A global pandemic could not stop the International Arctic Buoy Program from deploying drifting weather buoys into the Arctic Ocean off the coast of Utqiaġvik, Alaska during these past few months. With the collaborative effort of many partners, buoys were designed, fabricated, shipped, and deployed out on the sea ice before the ice broke away from Utqiaġvik for the summer.
My role in this was facilitating the online learning meetings of the Sea Cadet Arctic Buoy Program along with the expertise and leadership of Lieutenant Commander John Woods of the Office of Naval Research, Reserve Component, Dr. Ignatius Rigor of the Polar Science Center at University of Washington, and Cy Keener an Assistant Professor of Sculpture + Emerging Technology at the University of Maryland. Together this team guided the Sea Cadets in the process of learning, designing, and engineering the development of new drifting buoys.
2020 was the first year for the U.S. Naval Sea Cadet Corps to partner with the International Arctic Buoy Program to get 16 and 17 year old Sea Cadets engaged in STEM learning in the Arctic. A group of nearly 20 highly qualified Sea Cadets were selected for the first Sea Cadet Arctic Buoy Program. The primary task of the Sea Cadets was to design and build the environmental sensors that measure weather data, and also design the hull, or buoy, that holds and protects the sensors while out in the elements of the Arctic. They worked remotely from across the country in small teams of 3-4 to accomplish their mission. If we had traveled to the Arctic, two of the Sea Cadets would have accompanied the science team to the Arctic to deploy their buoys in April.
Since early May completing the mission of getting the Sea Cadet's buoys to Utqiaġvik to be deployed by our local collaborators and then watching the data come in has been fun to watch. The drifting buoys were completed, created, and shipped from all over the country to Dr. Rigor in Seattle and then on to Anchorage where they were then taken way north to Utqiaġvik. You can see this travel path on the IABP data map. Experienced Field Specialists (Wilbur Leavitt, Jerry Brower, and Harvard Brown) from the UIC Science in Utqiaġvik took the buoys out on the sea ice via snowmobile and made sure they were turned on and ready to send data through satellite signals.
In this post, enjoy exploring the live data portals, map data visualizations, and the photos from the deployments on the ice.
At the time of deployment, there was a large mass of land-fast ice pushed up against the shore near Utqiaġvik. Quickly after they were deployed, the ice began to come apart and drift out to sea (breakup) along with some of the buoys. As of June 4th, Sea Cadet teams buoys Ice-Pelican-004 and APL-IT-0007 were on the move. Arctic Byrds and Wolverines (team buoys) may have started to move early on the 5th. This was and still is a super exciting time where each buoy's fate is unknown. Some buoys could stay lodged on large pieces of ice and travel for weeks or months. Other buoys could end up in open water and flow with the currents. Buoys can also be crushed and become unresponsive as the wind shifts and the ice heads back to shore.
With a bit of detective sleuthing, you can try to follow the fate of your buoy by monitoring the IABP website, and check out realtime daily satellite imagery through NASA's EOSDIS Worldview. You can fast forward and reverse the time of the image with the arrows on the bottom left to see the ice move around. You can also see the latitude/longitude location for anywhere you hover your cursor.
We are watching the movement and also the data reports to help us understand where they are and the weather and ice/ocean conditions of that location. You can watch the external temperature sensor values on the IABP site to see if they increase during the day and decrease at night (meaning they are probably on ice), or stay constant just below 0 degrees C, meaning they are probably in the ocean.
2020 Plankowner - Sea Cadet Arctic Buoy Program To Continue in 2021
As expected, the National Science Foundation, PolarTREC, and The Arctic Research Consortium of the United States (ARCUS) have officially canceled my participation in the April Arctic science expedition. The Office of Naval Research and University of Washington Polar Science Center are not behind in officially cancelling too.
Hoping that the midsummer Greenland Arctic Circle trip will happen.... yet who knows.
In the meantime, laying low trying not to become part of the problem as an unintentional vector of covid-19. Just moved everything I need for a couple months out of my office and am now set up at home. Thankfully my house has a sunny south facing porch that is blocked from the wind - it may become my favorite new office space.
And for some much needed levity (in case you haven't already seen this on my social media channels) -
I've been googling Covid-19 too much and sometimes I accidentally type in Corvid as well and have seen so many pics of really cool birds. Thought I would share some of these really cool Corvids. Here are only 16 of the 120 corvid species around the world.
Stay connected to those you love and care about, I think the psychological effects of this pandemic is already causing intense emotional exhaustion for everyone on some level. Love your people - even if it's just through phone calls and video chats. I'm definitely feeling it myself.
In it for the long haul, until next time,
February 12, 2020
For Immediate Release
Colorado Educator Embarks on Polar Research Experience
Educator research experiences improve and enliven science education by connecting educators, researchers, students, and the public around the globe.
Going Polar! Sarah Johnson, civic watershed education specialist and founder of Wild Rose Education in Carbondale, Colorado is always looking to explore new landscapes and learn from cutting edge scientists. She will be doing just this by joining the Utqiaġvik Buoy Exercise 2020 led by the University of Washington and the United States Office of Naval Research in the furthest north town in the United States, Utqiaġvik, Alaska for 10 days. The expedition team will be deploying arctic buoys in coordination with the International Arctic Buoy Programme, that maintains a network of drifting buoys in the Arctic Ocean providing meteorological and oceanographic data for real-time operational requirements and research purposes including support to the World Climate Research Programme (WCRP) and the World Weather Watch (WWW) Programme.
Beginning in early April, Sarah will participate as a research team member (research assistant and public relations officer) during an authentic scientific expedition in the Arctic, joining other educators who will be working in research locations from the Arctic Ocean to Antarctica, as part of a program that allows educators to experience first-hand what it is like to conduct scientific research in some of the most remote locations on earth.
A significant part of the Utqiaġvik Buoy Exercise 2020 is a STEM education experience for the U.S. Naval Sea Cadet Corps that includes STEM training while building buoys for the International Arctic Buoy Program. They are engaging in three training Saturdays before the April expedition. Then they will send two representatives from their group to join the Arctic expedition to deploy the buoys they build. Read one of the Cadet's reflections from the training day here.
So, their first training class was this past Saturday and I was fortunate to be able to 'zoom in' via video conferencing and be the fly on the wall during their entire class (8am-noon EST). Below are some screen shots from the training that helped me understand what the buoys look like and the instrumentation inside. These instruments measure surface temperature, atmospheric temperature, and barometric pressure as well as date and position.
It was also great to get an Arctic introduction from Dr. Ignatius Rigor, our expedition's lead PI (Primary Investigator).
The buoys remind me of gigantic fishing bobbers that open like an easter egg. The creative juices are flowing on how to create effective education and outreach experiences about buoy data.... stay tuned.
Also, enjoy the video below.