Joe Fieldman

Helicopter Pilot, Polar Bear Project

Interviews

2009

Joe Fieldman is a helicopter pilot in Alaska, currently involved in the polar bear project with USGS. He works for Prism Helicopters and has been flying in Alaska for five years. Joe is passionate about his work and is dedicated to helping dart and relocate polar bears to their natural habitat. The job comes with its challenges, as Alaska’s Arctic region presents harsh winter conditions with constant weather changes and vast icy landscapes. Joe prioritizes the safety of his team and the bears, ensuring they return safely each day. Tracking and darting polar bears require low-altitude flights and following tracks, which can be complicated due to the white, snowy environment. Once a bear is darted, Joe lands the helicopter in a safe area, allowing the drug to take effect. The well-being of the bears is paramount, and Joe goes out of his way to keep them safe during the process. After the bear is sedated, Joe and the team perform data collection, including measurements and blood samples. They may also mark the bear for future identification. Once the procedure is complete, Joe ensures the bear is in a secure location before taking off. Safety precautions are taken to avoid encountering other predators or disturbing the bear’s natural behavior. After confirming the bear’s departure the following day, Joe continues his important work in the polar bear project.

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Helicopter pilot Joe Fieldman had preconceived notions about the Arctic that proved to be untrue. He expected flat, white ice but found a dynamic environment with pressure ridges and textures. Despite concerns, he found the Arctic more favorable than anticipated. While observing massive ice plates colliding, he realized the Arctic can be unpredictable. Working with majestic polar bears exceeded his expectations. Overall, Joe sees the Arctic as a special and unique place for his work.

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