Steve Hastings

Steve Hastings is an ecologist who studies the ways in which plants adapt to climate in ecosystems as diverse as the Arctic tundra, chaparral scrub, and deserts. Steve has an undergraduate degree in zoology from the University of Nebraska, a master’s degree in marine science from the College of William and Mary, and a PhD in ecology from CIBNOR, a university in Mexico.

Interviews

2009

Steve Hastings shares his profound appreciation for the Arctic, emphasizing the dramatic seasonal changes and the unique experiences each season brings. He recalls vivid moments like witnessing a river break free in early spring, observing the synchronous arrival of different bird species, and watching the transformation of the tundra from brown to green with blooming flowers. In the fall, he describes the tundra turning to shades of yellow and orange before snowstorms herald the return of winter. Hastings is particularly struck by the wildlife, recounting a memorable encounter with a herd of caribou in Prudhoe Bay. Beyond the natural wonders, he expresses deep respect for the native people living in the Arctic, highlighting their enduring traditions and subsistence activities. He mentions the significance of whale hunting and the dangerous yet essential practice of ice fishing, illustrating the resilience and cultural richness of the Arctic inhabitants. Hastings’ reflections convey a deep connection to both the dramatic natural environment and the resilient communities of the Arctic.

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Steve Hastings recounts a harrowing experience during a flight from Prudhoe Bay. While waiting for a trailer’s brakes to be fixed, he received a call about a minor incident involving a propeller strike caused by a box left on the runway. Later, as he was about to board his flight, he chose a seat behind the wing rather than in the co-pilot seat. During the flight, the plane stalled after taking off due to the landing gear being retracted, leading to a crash. Hastings, who had been reading a book, found himself in the midst of a cockpit fire following the crash. He miraculously survived with minor burns and crushed vertebrae. The accident left him hospitalized for several months, during which he spent quality time reading and bonding with his elderly parents. Despite the trauma, Hastings continued to fly but experienced anxiety during turbulence, particularly on longer flights. His story is a testament to both the fragility of life and the unexpected turns it can take.

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Steve Hastings shares his extensive experience in Arctic research and logistics. Initially joining San Diego State University in 1980 for Arctic research, he later worked for Polar Field Services, providing logistics for NSF Arctic research across Greenland, Canada, Russia, and the United States. His early work in 1984 focused on studying elevated CO2’s effects on the Arctic tundra, where he encountered unexpected results challenging prevailing hypotheses. His research showed that instead of being a CO2 sink, the tundra was releasing more carbon than it absorbed, leading to significant contributions to the scientific understanding of climate change impacts. In 1990, he shifted to logistics, facilitating research activities in Barrow, Alaska, and interacting with a diverse range of scientists. These scientists, dedicated to their work despite harsh conditions, study various aspects of the Arctic environment, from wildlife to oceanography. Hastings highlights the community engagement in research, particularly in archaeology, where local students gain insights into their cultural heritage. His narrative underscores the dynamic and interdisciplinary nature of Arctic research and its profound implications.

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