Wildlife Conservation Society receives $100,000 for Arctic wildlife conservation

NEW YORK (November 6, 2009)—The Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) has received a $100,000 boost in funding to support conservation studies on the effects of climate change on arctic wildlife, thanks to kids who participated in Disney’s “Friends for Change: Project Green.”

During the month of August, kids voted online for their favorite environmental causes through the Disney initiative, which also calls on young people to adopt more eco-friendly practices such as recycling and reducing their energy consumption in their daily lives.

Kids who participate in “Friends for Change” are invited to choose how more than $1 million in funds will be distributed to environmental projects over the next year.  As part of the first round of voting, WCS (among five organizations that received funding for climate-related projects) received a $100,000 grant to support research in Arctic Alaska, where scientists are studying the effects of climate change and other factors such as oil development on the region’s bird and mammal species.

“We’re flattered that young people are helping to fund our Arctic wildlife conservation work,” said Dr. Steve Zack, Coordinator of the Wildlife Conservation Society’s Pacific Northwest and Alaska Program. “The $100,000 grant will go a long way in supporting our WCS team and their activities in studying Arctic wildlife and how changing climate may impact these species. The responses of these species to shifting climate patterns will help inform us about where we need to take action and how to respond to these changes.”

Since 2003, WCS scientists have studied the many species of migratory birds that nest in the coastal plain of Arctic Alaska.  WCS has worked with partners, including federal scientists and oil company scientists, to assess how current oil development affects nesting birds. WCS researchers also have discovered that birds are breeding earlier than before on their Arctic nesting grounds, an effect of the changing climate. Other species such as polar bears have been impacted by climate change as well. WCS researchers discovered this the hard way last year, when a visit from a landlocked polar bear resulted in a field crew having to desert their field camp. This phenomenon is a direct result of disappearing sea ice, a critical part of the bears’ habitat.

The Wildlife Conservation Society has a long history of conservation work in Alaska. WCS’s first field studies were surveys of fur seals in Alaska’s coastal waters and of mammals such as moose, mountain sheep, and bears in both Alaska and British Columbia. In 1956, Dr. George Schaller helped conduct research on the wildlife of Alaska’s Brooks Range, an effort that directly led to the creation of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in 1960.

In addition to on-the-ground research on the effects of climate change on fragile ecosystems, WCS also works with the scientific community and policymakers in Washington and across the globe to combat the effects of climate change on wildlife and wild places. Climate change is one of WCS’s four conservation challenges, along with wildlife health, local livelihoods, and natural resource extraction.

The Wildlife Conservation Society saves wildlife and wild places worldwide. We do so through science, global conservation, education and the management of the world's largest system of urban wildlife parks, led by the flagship Bronx Zoo. Together these activities change attitudes towards nature and help people imagine wildlife and humans living in harmony. WCS is committed to this mission because it is essential to the integrity of life on Earth. Visit: www.wcs.org

Disney's Friends for Change: Project Green is a multiplatform initiative that helps kids help the planet.  Through the program, kids can learn practical ways to help the environment, get their friends involved, track their collective impact and have the opportunity to help Disney decide how $1 million in donations to various environmental causes will be made over the course of a year. Kids can join online at www.Disney.com/projectgreen, where they'll pledge to take simple everyday actions, such as turning off the lights and switching to reusable water bottles, and find out more about why these actions matter.

Special Note to the Media: If you would like to guide your readers or viewers to a web link where they can make donations in support of helping save wildlife and wild places, please direct them to: www.wcs.org/donation

Stephen Sautner: (1-718-220-3682; ssautner@wcs.org)
Scott Smith: (1-718-220-3698; ssmith@wcs.org)