Monday, June 22, 2009

Ms. Lerenman in the Arctic Days 1 and 2

On Saturday, I left for the Arctic from Reagan Airport. From there, I saw my parents at O'Hare airport in Chicago as they were kind enough to meet me there for my 2 hour layover. Then, I flew to Winnipeg, where I met 4 other teachers that are on my Arctic Expedition through Earthwatch Institute, an environmental non-profit. Three teach in L.A. and one of them taught in Chicago. Once we arrived in Churchill, polar bear and beluga whale capitol of the world, we were met by two staff members at the Churchill Northern Studies Centre. Carley and Katrina took us on the "highway" of the town, which is more of a dirt road along the Hudson Bay.

The first night, we met G. Peter Kershaw, the Primary Investigator on the Climate Change at the Arctic Edge study as well as Steve Mamet, a graduate student working on Tree Line Advance during Climate Change. Since the first day was mostly travel, and some people had some crazy stories about their many flights, derailings, delays, we just got to know each other and the projects that we would be working on. Jess and Laura, two other teachers, are my roommates and we quickly reverted back to our college dorm days, clothes strewn about and plenty of pillow talk.

On day two, we finally got to do our research, using GPR (ground penetrating radar) transmitters with fiber optic cables, palm computers, and lots of lifting prowess. One person got to be the "brain" and control the distance and recording of the radar transmission every .25 meters. When we get a reading on the permafrost layers, we get to see (year by year) how much the climate change is affecting the active layers melting and at what rate. Basically, if the permafrost layers defrost too quickly, too much methane, a primary greenhouse gas, will be emitted into the atmosphere, thus increasing the climate change effects.

We were in the Tundra on Day 2, in beautiful weather (60 degrees and sunny for 23 hours!). Each person got to take turns using the radar transmission and being the "brain" with the mini-palm computer. Because there is always a threat of a polar bear attack, our bear monitor Carley had to supervise us with a shotgun rifle. She's one tough chick.

At night, we had a three hour lecture from Peter on Climate Change and then celebrated the summer solstice (the longest day of the year!) with all of the researchers at the center with a delightful bonfire. We watched the sun set at 11:30pm. Until then, it was as bright as noon, all day.

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