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November swim in Lake Erie highlights global warming; Zoo curator is honorary starter
Monday, November 15, 2010

Polar Bears

Members of SUNY Fredonia's student group, "Campus Climate Challenge" prepare to race into Lake Erie's chilly waters as part of the second annual Polar Bear Plunge, to increase awareness about climate change and its effects on animal species across the globe. The event took place on the beach at Wright Park in downtown Dunkirk Sunday afternoon.

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SUNY Fredonia's Campus Climate Challenge (CCC) chapter took a late-season swim in Lake Erie during the second annual Polar Bear Plunge on Sunday in Wright Park in downtown Dunkirk.

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

Roughly two dozen Students painted themselves in shades of green and braved the frigid water and wind chill 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, was a special guest at the event, serving as the honorary starter. She addressed those in attendance and shared 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.

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 at the zoo, she discussed issues of habitat degradation which face polar bears today, and what conservation entities like the Buffalo Zoo are doing to thwart that process. Her trip's organizer, Polar Bears International (PBI), worked closely with Ms. 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.

Vanderwerf will return to the Fredonia campus to give a formal presentation about her trip in February, during which she will help the campus and northern Chautauqua community better understand what they can do to help reduce carbon emissions.

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 the CCC puts on to address local environmental issues each year.

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