Using Technology to Study Churchill’s Polar Bears

To this end, we have partnered with like-minded organizations whose goals and practices correspond with our own. But even more importantly, we’ve helped to further research in the north that makes clearer the effects of climate change on the wildlife and landscapes of the north.

Polar bear research doesn’t always have to be hands on; with new technology coming available all the time, it is getting easier to study polar bears in a more hands-off manner. Here are a few of the non-invasive studies that Frontiers North has been a part of in the recent years.


Body Condition Project (formerly known as the Churchill Citizen Science Project).

Partner: Polar Bears International (PBI)

The Body Condition Project, conceived by PBI’s chief scientist, Dr. Steven C. Amstrup, is an opportunity for people visiting Churchill to help PBI gather data on polar bears in the Churchill area.

Armed with cameras, Frontiers North guests capture photos of polar bears that approach their Tundra Buggy during the autumn migration. Shared with PBI, these photographs help develop a record of the health and condition of the polar bears in the area. The long-term monitoring study will also track the sex and age of the observed bears.

The data helps scientists get the big picture on the physical well-being of the population and allow them to track changes over time. Ultimately, the technique will allow comparisons among different geographic regions.

For more information on the Body Condition Project, visit:


Google Trekker in Churchill, Manitoba

Partners: Polar Bears International

During October 2013, Frontiers North Adventures hosted the Google Maps team in Manitoba Conservation’s Churchill Wildlife Management Area and, with leadership from Polar Bears International, retained the Google Street View Trekker to capture imagery during November at Cape Churchill in Parks Canada’s Wapusk National Park. Both areas are near Churchill, Manitoba and home to world’s most dense annual polar bear aggregations.

Using Google’s mapping tools, people from around the globe can now explore the habitat of one of the world’s best-known polar bear subpopulations, all captured using a Google Street View Trekker mounted on a Frontiers North Adventures Tundra Buggy®.

With Google Street View, we are able to share wild polar bears with people all over the world that may never have the opportunity to travel to Churchill, helping to encourage people around the globe to become invested in the future of these animals and better understand the effect that climate change has on the northern landscape.

By using the Trekker and its imagery to draw attention to the issue of climate change in the region, the hope is that over time the Trekker will be able to document changes in the landscape, not only drawing awareness to climate change, but also to provide scientists with a visual tool to go along with decades of climate data that show this region is warming. 

To explore Churchill on Google Street View, visit: Google Street View - Churchill.


Environment Canada/University of Minnesota Drone Project

Partners: Polar Bears International, University of Minnesota, Environment Canada, ING Robotic Aviation Inc., the U.S. Geological Survey, and the Alaska Science Center.

In 2014 we offered up a Tundra Buggy® for use in a Drone Project that could change the way polar bears around the world are studied.

Using a drone to capture images of polar bears from above, the Drone Project collects six-band multi-spectral imagery, using bands comparable to those currently available from satellites. Scientists will use these data to assess whether the spectral signature of polar bears is different enough from their surrounding environment that satellites or high-flying aircraft could reliably detect them.

Put in less scientific terms – the imagery collected by the drone shows a broader spectrum of colours not visible to the naked eye but similar to what can be captured by satellites. The study will determine if this more in-depth colour imprint of polar bears is different enough from the surrounding landscape to be reliably recognized in the future on satellite imagery.  

If understanding the spectral signal of polar bears allows for detection from high altitude platforms, it could open possibilities to monitor polar bears in areas that are difficult to access and where polar bear researchers currently have little information.

Learn more about Frontiers North’s Corporate Social Responsibility and our Partnerships.Plan your adventure today


Main photo: Kt Miller/ Polar Bears International

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