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Planning for Students, Girl Scouts, Sea Ice, and Polar Bears Too

On Monday, I will meet up with most of my teammates in the 2023 Spring International Arctic Buoy Programme (IABP) deployment campaign at the airport in Anchorage, Alaska to continue our travels 800+ miles north to Utqiagvik for 'spring break' at the Arctic Ocean. The group includes only a couple from the 2022 spring campaign and many new folks this year including folks from the National Ice Center based in Washington DC, and sea ice researchers from the University of Washington and MIT, and an artist and PhD candidate from Princeton. Dr. Ignatius Rigor, the IABP Director, Cy Keener the co-PI (NSF grant jargon for 'primary investigator') and art faculty from the University of Maryland, and me the Arctic Outreach Educator from Colorado are the three repeats from last spring.

We will spend much of our first week facilitating outreach activities with the local youth and the second half of our campaign deploying approximately 20 Arctic buoys.

I'm excited to get to work with the local kids and their teachers and community leaders. Specifically, I'll teach an Arctic buoy lesson with 36 5th graders early in the week and decorate Float Your Boat wooden boats. Then the women from our team will visit one of the two local Girl Scout troops as they are working on their Exploring STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) Careers badge. And later in the week we all will co-facilitate and assist with a large 8th grade sea ice field day and in-class follow up activities with nearly 80 students which is all sponsored by the National Science Foundation (NSF) and coordinated by the Ukpeaġvik Iñupiat Corporation - Science Support team (UIC-Science).

Students will explore Arctic Ocean geography, sea ice movement and surface currents, and decorate Float Your Boat wooden boats too.

Mostly, I'm looking forward to seeing the sea ice through the lens of the youth who live in Utqiaġvik. I want to hear them talk about what they know about the Arctic Ocean and how their lives (and bellies) are influenced by the ocean currents and sea ice throughout the seasons. I want to better understand their typical everyday reference points. I really want to learn from them, rather than try to teach them too much from my land-locked 3000+ miles away Colorado perspective. Yet, I'm assuming they are expecting me to teach them something, so I will facilitate engaging student-centered activities to get them thinking about the larger Arctic Ocean and the purpose and utility of the Arctic buoys helping us all understand the planetary systems a bit more.

Paying Close Attention to All Observations

They say the best scientists are those who come home safe. In order to be safe on the sea ice when we are working with students and or deploying buoys via snow machines or helicopters, we must plan ahead and be prepared for as many of the environmental conditions as possible. One of the primary ways we do this from our offices across the Lower 48 is by studying and watching the sea ice movement from high resolution satellite imagery provided by the National Ice Center. I encourage you to watch alongside us with the public NASA World View every day here. You can also watch a video of data since early March here. There were a number of cloudy days these past few weeks; just keep watching and you'll begin to see the sea ice through the clouds.

Also, and maybe even more importantly, we are in regular communication with the local people about shorefast ice (ice that is frozen to the shore) conditions and other environmental factors including weather and wildlife. The UIC-Science folks are an excellent resource of expertise and elder observations. From what I understand, the movement and instability of the sea ice near Utqiagvik is a lot more active and dynamic than usual and has created ideal conditions for more polar bear and wildlife activity close to shore near town over the past month or so. We can see that these conditions continue according to the AAOKH report below. We always adjust our field plans every morning (and sometimes by the hour) as wildlife activity and weather patterns change that may influence our activities and field work.

Meanwhile in Anchorage

I arrived in Anchorage a couple days ago. Being here has allowed me to partner up with the Chugach School District's Whittier Community School and provide their secondary students a sea ice and Arctic buoy lesson. Click on the story below.

It was a really neat opportunity to interact with these youth and their teachers. I hope to work with them again some day in the not so distant future.

It's fantastic to connect with colleagues and friends who are here including science education specialist Sheryl Sotelo, ARCUS Education Project Manager Janet Warburton, and friend Marti Pausback. Fostering and keeping all of these relationships alive and strong is so very important to me.

Until later... I'll be sampling the pond ice for ice skating on Sunday here in Anchorage.


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