It took nine months to get to the Churchill Northern Studies Centre in northern Manitoba. Our application had to be vetted, interviews completed, references checked, and schedules arranged. It’s not a simple process, but a necessary one. Churchill is way beyond the end of the road. You don’t go there lightly and weather can make access difficult.
“You are going WHERE? To do WHAT?” Yes, those are the questions we received when we told family and friends we were going to volunteer at CNSC.
The answer was always, “we’ll wash dishes all day for the chance to see a polar bear in the wild!” For five weeks, we washed dishes, cleaned rooms, made beds, mopped floors, washed more dishes, and assisted with many other tasks. And though summer came late to Churchill this year, the tundra bloomed, the red fox kits appeared, the bears came in off the ice, and the belugas filled the river. We witnessed it all; with awe, inspiration, and respect for the researchers who spend months following their goals and dreams.
We met interesting people from all over Canada, the U.K., and the U.S. We hiked with researchers and helped on their projects. We held baby plover chicks as they were being banded with Rita and Simone, and gosling chicks with Tom, Shawn, Jess, and Jay. We watched in awe as Carla and Vanya fed baby yellow warblers with an eye dropper. And, yes, we slipped into tidal pools following the lead of Amanda, Erinn, and Ingrid, our favorite planktoneers!
Volunteering at CNSC may not be for everyone. The work can be tiring and long and sometimes you feel like you haven’t been outside for days. But, knowing you are helping in your own small way to support the science that is making a difference in our world makes it all worthwhile.
Our thanks to Volunteer Coordinator Heather MacLeod, and the entire CNSC staff for making our volunteer experience such a wonderful adventure. We wish everyone the best of luck during construction of the new building and renovation of the current one. Life will certainly be easier with more space, more bathrooms, and a larger kitchen. Remember, though, there will always be another dish that needs to be washed!
Now, we are looking forward to a little rest before starting the next adventure. What’s next? First, a fall color cruise from Boston to Montreal for a little pampering and relaxation. Then it’s back to the SW to volunteer for the U.S. Park Service at Canyon de Chelly, Grand Canyon, Glenn Canyon, and Zion.
The wild ride continues. Maybe we’ll go even farther south -> Antarctica may be on the horizon…
Welcome home, Riley and Karen!