner, which turned out to be the BEST spot! Because as she curiously looked at us and sniffed the air, she walked up to the corner, where I was standing, and stood up and leaned against our buggie!! Her face, a very large and wild polar bear, was 2 feet from myself! She just looked straight into my eyes and stared. WOW! What an indescribable experience that was. Once you have had that silent, poignant connection with a wild polar bear, you develop this sort of inspired emotion that really cannot be described to anyone who has not had that experience. Polar bears, though strong and dangerous, are very gentle and curious creatures, with a sense of elegance about them. I consider myself extremely lucky to have experienced that connection, which will also allow me to bring that inspiration to people back home, to help spread the message of conservation. We also got to see 2 males fighting! It was so fantastic to see them up on their hind legs, pushing and playfully biting each other! What amazing creatures. It breaks my heart the think that these amazing animals could become extinct in my lifetime.
We also got to do something very rare and special; go out of the buggie and onto the tundra ground! It was then that i realized i had not been on the actual ground for over 24 hours! But it was very cool and special to feel the tundra under my feet and feel it's texture. We learned about the plants that live there and about the different liken that grow there. Luckily, no polar bears we around so we didn't have any encounter(although i was partly hoping!). When we got back to the lodge, we had a video conference with a 4th grade class! Each student came up to the camera and asked us a question which we then answered. They were so cute! It felt very cool to pass on our information and message about polar bears to the younger generation. We also talked to a 12th grade class, where i mentioned to them that they were at the prime age to be making a difference in climate change as they become the new leaders in our world.

Interesting fact of the day:
· Polar bears have huge neck muscles! They can pull a seal up from the water with just their necks and fling them around in the air to kill them. For humans, it would be the equivalent of throwing a huge bag of dog food into the air with juts our necks and teeth!
Tonight, we had the absolute pleasure of video conferencing with the president of PBI. He can be described as the funny, loud kind of guy with the ability to inspire an entire organization and 18 teens to the point of tears. He told us why our generation was so important to the future of our world and how this is our battle to fight. But it was the words that he used that lead us all to tears. Its hard to describe this to someone who hasn't been here to experience, first hand, what its like and actually see the affects of climate change, as well as seeing the animals it affects, but to us his speech gave us the motivation, inspiration, and sense of power and ability to go out and change the world! By the end of the speech, we were all in tears in a big group hug! His speech tied in perfectly when we then planned our group forward action plan. After 2 hours of discussing, coordinating, and planning we had all formed a group project called; "Green Across the Sea." Our goal is to significantly reduce the carbon levels in the atmosphere by getting a company or organization in each of our communities/countries to agree to reduce their carbon footprint by 5%, by Oct 16th of next year. Its very ambitions, but if successful, we will be able to make a huge difference! (Look for our website: Green across the Sea, by Nov 16th). I am so inspired to come back and show people how much one person can affect the world.
This is my last night in the tundra buggie lodge, as well as in Churchill :( One of things I've loved most of all about this trip, was the people. This group has literately become a family. We all get along equally in a judge-free environment. Everyone has been consistently positive and I've loved laughing and learning with all of them. We all have inside jokes and we are very famous for our group hugs! I couldn't feel more supported and connected with any other group. It is really awful to think I have to leave here tomorrow. If I could, I would stay here forever. But being here has given me so much which i know will stay with me no matter where I go.

-Kathryn Ravey

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Day #4 on the Tundra with Kathryn, our Arctic Explorer!


Today was a bright an early morning for all of u as we loaded all our belongings onto a bus as we left our PBI houses in Churchill. We were on our way to our new home for the next three days; The Tundra Buggie Lodge! The lodge is a bunch of tundra biggies linked together in a train, creating a big lodge right on the tundra! But it takes about 2 hours to get there with the tundra biggies! So, we loaded up our buggie and started off, bright and early, for our excursion to the lodge. As we drove through the tundra, we saw beautiful scenery! You can tell its really the arctic as soon as you step outside! The wind is strong and ice cold, but the view is worth it. The main excitement for today was getting lucky enough to see more wild polar bears! This time, they were even closer to the buggie! One ran right in front of the buggie and stood close by as we all got great pictures! When the sun came out, his fur coat shone brightly and you cold see how truly beautiful these creatures are. Another bear we saw, was a very large male. Although he looked very big and strong, we got to see him rolling and playing in the bushes! He looked so cute as he stretched out his big paw and yawned. The feeling you get when you see one of these creatures in the wild, is a truly an indescribable experience. You feel so humbled and so small, when you see an actual polar bear in the wild, without cages, without signs, and without people. Just free. It was breathtaking. Our whole group was in awe of the whole situation.
When we arrived at the lodge, we were all very excited! Its not as small as you would think. The bunk beds all have their own privacy curtains with their own window, looking out to the tundra! There are 6 small bathrooms, a kitchen, a lounge, a dinning car, and it is all decorated with beautiful pictures of the wildlife and furnished with beautiful woods and eco-friendly materials. I want to live here forever! No where else in the world can you be so close to such a unique and gorgeous environment and be so comfortable at the same time!

Interesting facts of the day:

Polar bears live on the ice for most of the year. They wait for seals to come up for a breath and then catch them to eat them. Polar bears ONLY eat seals. Which is why the loss of sea ice is such a threat to the bears. Without the ice, they can't catch their food. Though it is true that polar bears can be opportunistic and eat other meats when convenient, no other source of food is sustainable for a polar bear nor is it easy for them to hunt.

Canadians really DO say "eh!" :)
After our first dinner on the lodge, watching the beautiful sunset on the horizon, we all gathered for a presentation. The presentation was about the communication and leadership we need to take away from this trip. The whole speech given to us was one of the most inspiring things I've ever heard. What they basically told us (and what I think is important for all of us to know) was that, our human impact is effecting the climate in the arctic and the ice caps. That the carbon we've been adding, has only given us an estimated 4 years of time to make a change, before the melting of the ice caps cannot be reversed! The time to act, is NOW! But its understandable that all the stress and confusion of all this can be overwhelming for anyone, especially me as an arctic leader. But, we have the power and responsibility to stand up and change this. We must accept the challenge we have been given and go out and spread the word about climate change, how we can fix this, and make a big change in all of our communities! We were told a story about a previous arctic ambassador that actually talked to the CEO of Kentucky Fired Chicken, and had him agree to reduce their use of energy, taking 100,000 parts/million of carbon out of the atmosphere! This accomplishment really inspired me to do even more! The point they made was that, even though its not easy to be the change needed in the world, we all have the responsibility to make the change. SO! I encourage all of you to turn off your lights, carpool, reuse, recycle and go that extra step to make a difference. No matter how small. Because as I sit on my bunch bed writing this and looking out at the beautiful tundra's night sky, I realize how influential one person can be in making a change in the world. Even just a teen from Minnesota.

-Kathryn Ravey

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Day #3 on the Tundra with Kathryn, our Arctic Explorer!


WHAT A DAY! Today in Churchill was a very busy, educational, and inspiring day. I woke up lying on the small, foam mat I had slept on the previous night and to the smell of bacon. We were soon dressed, fed and out the door to a beautiful morning in Churchill. Our first stop was a little confusing. We were taken to a small cabin on the coast of the arctic ocean. There, we met two elders with native heritage, who had been trappers their whole life. We listened to their stories of hunting and living out in the tundra, as they passed around several of their prized furs. I was very confused why we, "the people out to save animals", were listening to stories of trapping animals(many of which were kind of gruesome). But as they told us more about their life out in the wilderness, she spoke of being one with nature. About taking only what is needed and loving the earth so she will love you back. I learned that people generally think that people who trap animals, hate animals and nature. But these people were probably the most eco-friendly people who loved animals. They used everything from the land, used dog sleds instead of cars, and only took what they needed. I spoke with one of the elders and asked her what she thought our generation was missing, and she responded: "You are not experiencing the earth. You don't just look outside and witness your surroundings anymore. You go by it too fast." This made me understand why we were there and allowed me to apply it to today's society. I think many of us (including me) are always rushing, trying to do something or go somewhere, or we are bored and just sit around watching you tube or playing video games. What we are missing is something I think is very vital to helping our environment; enjoying the world around us. In other words, once in awhile, remember to stop and smell the roses. We all felt it was a very enjoyable and inspiring experience. Then we went to the Polar Bear Holding Facility, in Churchill. There we learned about how they handle all the polar bears that wander into Churchill, contain them, and the different things they use to scare them off. Apparently in Churchill, Halloween is a very big deal. Because all the kids are out in the dark running around in costumes, they are running a big risk of encountering a polar bear or being mistaken for one! So the patrolmen, send helicopters, trucks, and patrol teams out, to be on the look out for polar bears. They even have a bear hot line! It was very cool. After, we saw parts of Churchill (which wasn't much because its so small), went to an Eskimo museum, discussed our group action plan for helping our communities when we return, bonded as we played at the park in town, and many other things before going back to our PBI houses.

Interesting facts of the day:

Permafrost is the frozen layer of ground in the tundra, that stays frozen almost all year round. Because water is unable to soak into this frozen ground, it creates many ponds (and sometimes lakes) all throughout the tundra. At each of these ponds, there is a small eco-system, where big and small animals like to live. But, due to climate change, the permafrost is melting in certain areas, putting the tundra's eco-system at risk.
After a very long and tiring day, we all got together for a great dinner. But when we stepped outside, we saw the NORTHERN LIGHTS! My friend and I sprinted back inside to tell everyone but, in our excitement, we ran into the wrong house!(opps) After sprinting into the correct house, we yelled throughout the house what we had seen. For the next 45 minutes, we all had the most unbelievable and indescribable time! The northern lights don't just sit in the sky, they make waves and dance around the stars! They start off light green and turn into a florescent yellow-green-blue color!( sorry my picture isn't a very good image of it) It is truly one of the most beautiful sights I have ever witnessed. We all went absolutely crazy at this magnificent sight! People we yelling and gasping at the moving light and we all got this incredible rush of joy! The whole time was spent hugging each other, gazing at the sky, and remarking that this was what people needed to experience. It was like a big "kom-bi-ya" moment! It was an experience like no other. It made me feel so lucky to be a part of this and to live this with such passionate and wonderful people. With all that we are learning, seeing, and feeling, we have no doubt that we can make a change in our world and educate the people around us. It is such an amazing feeling up here!

-Kathryn Ravey

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Arctic Ambassador Kathryn's Day #2 Tundra Blog Entry!


It was the thought of seeing my first polar bear that gave me the motivation to get up at 4:30 this morning. That and the fact that I had to catch a flight to Churchill! We all met in the lobby and went across the street to our small, awaiting plane which seated our camp only. On the flight, i got to see one of the most beautiful things you could see in Churchill; the sunrise. As you can see in the picture, it was one of the most spectacular views I've ever been lucky enough to witness. It gave me a whole new appreciation for where I was and how beautiful the arctic really is. As we ducked beneath the clouds, I got a better glimpse at the landscape. The land here doesn't have snow yet and is very flat, but full of nature. Plenty of large rocks, small trees, and dips in the land(which are actually caused by the land expanding after it has been compressed by glaciers in the winter). The airport was just a small building, no security lines or baggage claims, much to everyone's surprise. But after learning that Churchill only has about 800 or so residents, it made more sense. but we hardly had time to look around before we left to go on the Tundra Buggies! As you can see in the pictures, they are very large and VERY bouncy. The terrain takes forever to go across in a tundra buggies but polar bears have adapted feet and muscles to move across the terrain very easily. On the buggie we saw plenty of birds, pretty landscape, and our first polar bear!!! Although it was at a distance, it was so exciting to a wild polar bear for the first time! Our group was lucky enough to see four polar bears today! They were very calm and used to the buggies, and lifted their heads occasionally to look at us or smell of lunch. It was so cool!

Interesting facts of the day:

A lot of the trees in the arctic only have branches on one side, because the other have(that was not protected by the trunk of the tree) has been blasted off by the high winds they get in Churchill.

Polar Bears have a "Jacobson Organ," which is an organ that allows them to taste or smell the air with their tongue, which is the same things that snakes do!

Because polar bears are so good at distributing their weight on their 4 big legs and wide paws,they can walk on ice as thin as 1 inch!
Polar bears are so adapted to the cold, that if they get to warm or to stressed and their body temperature rises, over heating becomes a real danger to the polar bears.
To get a better grip on the ice, polar bears have little "suction cups" on their paws that are so tiny, it is very hard to see.

As you can see I have already learned a lot on this trip. The people have all been wonderful and I love experiencing this with all of them. It just so happens that today was the Canadian thanksgiving! So we all shared our excitement of the day with each other over a delicious dinner of turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes, and pie! Yum!
After dinner, we enjoyed a wonderful presentation about polar bears and the threats they are facing. it made me realize that many people don't realize that polar bears actually live on the ice, and due to the increasing carbon levels we are putting into the atmosphere, the ice melts faster, putting the bears on land earlier, thus reducing the amount of time they get to hunt seals (their main source of food). But it is also not just the polar bears we should be focusing on. Although they are furry and cute, they are just one animal in a circle of other mammals that are being affected by us. The bears are just the tip of the iceberg for everything that is happening to our changing climate. But this should only heighten our motivation to become more "green." EVERY little thing we do affects our environment, and we can all play our part in making a smaller carbon footprint. WE talked about several new inventions that are really helping our environment, and were only just starting. Things are changing at a very fast rate. Both good and bad. So it is up to ALL of us, to make sure the change we make, is for the better.

-Kathryn Ravey

Monday, October 11, 2010

Our Arctic Ambassador's 1st Blog Update!

Here is our Arctic Ambassador's first blog!


Hello! Well, after several long flights and very little sleep, I've
arrived in Winnipeg! Because of the time of year, there is no snow on
the ground so to me (being a Minnesotan) it feels like a nice spring
day here! Today, I got to meet all the other teen arctic ambassadors!
They are all SUCH great people! We all seemed to bond right away. We
played "get to know you games" and had tons of fun sharing our different
cultures. For example, the 2 Australians on the trip had great accents
and told us all about what they call different things vs. what we all
cal them. Such as tomatoes and tomatoes! It looks like were gonna be a
very close group by the end of the trip. We also made a sign for a
website called:, which is a website dedicated to getting
people from around the world to start and share their environmentally
friendly action plan, on the website! Our sign (that will be on the
website) let people know what we are doing and how we are helping the

Interesting Fact of the Day #1: Polar bears often come into the
town of Churchill and have to be coaxed into a pen, until official
release them back into the wild! It was estimated that around 100 polar
bears came into the town of Churchill last year.

Even though today was very fun, tomorrow is the day things will
start getting really fun! We had past ambassadors come talk to us about
the things we will see and experience. I have no doubt that this trip,
will be one of the most memorable and life-changing trips in my life.
Tomorrow, we have to get up at 4:30 to catch 6 o'clock flight to
Churchill, the Polar capital of the world! And to be on the Tundra Buggy
for the first time! I can't wait!

-Kathryn Ravey

Continue to check back for more updates!

Follow other Arctic Ambassadors through the PBI website here:

Friday, October 8, 2010

Report From ZooKeeper Julie On Her Trip To The Arctic!

Last week I got the opportunity to represent Como Zoo at Polar Bear International’s Zookeeper Leadership Camp. I went to Churchill, Manitoba, Canada along with 13 other keepers from around North America. We learned more about climate change and how it is affecting polar bears. It was an amazing and inspiring trip of a lifetime. I feel very lucky to have seen polar bears in their natural habitat and only wish everyone could make the trip to gain a better appreciation of what polar bears are facing and how we can help. There really are little words to describe the feeling of staring straight into a wild polar bear’s dark eyes. On our very first morning we were lucky enough to see a young male and after our first sighting we were asked: “Can you truly look into those eyes and say You will not help in their fight for survival?”