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Polar Bears International (PBI) is a nonprofit organization dedicated to the worldwide conservation of polar bears and their habitat through research and education. PBI provide scientific resources and information on polar bears and their habitat to all interested parties. The organization works with the world's leading polar bear scientists on research projects that benefit the world's polar bears.
PBI has assembled a team to develop contingency plans to assist wildlife management authorities. Scenarios include rescuing orphaned cubs, reducing human-bear conflicts as the bears are driven ashore, and helping malnourished bears through supplemental feeding protocols.
Part of PBI's strategy for helping polar bears is to inform and inspire leaders who will carry the conservation message to a wider audience. The Seneca Park Zoo has partnered with PBI in this effort through Zoo Keeper Kara Masaschi, who is one of PBI's In-Field Ambassadors, Bart Roselli, Director of Education and Interpretation and local teen Rachel Zoyhofski who won the opportunity through a Zoo contest to attend PBI's Arctic Ambassador Camp. Your Zoo's American Association of Zoo Keepers Chapter also supports PBI through financial donations every year.
In 2005, PBI started its In-Field Ambassadors Program, comprised of eight women from six different zoos across the United States. Seneca Park Zoo Keeper Kara Masaschi is one of these women. Team members spend time in Churchill during the fall polar bear migration season. During this time they give presentations on Frontiers North Adventures Tundra Buggie Tours.
Kara has been to Churchill to participate in this program four times. Her days are spent talking informally with guests on the Tundra Buggy Tours, describing the bear behavior they are viewing, talking about the ecosystem, answering questions and discussing her job with polar bears here at Seneca Park Zoo. Kara also gives formal 20 to 30 minute presentations each day about PBI, polar bear conservation and research with the aid of biofacts such as a polar bear skull/claw/fur and a radio collar.
Back at home, Kara and all In-Field Ambassadors continue the work by giving media interviews about polar bears, presentations to rotary clubs, associations and schools from preschool to collage age students. Between them, these eight women have educated more than 10 million people. In 2008, Kara was honored as a "Voice of Experience" by the Women's Foundation of Genesee Valley, one of five women chosen as a positive role model for young women.
Every fall, top students from around the world gather on the tundra near Churchill, Manitoba, to attend PBI's Leadership Camp, which is designed to help educate the teens about polar bears and the issues they face and to inspire them to return to their communities to make a difference. In Churchill, students observed polar bears in their natural habitat and learned about threats to their survival. Through interactions with field scientists and community members, students learned how individuals could make a difference. At the end of the experience, each student created a forward action plan to help educate their peers and to spread the word about how each of us can help save the polar bear's habitat.
Graduates of the program have launched carbon-reducing efforts, recycling programs and awareness campaigns in their home communities. Once returning to Rochester, Rachel became Seneca Park Zoo's spokesperson in spreading the message about polar bear conservation. She has spoken to more than 2,000 students from school districts around Western New York from West Seneca to Spencerport and many districts in Monroe County. She has also spoken at many community events, libraries and community centers. Her main message is how one person can make a difference in the world.
This week-long camp brings together leaders in informal education. They return to their communities informed, inspired and equipped to mentor a stewardship ethic. The camp is open to educators and communication specialists affiliated with PBI Arctic Ambassador centers and PBI's partners. In 2011, participants will have a unique opportunity to join with campers in Teen Leadership Camp.
Campers observe polar bears in their natural setting and experience the tundra, learn how climate change affects polar bears and their sea-ice habitat, establish and fortify relationships with field scientists, colleagues and Churchill residents as well as share ways to inspire people to action - from individuals to entire communities. Communicators report on their experience in their group blogs. Before leaving, each participant will develop a goal-and-action plan for a community-based polar bear conservation project or a project that supports AZA's Climate Initiative.
In 2010, the Seneca Park Zoo sent Bart Roselli, Director of Education and Interpretation, to join with 25 of his colleagues from zoos and aquariums throughout North America in observing polar bears in their natural range. While there, Roselli and his campmates participated in learning opportunities through distance learning hookup with scientists in Japan, Canada and Alaska. He communicated with two classes of school children in Texas and North Carolina, explaining directly from the field what the polar bear habitat in Hudson Bay was like and how the polar bear's existence is threatened by green house gas emissions. Roselli has given lectures and illustrated talks to community groups throughout the region since his return.