September 12, 2007 Revisit, Reflect, and Go Forward...
The experience of a lifetime is one of the first things I tell anyone about my adventure in the Arctic. My life has been changing for over a year. I moved from North Carolina and left the formal education classroom to pursue a career as an informal educator at the Boonshoft Museum of Discovery in Dayton, Ohio. Still if that wasn’t enough, I also got engaged and was planning for a July wedding.
So change is good and I have had non-stop change since I left the classroom. It was by coincidence that I even thought to go for the PolarTREC program and it was amazing to have the support of an entire museum behind me. The thrill of finding out that I would be going to the Arctic and getting to do real research was all I could think about.
Once again, I was confronted with change. The Bering Ecosystem Study was based on looking at change. From the receding and extending ice, the abundance or lack of nutrients, and the ever changing numbers and types of organisms found in the Bering Sea, change was being observed, recorded, and the answers of why were being sought after by all scientists. It is really amazing how one word like "change” can be so important. As I worked along with scientists, it was amazing to notice changes and to discuss the reasons for them. For instance, a change in oxygen levels could mean a bloom of ice algae if high or a spike on fluorescence meter would mean a bloom or abundance of algae. Being on the Healy, the research stretched across all disciplines of oceanic research from physical, chemical, biological, and geological. Though as different as each research team’s focus was, a common need to look for change linked them together.
One of the most interesting changes that I got to witness and record personally was the ice. Before viewing and learning about ice, I just figured ice was ice and that it really didn’t tell you much. Now of course after devoting hours of time looking and recording, I know that ice can help explain a lot about the results scientists were getting from their work. The smallest changes in melting or thickness of ice can lead to algal blooms and the right environment for ice seals to be spotted and tagged. I know now that a pancake is not just for breakfast but an ice type. The ice even became a focal point for the researchers when data obtained couldn’t be explained. A completely new investigation was designed and carried out on the ice to determine its role in algal blooms and nutrient levels.
Besides the actual experience, it has been great having the support of ARCUS, the museum, and my family. I am excited about having the opportunity to bring the Arctic back to Ohio and to reach out in the community. We have many events planned and additional programs based on my Arctic adventure. This experience has made me realize that changes are always happening. Some you can control and others you can’t, but it’s the ones you can that make all the difference.