Meet Nora, one of the cuddliest research assistants to study climate change.

Like most 2-year-olds, Nora is curious, playful, and a little mischievous.

Unlike most 2-year-olds, she tips the scales at several hundred pounds.

That's because Nora is a polar bear at the Oregon Zoo in Portland.


Nora in the winter habitat at the Oregon Zoo. Photo by Michael Durham/Oregon Zoo.

This month, Nora hits the road for her new home at Hogle Zoo in Salt Lake City while the Oregon Zoo undergoes renovations. But during her time in Portland, she was able to serve as one of the the U.S. Geological Survey's youngest (and furriest) research assistants, helping scientists study the effects of climate change.

It seems so far removed: Desperate, hungry polar bears clinging to ice floes, ravaged by our changing planet. But it's happening right now.

Wild polar bears live in a unique and harsh environment and consume as many calories as they can when conditions allow and food is readily available. However,  there is a long period of time when the ice floes melt and polar bears are forced ashore, away from their primary food sources.

"They literally are starving, not eating anything for that four- or five-month period," says Amy Cutting, animal curator of the North America and Marine Life Exhibit at the Oregon Zoo. "The females are raising young and putting huge amounts of calories into milk they're producing while not eating. And we know they're at the limit of what they can do."

Polar bears are pushing it to metabolic extremes to survive the annual ice-free period. But what will happen as climate change extends the ice-free period even longer?

Nora in the winter habitat at the Oregon Zoo. Photo by Michael Durham/Oregon Zoo.

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This story was originally shared on Capital One.

Inside the walls of her kitchen at her childhood home in Guatemala, Evelyn Klohr, the founder of a Washington, D.C.-area bakery called Kakeshionista, was taught a lesson that remains central to her business operations today.

"Baking cakes gave me the confidence to believe in my own brand and now I put my heart into giving my customers something they'll enjoy eating," Klohr said.

While driven to launch her own baking business, pursuing a dream in the culinary arts was economically challenging for Klohr. In the United States, culinary schools can open doors to future careers, but the cost of entry can be upwards of $36,000 a year.

Through a friend, Klohr learned about La Cocina VA, a nonprofit dedicated to providing job training and entrepreneurship development services at a training facility in the Washington, D.C-area.

La Cocina VA's, which translates to "the kitchen" in Spanish, offers its Bilingual Culinary Training program to prepare low-and moderate-income individuals from diverse backgrounds to launch careers in the food industry.

That program gave Klohr the ability to fully immerse herself in the baking industry within a professional kitchen facility and receive training in an array of subjects including culinary skills, food safety, career development and English language classes.

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Photo by R.D. Smith on Unsplash

Gem is living her best life.

If you've ever dreamed of spontaneously walking out the door and treating yourself a day of pampering at a spa without even telling anyone, you'll love this doggo who is living your best life.

According to CTV News, a 5-year-old shepherd-cross named Gem escaped from her fenced backyard in Winnipeg early Saturday morning and ended up at the door of Happy Tails Pet Resort & Spa, five blocks away. An employee at the spa saw Gem at the gate around 6:30 a.m. and was surprised when they noticed her owners were nowhere to be seen.

"They were looking in the parking lot and saying, 'Where's your parents?'" said Shawn Bennett, one of the co-owners of the business.

The employee opened the door and Gem hopped right on in, ready and raring to go for her day of fun and relaxation.

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When a pet is admitted to a shelter it can be a traumatizing experience. Many are afraid of their new surroundings and are far from comfortable showing off their unique personalities. The problem is that's when many of them have their photos taken to appear in online searches.

Chewy, the pet retailer who has dedicated themselves to supporting shelters and rescues throughout the country, recognized the important work of a couple in Tampa, FL who have been taking professional photos of shelter pets to help get them adopted.

"If it's a photo of a scared animal, most people, subconsciously or even consciously, are going to skip over it," pet photographer Adam Goldberg says. "They can't visualize that dog in their home."

Adam realized the importance of quality shelter photos while working as a social media specialist for the Humane Society of Broward County in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

"The photos were taken top-down so you couldn't see the size of the pet, and the flash would create these red eyes," he recalls. "Sometimes [volunteers] would shoot the photos through the chain-link fences."

That's why Adam and his wife, Mary, have spent much of their free time over the past five years photographing over 1,200 shelter animals to show off their unique personalities to potential adoptive families. The Goldbergs' wonderful work was recently profiled by Chewy in the video above entitled, "A Day in the Life of a Shelter Pet Photographer."