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Journey to Churchill opens this week

July 2, 2014 — 

The magic of the north has arrived at the heart of the continent!

The Assiniboine Park Zoo will reopen on Thursday, July 3 at noon — and with it, the exciting new “Journey to Churchill” exhibit. After a 10 day closure of final preparations, the opening launches the expansive new exhibit that will be shared with the world, ” said Don Peterkin, Assiniboine Park Conservancy’s (APC) chief operations officer.

Visitors will enter through the Zoo’s new entrance at 2595 Roblin Boulevard. This multi-purpose facility features a welcoming plaza, a dedicated visitor services centre, and a new gift shop. Special activities and entertainment are being planned for the opening weekend.



The visitor experience will include an understanding of the many aspects of Arctic research underway at the University of Manitoba.

During the past two years, researchers with the Centre for Earth Observation Science (CEOS) in the Clayton H. Riddell Faculty of Environment, Earth, and Resources have been assisting with the Journey to Churchill project in: preparation of the Polar Bear pools, growing sea ice in the pools and how to simulate polynya in the pools (pockets of open water). CEOS researchers have also consulted with the Zoo on aspects of climate change, sea ice and marine ecosystems in the interactive and static displays at the exhibit.

President and Vice-Chancellor David Barnard says, “As the only western province with an Arctic sea coast, Manitoba has a unique connection to the North.

“Enhanced understanding of issues such as climate change, sea ice research, rural and northern health, energy and hydroelectric development and water stewardship will help our population thrive and prosper. Our researchers excel in these areas, and in fact the University of Manitoba leads some of the most comprehensive high Arctic climate change research projects in the world. The University of Manitoba is pleased to be working in partnership with the Assiniboine Park Conservancy in helping to create an exciting, living classroom for Arctic education as well as an ongoing centre for research on Arctic issues.”

Margaret Redmond is president and chief executive officer of Assiniboine Park Conservancy, and a double graduate of the University of Manitoba [BA(Adv.)/1985; LLB/1988]. She notes: “Faculty at the University of Manitoba have been instrumental in helping us tell the story of how climate change is impacting sea ice in the north. The pools provided for our seals in Journey to Churchill can partially freeze over in winter. This presents us with new opportunities for sea ice research and the chance to share the results of this dynamic research with our visitors.”

The International Polar Bear Conservation Centre (IPBCC) at Assiniboine Park Zoo, which opened in January 2012, is part of the new Journey to Churchill exhibit and allows the Zoo to play a more active role in environmental education, conservation, and research. The state-of-the-art building is designed with distinct areas for bears, keepers, researchers and visitors. In addition to the public visitor centre, the main level of the IPBCC includes a specialized wet/clean lab and a larger laboratory space that can be used for a variety of research projects.

The Zoo’s department of conservation & research has been established to actively conduct research and support visiting researchers. Researchers at the IPBCC are engaged in valuable research projects that will continue to expand our collective knowledge and understanding of the amazing animals with whom we share our planet. University of Manitoba researchers are collaborating with the IPBCC on studies of how changes in sea ice affect polar bear habitat and in the development of new and innovative remote sensing technologies in how to detect, and census, polar bears.

With experience in creating artificial sea ice ponds at the Fort Garry Campus, CEOS researchers were able to provide technical support in the design of the Journey to Churchill ponds. Furthermore, CEOS has structured many collaborative research projects using the ponds, sea ice and the animals that will inhabit the exhibit. Research projects will include sea ice studies, chemical and gas exchange, energetics associated with the animals themselves and analysis of their use of sea ice and snow as an essential habitat.

The Journey to Churchill exhibit also features a large presentation wall, featuring images of the Canadian research icebreaker CCGS Amundsen and a number of U of M researchers. Also, a poster display describes current and ongoing research in Arctic studies at the University of Manitoba.

David Barber is Canada Research Chair in Arctic System Science at the University of Manitoba. As an internationally renowned climate change and Arctic research scientist, he is excited for the opening of the Journey to Churchill exhibit.

He says: “The Arctic has for many years been at the forefront of this complex issue involving the interplay between a changing climate, effects on the sensitive Arctic environment and a desire to develop newly accessible resources. This exhibit is a globally unique experience that transports the visitor into the complex array of stunning vistas and charismatic northern animals, while providing insights into the passion of scientists and the people who call the north their home. The Journey to Churchill exhibit is inspired by the north and the Town of Churchill, undoubtedly one of the best places on the planet to learn about the rapid climate, ecosystem and globalization changes currently underway.”


Be among the first to explore Journey to Churchill!


12:00 to – 5:00 PM

Daily 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM

10:00 AM to 4:00 PM
10:00 am

10:45 am
Fawn Wood
11:30 am

12:15 pm
Fred Penner
1:00 to 1:45 PM
The Northlands Denesuline Drummers

2:00 to 2:45 PM
Aaron Burnett
3:30 to 4:15 PM
Al Simmons

10:00 AM to 4:00 PM
Aboriginal story-telling: Northern animals

and more

Free Journey to Churchill collectible polar bear pins will be given to every visitor throughout the weekend, while quantities last.

The Zoo will resume normal summer hours of operation following the opening weekend and be open daily from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM

Research at the University of Manitoba is partially supported by funding from the Government of Canada Research Support Fund.

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