Friday, November 21, 2014

Zookeeper Julie in Churchill, Manitoba!

I have been privileged enough to volunteer with Polar Bear International (PBI), a non-profit organization dedicated to conserving polar bears through research and education for the past several years.  I just returned from visiting the town of Churchill, Manitoba to experience the wild polar bears.  My role while I was there is to go on the tundra buggies with Frontiers North and talk to the guests about PBI and the role of zoos in research and education.  It is also a time for me to learn more about current research from world renowned scientists.  Most importantly through, I try to inspire the guests to remember that our everyday actions can and do make a difference in the world around us.

This year was my third year volunteering with PBI in Churchill, and I always leave feeling fortunate to be able to see bears in the wild and inspired to make sure other generations can enjoy the same experience I had.  The previous two years, I had also left feeling a bit disheartened about the state of bears in the wild, as well as the evidence that the world is warming and its effects.  However, most concerning is how little is being done to combat this.  In these previous years, I met some resistance discussing climate change and polar bear populations; however, this year the discussions felt different.  This year, I left with a new feeling of hope.  As I interacted with the guests on the buggies, I fielded a new surge of questions, which were widely centered on how the western Hudson Bay population of bears can adapt or change to survive. While some of these questions/ideas were unrealistic, I could not help feeling that the message—these bears are in trouble—was getting out to the public.  People were starting to listen and think, “What if?”  What if all this talk about climate change is happening, and what if there is something I can do.  The science behind climate and mathematical models are very complicated and hard to interpret, but at least people are questioning, listening, and hopefully most importantly, doing.  So this year, I left feeling once again inspired and fortunate, but also hopeful. Hopeful that my daughter could one day have the same feeling I had when I saw a wild polar bear in its natural environment.
-Zookeeper Julie

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