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Polar Bear Plunge to highlight global warming; Buffalo Zoo curator to serve as honorary starter
Monday, November 08, 2010

SUNY Fredonia Polar Bears 2009
Students run toward Lake Erie during the Campus Climate Challenge's Polar Bear Plunge in 2009.

SUNY Fredonia's Campus Climate Challenge (CCC) and friends will take a late-season swim in Lake Erie during the second annual Polar Bear Plunge on Sunday, Nov. 14 at 1 p.m. in Wright Park in downtown Dunkirk.

The purpose of the event is to increase awareness about climate change and its effects on animal species across the globe.

Students will brave the frigid waters in nothing but their swim wear to show their opposition to energy sources that contribute to global warming and the endangering of animal species.

Tiffany Vanderwerf, Curator of Education with the Buffalo Zoo, will be a special guest at this year's event, serving as the honorary starter.  She will address those in attendance and share with them things she learned during her trip to "the polar bear capital of the world," in Churchill, Manitoba, Canada, in early Oct. to study polar bears.

Tiffany Vanderwerf, Curator of Education at the Buffalo Zoo, speaks to a reporter about the zoo's river otter exhibit in 2008. Vanderwerf will serve as the honorary starter at this year's Polar Bear Plunge Nov. 14.
Sent to gain first-hand knowledge of the tundra and how climate change has affected this fragile ecosystem so she can enhance conservation, education and polar bear exhibit renovation efforts, she will also discuss issues of habitat degradation which face polar bears today, and what conservation entities like the Buffalo Zoo are doing to thwart that process. A strong emphasis will be on rallying local citizens to help reduce carbon emissions.

The trip's organizers, Polar Bears International (PBI), worked closely with Vanderwerf and 16 others who traveled with her and hail from across North America to bring back the sense of urgency to their regions and facilitate the enactment of immediate changes to help stop the devastating effects climate change is having on polar bear migratory routes.  Specifically, PBI and each of the visitors to Manitoba have begun to formulate a plan to lead a total carbon footprint reduction of 25 million metric tons annually -- equivalent to the carbon footprint of a small manufacturing business.

The Campus Climate Challenge is an environmental student group at SUNY Fredonia that aims to promote sustainable practices on campus as well as in local communities. The Polar Bear Plunge is just one of the many events that CCC puts on to address local environmental issues.

The 2010 Polar Bear Plunge will start at 1 p.m. and last roughly two hours. To learn more, contact student organizer Lauren Piche at or (315) 767-0759.

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