Be flexible with lost luggage, getting sick, delayed flights, missed trains, date changes, weather... I didn’t expect an international viral outbreak to be on that list. Yet, I must remain flexible. I'm trying to get used to the uncertainty of the daily (sometimes hourly) decision making required of all of us right now.
So, the current status of going to the Arctic is uncertain and I'm remaining on standby. My participation in PolarTREC is directly connected to National Science Foundation (NSF) grant funding. And currently the NSF is recommending that grant awardees not travel domestically or internationally, if possible.
Also, I'm thinking about what it means for a group of scientists from the lower 48 states to potentially serve as a vector for COVID-19 and bring the virus to remote communities in Alaska. This feels a bit irresponsible. Another thought is considering the risk and or access to health facilities in rural Alaska should someone on our team get sick.
I have learned that student travel has been restricted by the bigger school districts in Alaska (Anchorage, Kenai, and Matsu). Our primary investigator's (lead scientist) institution, the University of Washington in Seattle has shut down and gone to virtual classrooms. Our other primary investigator from the Office of Naval Research Reserve Component (ONR-RC) has cancelled all OCONUS (outside contiguous United States, which includes Alaska) travel for March 2020.
This is an elective opportunity of learning and adventure for me. I am not essential to this science team, nor the data collection in terms of the priority of my participation. Yet, I'm having to work hard at being okay with the situation as it is incredibly disappointing. There is a chance that I may still get to join the International Arctic Buoy Programme on a mid-summer Greenland and Canada Arctic Circle buoy deployment mission; the funding for that trip has been up in the air for a few months so I am waiting in the wings to see what happens.
Until next time...