Science

The Arctic is swarming with a wide range of scientists, from sea ice physicists, to meteorologists and climatologists, marine biologists, Arctic tundra ecologists, ornithologists, and archaeologists, to name a few.  The formal partnership between Paul Shepson and Peter Lourie began with Peter’s work interviewing scientists involved with a project called “OASIS” (Ocean-Atmosphere-Sea Ice-Snowpack).  Here, these and other scientists try their hand at explaining what they do and the passion behind why they do it.

Atmospheric Chemistry, Environment Canada

Seabird Biologist studying in Arctic Alaska since 1970.

Florent Domine is currently a “Directeur de Recherche”, a CNRS position at Takuvik Joint International Laboratory

Formerly a polar bear expert with the US Geological Survey (USGS) in Anchorage, Alaska

Glaciologist, Professor of Geophysics at the Geophysical Institute and the Department of Geology and Geophysics at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks

Frank Flocke is an atmospheric chemist

Senior Wildlife Biologist (Bowhead Whales), Department of Wildlife Management, North Slope Borough, Utqiagvik, Alaska

Arctic Slope Regional Corporation’s Executive Vice President of Lands and Natural Resources

Professor of Chemistry, Vice Provost for Research and Chief Research Officer at Villanova University, Villanova, PA

Associate Professor, Purdue University’s Earth and Atmospheric Sciences and co-founder of the Purdue Climate Change Research Center

Anne Jensen is an archaeologist with the Science Division of the Ukpeaġvik Iñupiat Corporation in Barrow (now Utqiagvik), Alaska

Senior Research Scientist Emerita at Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences, Boothbay Harbor, Maine.

Research biologist for the US Geological Survey, Anchorage, AK

Senior Director of Conservation and Staff Scientist At Polar Bears International

Adjunct Associate Professor of Engineering, Dartmouth College

Professor of Chemistry, University of Michigan

Dr. Bill Simpson, an environmental chemist at the University of Alaska at Fairbanks

Atmospheric Physics & Chemistry, researcher in Air Quality Research Branch of Environment Canada

Physical scientist working for Environment Canada’s Air Quality Research Division

Research Physical Scientist conducting wide-ranging geophysical studies on snow in high latitudes, Fairbanks, AK

Jan Willem Bottenheim

Atmospheric Chemistry, Environment Canada

Dr. Bottenheim’s research interests are in the area of atmospheric gas phase chemistry. One area of particular interest to Jan is the chemistry of the Arctic boundary layer air. Several years ago Jan and colleague Len Barrie discovered that during the Arctic spring ozone in the surface boundary layer air can be almost totally absent. This lower tropospheric ozone hole has been one of the topics Jan has studied in detail in collaboration with several colleagues from all over the world; lately this has led to the discovery of surprisingly active photochemistry of the snow pack.

Jan was the lead scientist for several large field studies in recent years such as the OASIS-CANADA, Polar Sunrise Experiment 1992, PACIFIC93, ATLANTIC96 and ALERT2000, and the results of these studies have been published in special issues of key scientific journals such as the Journal of Geophysical Research and Atmospheric Environment.

Born in the Netherlands, Jan received his education from the University of Amsterdam, and after post doctoral work in Japan and the US came to Canada in 1975. After a stint in Alberta he came to Toronto in 1980 where he has been employed by Environment Canada since that time.

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2009

Dr. Jan Willem Bottenheim is a Dutch scientist specializing in atmospheric chemistry. He has extensive experience in studying reactive chemistry in the Arctic region. His research has led to significant discoveries, including the unexpected disappearance of ozone and the correlation between mercury and ozone levels. Dr. Bottenheim has been instrumental in transforming weather stations into research observatories, particularly Alert, Nunavut, Canada, and Barrow, now Utqiaġvik, Alaska, where measurements related to climate and atmospheric chemistry are conducted. He actively collaborates with international partners and promotes interdisciplinary cooperation to gain a better understanding of atmospheric processes.

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Dr. Jan Willem Bottenheim discusses the significance of snow chemistry and the transport of toxic chemicals in the Arctic. He emphasizes the presence of persistent organic pollutants (POPs) such as pesticides that are toxic and resistant to degradation. These pollutants can vaporize and travel through the air, eventually reaching the Arctic region. Dr. Bottenheim highlights the improvements in technology that allow for better measurements and monitoring of these pollutants. He also mentions the direct impact of banning certain chemicals, such as the decline in DDT levels after China and India implemented bans. The “grasshopper effect” is described, where pollutants cycle between the air and the ground, leading to their accumulation in Arctic ecosystems. Dr. Bottenheim notes the concerning levels of pollutants found in the blood of Inuit communities, which exceed acceptable limits set by organizations like the World Health Organization (WHO). He emphasizes the importance of scientific data to support efforts in international agreements, like the Stockholm Convention, which aim to ban the use of toxic substances that pose a threat to the Arctic.

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Dr. Jan Willem Bottenheim reflects on his experiences in the Arctic, expressing his fascination with the sounds and music created by different types of snow. He shares his love for classical music and how the unique sounds of walking on snow inspired him. He mentions encountering a polar bear for the first time and discusses the wildlife commonly found in the Arctic, including Arctic foxes and wolf packs. Dr. Bottenheim describes the beauty of observing the wolves and shares an anecdote about hearing their calls during the midnight sun. He compares his experiences in Alert, Nunavut, Canada, to Barrow, now Utqiaġvik, Alaska, a town with a larger population and more amenities. He acknowledges the changes in the Arctic due to climate change and reflects on the philosophical question of whether the Earth’s transformations are inevitable and part of nature’s course. He expresses his appreciation for the current beauty of the Arctic while remaining open to the possibilities and beauty that may emerge in the future.

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Dr. Paul Shepson and Dr. Jan Willem Bottenheim discuss the untouched natural beauty of the Arctic and express concern about the potential loss of this environment for future generations. They acknowledge the need to address climate change and the excitement of rising to the challenge of finding solutions. They caution, however, against relying solely on engineering and technological fixes, highlighting the potential dangers and unintended consequences of quick fixes. They criticize proposals such as injecting sulfur into the stratosphere to block out the sun, emphasizing the immense scale and long-term commitment required. They stress the importance of global cooperation, international agreements, and informed decision-making when allocating resources to tackle climate change effectively. They advocate for responsible use of limited resources and considerate choices that prioritize human well-being and sustainable practices.

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Dr. George Divoky

Seabird Biologist studying in Arctic Alaska since 1970.

Dr George Divoky has been studying seabirds in arctic Alaska since 1970 and holds a Ph.D. from the University of Alaska Fairbanks. He is the founder of Friends of Cooper Island, a nonprofit scientific/education organization that maintains the long-term study of seabirds on Cooper Island and preserves and distributes Cooper Island data for use by current and future researchers studying climate change and other Arctic phenomena. Divoky also has an active outreach program speaking to conservation organizations and school groups.

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2009

Dr. George Devoky is a biologist who has been studying black guillemots on Cooper Island, 20 miles east of Point Barrow, for the past 40 years. He first went to the island in 1970 while studying birds in the Beaufort Sea, and then returned in 1975 to study the black guillemot colony he found on Cooper Island which is ideal for black guillemots as they feed at the edge of the pack ice. Divoki built boxes for the birds to occupy and studied their demographics over time, including egg-laying, adult survival, hatching success, and fledging success. Guillemots have an 80-day nesting period, which is long for any species anywhere but in the Arctic. Divoki has been studying the guillemots annually and has records of their demographics for around 35 years, making him one of the few people to any animal for that long. He has named individual birds based on the color bands he places on them and has recognized them over the years. Guillemots are excellent monitors of conditions because they are active all summer long, so any changes that happen during that time can affect their breeding success.

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George Divoky discusses the changing dates for egg laying in a colony of Arctic birds–black guillemots. He relates the changes in temperature in Northern Alaska and Cooper Island over the past 30 years. He describes the challenges of setting up support systems on the island and dealing with the new thermal regime, but also talks about his love for working in such a bright Arctic environment.

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Dr. George Divoky recounts his experience with bears invading his campsite in 2002, where one bear backed him and his team out of their campsite and destroyed two of their tents. After realizing the potential danger of bears ripping up tents and being unable to see anything the windowless tents, in 2003 Dr. Divoky built an 8 by 12 cabin. But the cabin was broken into and trashed by bears in his absence. To avoid such incidents, he now takes great pains to board up the cabin as much as possible before leaving. Dr. Divoky visits the cabin every early April to check on it and board it up as necessary. He also uses this opportunity to reconnect with the Utqiaġvik community and check on the nest sites on the island. Since the ice has been pulling farther and farther offshore, polar bears have been visiting annually since 2002, looking for food. Dr. Divoky expresses mixed emotions about seeing the bears; his first concern is his own safety, but he also feels upset seeing the bears eating the chicks or eggs.

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2022

Dr. George Divoky explains that he uses geolocators to track bird movements, specifically how they migrate north after breeding and occupy the Bering Sea. He mentions a significant ice reduction in 2017, which led to birds wintering for the first time in the Chukchi Sea. This shift in wintering distribution and the availability of fish in the Bering Sea had an impact on bird survival. Dr. Divoky notes that annual adult survival rates remained stable, but breeding success was affected, resulting in fewer pairs laying and incubating eggs. Experienced birds had better reproductive outcomes, indicating a potential selective process. The changes in wintering grounds present challenges for bird adaptation.

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Dr. George Divoky discusses the state of Guillemots and whether there is any hope for their future in the Arctic. He mentions that certain “more experienced” birds are successfully raising their young, reminiscent of the past, which is a positive sign. He acknowledges, however, that rapid changes in the Arctic pose challenges for their adaptation. Dr. Divoky refers to the situation as a “train wreck” and is curious about the current population of birds. Recently he has been collaborating with French researchers and computer modelers and their analysis of egg sizes, which have shown a decrease over time. This suggests potential changes in prey availability or the condition of female birds upon their return. They plan to further investigate these findings and their implications for climate change.

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Bird biologist, George Divoky has been visiting Cooper Island every year to study the Guillemot colony for nearly half a century. Despite challenges and setbacks, he continues his work because he feels a strong connection to the island and its inhabitants. Over the years, he has witnessed changes in the bird population due to climate change. The recent decline in breeding pairs has taken an emotional toll on him, but he remains committed to monitoring and documenting the colony’s demographics. Dr. Divoky hopes to inspire others to carry on his work and is actively involving researchers and students in his study. He believes that as long as there is support and interest, he will continue his lifelong research.

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Dr. George Divoky, a researcher with a 48-year-long study on Cooper Island, shares his remarkable journey. He highlights the changes he has witnessed in both the physical world and himself. From the support of the now defunct Naval Arctic Research Lab to the challenges of being alone on the island, he reflects on the risks and transformations. The arrival of bears due to shifting ice patterns was a paradigm shift for him. Bear encounters have become more frequent. He also mentions the scarcity of fresh water on the island, forcing him to adapt his methods. Overall, his story offers insight into the evolving environment and his personal growth during this extended research endeavor.

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Dr. George Divoky had already been studying Black Guillemots on Cooper Island just off Point Barrow, Alaska, for 28 years, in relative obscurity, until a New York Times article in 2002 brought attention to his work on the melting Arctic. His research on one bird population on one island was already revealing the devastating impact of climate change and declining sea ice. By monitoring nesting cycles and observing migration patterns, he discovered that the decline in Arctic bird populations was primarily due to decreasing migration rates from source colonies in other parts of the Arctic. Dr. Divoky’s findings highlighted the collapse of an important ecosystem and emphasized the need for long-term monitoring of the cryopelagic system. Dr. Divoky’s work on Black Guillemots continues after 48 years and serves as one of the most detailed long-term research projects highlighting how global warming is affecting the planet’s climate.

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Florent Domine

Florent Domine is currently a “Directeur de Recherche”

Florent Domine is currently a “Directeur de Recherche”, a CNRS position at Takuvik Joint International Laboratory, hosted by Université Laval in Quebec City. His current fields of research are snow physics and snow chemistry, as related to climate change and permafrost decay.

Website: https://sites.google.com/site/florentdomine/accueil



Florent Domine is a Senior Scientist and Research Director at the Takuvik Joint International Laboratory at the University of Laval, in Quebec City, Canada.  His research focuses on snow physics and chemistry.  He has pioneered novel methods to measure snow specific surface area (SSA), which is used for understanding atmosphere-snowpack exchange of gases, and for energy budgets and climate applications.  SSA is also useful for understanding the microphysics of snow metamorphism, and the study of the thermal conductivity of snow, which determines snow temperature and the heat flow between the ground and the atmosphere.  His group has studied chemical impurities in snow which can determine light absorption in the visible, and therefore snow albedo. Absorbing species such as hydrogen peroxide can generate chemically active radicals such as OH, which initiate active photochemistry in the snowpack. This leads to the emission to the atmosphere of highly reactive species such as formaldehyde (HCHO), nitrogen oxides (NO + NO2) and halogens (Br2 and BrCl). These latter molecules start oxidation cycles in the polar atmosphere, that lead to high rates of mercury deposition and to rapid ozone destruction.  In 2021 he published a co-edited volume (with Paul Shepson) called “Chemistry in the Cryosphere”.

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2009

Dr. Florent Domine, who conducts research in snow physics and snow chemistry, as related to climate change and permafrost decay, talks to Arcticstories in Utqiaġvik, Alaska, where it is currently snowing, but there are no clouds in the sky. He describes the snow as very tiny crystals that are falling slowly and accumulating on the roof of his tent. This type of clear-sky precipitation is called diamond dust and is the dominant form of precipitation on the AntArctic ice cap, less common here in the Arctic. Dr. Domine is excited to sample the snow and is careful to ensure that it is not contaminated. He has instruments in his tent to sample snow from different locations, and he is currently cleaning up the snow that has fallen through the gaps in the fabric of his tent.

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Dr. Florent Domine is “Directeur de Recherche,” a CNRS position at Takuvik Joint International Laboratory, hosted by Université Laval in Quebec city. Here he describes snow as an insulator with thermal properties that help buffer cold waves during winter. The heat conductivity of snow is measured using a heated needle to determine its insulating properties. Additional instruments measure density and other characteristics. Snow reflects light, contributing to cooling the Earth’s atmosphere, but also limits ground cooling in the winter, leading to complex warming and cooling effects on the planet. The removal of snow would cause the planet to warm, but the extent of this warming is unclear due to complex positive and negative feedbacks that have not been fully studied. Changes in the physical properties of snow due to changes in climate should be included in climate models, as they will have tremendous effects on the thawing of permafrost. The insulating effect of snow depends on complex interactions between snow, vegetation, and climate, and the changes in these factors can result in either a positive or negative feedback on permafrost thaw.

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Snow expert Dr. Florent Domine studies the physics and chemistry of snow. His team measures the atmospheric gasses that are emitted by snow. They draw snow samples from different locations. One of the major focuses of his study is on organic compounds, crucial in snowpack photochemistry. Domine also analyzes the physical properties of the snowpack, measuring the surface area by taking a block of snow and cutting it into four pieces to test reproducibility. His team also measures infrared reflectance by exposing the snow to an infrared diode laser. They keep their instruments warm enough to operate on the snow and study the variation in snow stratigraphy by digging a long trench to see the snow layers starting and finishing at different spots.

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Dr. Domine continues to discuss his work collecting samples on the tundra and sea ice. He highlights the importance of studying the heat conductivity of snow and its impact on climate change. Dr. Domine mentions that unfortunately most people have not recognized the active role that snow plays in the climate system, and that France is not currently funding research in this area. The conversation also touches on the importance of snow to the French economy, particularly in the ski industry.

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In this conversation, snow scientist Dr. Florent Domine discusses his snow and ice crystal photography. He uses a macro lens, extension tubes, and a reflex camera but needs to keep it at a specific temperature while taking the photographs. Due to the cold climate, he stores the camera in a cold room at -20 degrees Celsius.. Dr. Domine explains that taking photos of snow crystals can be a bit of work, but it is necessary to get a decent picture. While some snow crystals are aesthetically pleasing, most are just small, rounded grains.

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Dr. Florent Domine explains that many people do not understand the Arctic. He clarifies that the North Pole is in the Arctic and penguins are not found there, only polar bears. He stresses the importance of the Arctic in regulating the Earth’s temperature and how the melting of the polar ice pack could lead to catastrophic global consequences such as the absorption of solar radiation by the ocean and accelerated warming. He explains that these effects are not well understood and could have serious consequences in the next 10-20 years.

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Domine describes his experiences in Norway’s Svalbard region, an archipelago located a thousand miles north of Norway’s North Cape in the European Arctic. Svalbard is one of the most beautiful and scenic places on Earth, but also dangerous due to the presence of polar bears. Dr. Domine shares that he always travels with an experienced guide. And he has stopped counting the number of polar bears he has encountered, there are so many bear encounters. He jokes about how to evaluate the danger level when meeting a polar bear by looking at the color of its butt – if it’s white, he quips, it’s dangerous; if it’s brown, it’s safe. (Brown because it has just eaten a seal!) Dr. Domine also mentions that Svalbard is warmer than its latitude might indicate due to the Gulf Stream and seldom drops below -35 degrees Celsius. Finally, he notes that polar bears are rare on the west coast of Svalbard due to the lack of sea ice.

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Matt Druckenmiller

Sea Ice Scientist

Sea Ice Scientist

University of Colorado Boulder

matt Druckenmiller: https://nna-co.org/about/team/matthew-druckenmiller

Dr. Matthew Druckenmiller (PI) is serving as the NNA-CO Director, overseeing the overall coordination and daily operations of the office and its team. He is also responsible for the office’s cooperation with NSF’s NNA Working Group to ensure alignment with NSF strategies and programming. He brings over 15 years of transdisciplinary research experience in Arctic and sub-Arctic regions, often in close collaboration with Arctic communities. He also brings experience in participating with a host of national and international Arctic research and policy institutions, including the Polar Research Board (PRB), the Interagency Arctic Research Policy Committee (IARPC), the Study of Environmental Arctic Change (SEARCH), and the International Arctic Science Committee (IASC).

Matthew Druckenmiller is a sea ice scientist, who is originally from northern Pennsylvania. He grew up hunting and fishing with his father and grandfather, and became sensitive to observing human influences on natural systems. After studying geo-environmental engineering at Penn State University he moved to Alaska in 2004 with an interest in glaciers and Arctic environments. In 2011, he received his doctoral degree in geophysics from the University of Alaska Fairbanks, where he studied the physics of coastal sea ice. He had the opportunity to base much of his work near coastal communities, such as Utqiagvik, which enabled him to learn the importance of the sea ice and ocean to indigenous peoples and to appreciate the richness of their local environmental knowledge. 

Matthew Druckenmiller is a research scientist at NSIDC. Since 2006, he has worked within the coastal regions of Arctic Alaska, investigating the connections between changing sea ice conditions and marine mammal habitat, and local Indigenous community use of sea ice for hunting and travel. Currently, he serves as director of the Navigating the New Arctic Community Office (NNA-CO) and co-leads the Exchange for Local Observations and Knowledge of the Arctic (ELOKA). Druckenmiller also serves as the Lead US Delegate to the International Arctic Science Committee (IASC), an editor for the Arctic Report Card, and an editor for the Arctic Chapter within the annual Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society (BAMS) State of the Climate Report. Previously, he has served as a Science Policy Fellow at the National Academies’ Polar Research Board (2005), a project manager at the Arctic Research Consortium of the United States (2006), and a AAAS Science Policy Fellow at the U.S. Agency for International Development (2013 to 2015).

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2022

Matt Druckenmiller discusses the challenge of fragmentation in Arctic research, which hinders collaboration among scientists. While there’s a turn toward interdisciplinary work, competition for research funding remains a barrier. Matt emphasizes the need for more thoughtful engagement with Arctic indigenous communities to address issues effectively. Slowing down and gaining perspective can enhance collaborative efforts despite the rapid changes in the Arctic. The COVID-19 pandemic also provided opportunities for reflection and improvement.

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Dr. George Durner

Formerly a polar bear expert with the US Geological Survey (USGS) in Anchorage, Alaska

George Durner is a research zoologist with the US Geological Survey, Alaska Science Center polar bear research program.  He entered this position in 1991 and currently works with a team of USGS scientists to identify and describe the mechanisms that drive the response of polar bears to a changing Arctic ecosystem. He has a BS in biology from East Stroudsburg University, an MS in wildlife biology from Frostburg State University, and a PhD in zoology and physiology from the University of Wyoming.

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2009

Research zoologist with the US Geological Survey Alaska Science Center, Dr. George Durner discusses his extensive involvement in studying polar bears and their sea ice habitat use. For decades he has researched various aspects of polar bear behavior, health, and reproduction, with a particular focus on their responses to changing sea ice conditions. Dr. Durner also led a project assessing stress hormones using polar bear fur samples collected over the years. He explains the challenges faced by the Southern Beaufort Sea subpopulation of polar bears due to sea ice loss during summer months, leading to a decline in their numbers. He noticed some improvement in survival rates after 2008, and the population has remained relatively stable since then even as the bears face significant changes and challenges in the Arctic environment.

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Dr. George Durner, a research zoologist at the US Geological Survey Alaska Science Center, has extensively studied polar bears’ response to changing sea ice conditions. His team found that polar bears are fasting more due to reduced access to Ringed seals, their primary food source, leading to negative effects on their survival and reproduction. Additionally, cortisol levels in polar bear fur has indicated nutritional stress during periods of low survival. These findings underscore the challenges polar bears face in a changing Arctic environment.

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Dr. George Durner emphasizes the significance of long-term data collected through the polar bear research program, which owes much to the efforts of Dr. Steve Amstrup in establishing it back in the early ’80s. Extensive data and samples have proved invaluable in understanding the changing dynamics of polar bears in the Southern Beaufort Sea. With advancements in analytical techniques, both chemical and computational, and with the collaboration of brilliant minds, researchers have been able to gain insights into the effects of a warming climate on polar bears. The data derived from this research is crucial for regulatory agencies in developing conservation policies to protect polar bears in the face of ongoing climate changes.

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Dr. George Durner expressed deep gratitude for the opportunity to study polar bears and witness the Arctic’s majestic beauty over the past 30 years. He acknowledges the significant changes that have occurred in the region due to climate change and human impacts. Despite these challenges, he remains optimistic about the future, emphasizing the importance of understanding the relationships between polar bears and sea ice. He believes that by curbing greenhouse gas emissions and addressing climate change, it is possible to create a sustainable Arctic that can support polar bears for generations to come.

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Despite the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr. George Durner and his team were able to continue their polar bear research with determination and adaptability. While most team members worked from their homes, the research progressed seamlessly through the use of modern technology, allowing remote discussions and data analysis. The pandemic did impact some aspects of fieldwork, particularly in the interactions with native cultures, but the team took necessary precautions to ensure everyone’s safety. In 2020, they had to cut short their field season, but subsequent years saw successful research operations in Utqiaġvik and Prudhoe Bay, demonstrating their dedication to understanding polar bears’ responses to a changing Arctic environment.

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Dr. Hajo Eicken

Glaciologist, Professor of Geophysics at the Geophysical Institute and the Department of Geology and Geophysics at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks

Dr. Hajo Eicken is Professor at the Geophysical Institute and the Department of Geology and Geophysics at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks. Before joining the University of Alaska, Dr. Eicken was a senior scientist at the Alfred Wegener Institute where he was the head of a research group for sea ice physics and remote sensing. Dr. Eicken’s research interests include studies of the growth, evolution, and properties of sea ice in the Arctic and Antarctic. He is particularly interested in determining how microscopic and macroscopic properties affect larger-scale sea-ice processes and its role in the climate system. In Alaska, Dr. Eicken has spent time on the ice to learn more about the different uses of the sea ice environment and its role in polar ecosystems. Dr. Eicken has participated in several icebreaker expeditions in both hemispheres.




https://seaice.alaska.edu/gi/people/eicken/

 

My main research interests are in the field of sea-ice geophysics. In particular, I am interested in how small-scale properties and (micro)structure of sea ice impact processes on a larger scale as well as the role of sea ice in the climate system. As part of the International Polar Year (IPY) 2007-2009 I am part of an international group that is studying the seasonal Arctic ice zone through an observing network (SIZONet). You can learn more about this project by visiting the SIZONet site or one of the following web pages: Arctic Observing Network Data site, Alaska Ocean Observing System, Barrow Sea Ice Observatory.

One of the main interests of our group here at the University of Alaska Fairbanks is to study in more depth the multiple uses of sea ice as well as its important role in coastal environments. This work ties in with a broader range of activities at the University of Alaska that aim to examine how we as scientists can improve access to the vast amount of data collected during the IPY and beyond in order to help different users of the sea ice (local communities, indigenous populations, industry, government and others) make better planning decisions.

In a rapidly changing Arctic, where sea ice plays an important role not just in the physical environment but also in the context of ecosystems, geopolitics, indigenous knowledge and use as well as economic development, it takes communication and collaboration between different disciplines and interest groups to help us address the challenges and take advantage of the opportunities that come with change in a responsible and sustainable fashion. I invite you to visit the web pages describing the sea ice research, look at publications by our group or visit the UA IPY North by 2020 Forum‘s web site. If you are a student interested in working on these topics, please get in touch, visit the Department of Geology and Geophysics‘ web pages or have a look at the Resilience and Adaptation Program (RAP) here at UAF which provides opportunities for research and education on these issues in a broader, interdisciplinary context.

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2009

Dr. Hajo Eicken, a glaciologist and professor of geophysics at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, discusses his research focus on sea ice and its interactions with ecosystems and the climate system. Dr. Eicken describes his fieldwork and laboratory work, including studying ice behavior on both small and large scales. He emphasizes the importance of understanding how liquids and organisms move through sea ice. He also mentions his interest in working in areas where people have a deep knowledge of the ice cover, such as Alaska with its Iñupiaq Eskimo communities. Dr. Eicken acknowledges the value of combining traditional knowledge with geophysical and glaciological perspectives to gain a more comprehensive understanding of ice. He highlights the collaborative approach of working with local communities and incorporating their expertise into research design and question formulation. The interview concludes with Dr. Eicken discussing the significance of studying ice stability and how detailed local knowledge contributes to understanding factors like currents, wind, and topography at specific locations.

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Dr. Hajo Eicken discusses research conducted at the ice observatory in Barrow, now Utqiaġvik, Alaska, focusing on understanding changes in Arctic sea ice. The interview highlights the importance of studying ice cover changes, such as thinning and reflectivity, from both a climate perspective and the perspective of local communities. Dr. Eicken emphasizes the need to combine scientific questions with the practical implications for people and animals relying on the ice. The research involves mapping ice trails, determining ice thickness, and studying the interaction between coastal and offshore ice. They aim to improve climate models and forecast seasonal sea ice while investigating observed changes in the ice cover. The multidisciplinary approach seeks to bridge scientific understanding with real-world applications in the Arctic.

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Dr. Hajo Eicken discusses the unique characteristics of sea ice and its significance in the Arctic. He explains that sea ice forms a landscape that undergoes rapid changes within a short time frame, similar to the long-term evolution of natural landscapes on Earth. Dr. Eicken highlights the scientific interest in studying sea ice due to its high temperature relative to its melting point, allowing for insights into the evolution of rocks and other materials at high temperatures. He shares his personal journey into Arctic research, influenced by his experiences on an icebreaker cruise in the AntArctic and the interdisciplinary collaboration among scientists in that setting. Dr. Eicken emphasizes the importance of studying sea ice from multiple perspectives and fostering collaboration between different groups, such as indigenous communities, industry experts, and researchers, to better understand sea ice behavior and its implications for various interests in the Arctic, including climate, resource exploration, and local communities. He also discusses the evolving nature of scientific research, which now recognizes the value of integrating different perspectives, such as data analysis, modeling, and local expertise, to enhance understanding and inform measurements and experiments in the field.

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This is sea ice animation video

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2022

Dr. Hajo Eicken, director of the International Arctic Research Center at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, discusses the changes in the Arctic. He notes the decline of sea ice, leading to open waters and coastal erosion. There has also been a surprising loss of winter sea ice, impacting fish stocks and prompting international discussions on managing fisheries. These changes highlight the urgent need for action in the face of a rapidly changing Arctic ecosystem.

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Dr. Hajo Eicken discusses the career progress of former student Matt Druckenmiller and the importance of involving indigenous communities in their work. He also highlights the advancements made by PhD student Oliver Damon in understanding sea ice landscapes using state-of-the-art models and satellite technology. These developments contribute to safer navigation in the ice environment and enhance our understanding of the changing Arctic.

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Dr. Hajo Eicken highlights the proactive role of indigenous peoples in dealing with environmental challenges for centuries. As the director of a research institute, he emphasizes their collaboration with the Alaska Climate Adaptation Science Center and the Alaska Arctic Observatory Knowledge Hub. These efforts involve developing plans, tools, and resilience strategies in partnership with various tribes and communities to adapt to climate change. Dr. Eicken also commends the leadership of Donna Hauser in the Alaska Arctic Observatory Knowledge Hub, which engages communities and indigenous graduate students in observing and studying the impacts of sea ice changes, coastal erosion, and fisheries-related transformations.

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Dr. Hajo Eicken shares his experience with the U.S. Navy’s search for suitable ice flows for their high-stakes experiments. He explains the challenges they face in finding specific types of ice, such as stable multi-year ice, thin ice for submarines, and level ice for landing planes. Dr. Eicken reflects on how the changing Arctic conditions have made this task increasingly difficult, with fewer suitable ice flows available. The process of identifying and locating these ice flows involves satellite imagery and aerial reconnaissance, highlighting the complexity and limited options in today’s Arctic environment.

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Dr. Hajo Eicken at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, discusses the impact of changing sea ice conditions on the migration patterns and cultural activities of bowhead whales in North Slope communities. Collaborating with wildlife management departments, researchers have observed that bowhead whales benefit from less summer ice, enabling them to feed more effectively. The presence of open water and ice leads also allows bowheads to be present throughout the winter, facilitating hunting and whale observations. However, the timing of the fall hunt has shifted significantly, with the fall freeze-up occurring later by two to three weeks every decade. This change presents challenges for communities as they navigate wavy conditions and adapt to the absence of ice in the water.

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Dr. Hajo Eicken is a renowned expert in the study of ice, particularly sea ice in the Arctic. His extensive research has yielded significant insights and advancements in understanding the behavior and evolution of sea ice at both the micro and macro scales. Dr. Eicken’s work has focused on the microstructural composition of ice, its stability, formation, and decay, as well as its impact on various applications such as nutrient fluxes and oil spill management. Additionally, he has contributed to the coordination and management of Arctic coastal ice, providing valuable knowledge on its seasonality and implications for different users. Furthermore, Dr. Eicken is actively involved in the global effort to recognize the crucial role of sea ice as a climate regulator, ecosystem supporter, and habitat for biodiversity. His work aims to improve observations and predictions of sea ice, ensuring better access to information for decision-making, particularly for indigenous communities. With ongoing research and collaborations, Dr. Eicken continues to make significant contributions to the field while recognizing the challenges that lie ahead in understanding and managing sea ice in a changing climate.

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Dr. Hajo Eicken, a researcher and advocate for climate change solutions, emphasizes the importance of human behavior and decision-making in addressing this global issue. He believes that bringing together different knowledge systems is crucial for finding effective solutions. While progress may seem slow, Dr. Eicken remains optimistic, seeing a shift towards more progressive thinking, especially among young scientists. He highlights the need to support and empower early-career researchers who are working towards innovative solutions. Based at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, Dr. Eicken is cautiously optimistic about the ongoing efforts to tackle climate change challenges, particularly in relation to climate justice, energy justice, and sustainability. He also acknowledges the resilience of indigenous communities in the face of climate change and their ability to adapt to new challenges. However, Dr. Eicken emphasizes that collective responsibility is necessary to prevent further harm and underscores the importance of proactive measures in addressing climate change.

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Dr. Hajo Eicken discusses various aspects of Arctic research, focusing on the stable isotope composition of sea ice and snow. He notes a significant shift in the local sources of moisture, indicating increased humidity in the Arctic. This change in moisture sources has implications for cloudiness, which Dr. Eicken is interested in studying. Dr. Eicken expresses excitement about upcoming research flights to examine pollution impacts on clouds and the effects of oil and gas development on Arctic processes. He highlights the transformation of the ice pack due to the loss of multi-year ice, resulting in more open water and changes in the ice pack’s composition and structure.

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Dr. Frank Flocke

Frank Flocke is an atmospheric chemist

Frank Flocke is an atmospheric chemist, who has been working at the

National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) since 1992. He develops and operates sophisticated instrumentation for the measurement of atmospheric pollutants, from the air and on the ground, all over the world. Frank is an avid cross-country skier and a happy motorcyclist.

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2009

In two videos on the Arcticstories website, atmospheric chemist Dr. Frank Flocke describes some of the key atmospheric measurements conducted during the BARROW2009 experiment as part of the OASIS (Ocean-Atmosphere-Sea Ice-Snowpack) program. Frank is a “Scientist III” at the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) in Boulder, Colorado. He obtained his Ph.D. in atmospheric chemistry at Forschungszentrum (KFA) Julich, Germany and the University of Wuppertal, in Germany. He is an expert on nitrogen species, and ozone, in the atmosphere. Here Frank describes the OASIS “modules,” which are small research buildings built specifically for the OASIS campaign in Barrow (now called Utqiaġvik), 2009. From these buildings, a wide array of measurements are made, of organic compounds, nitrogen oxides, small molecules containing chlorine and bromine, an array of highly reactive small molecules called “free radicals”, and ozone. The objective of OASIS is to understand chemical processes initiated by the action of sunlight and other constituents of the atmosphere on sea-salt, the subsequent release of reactive halogen species from the sea salt, followed by a complex array of “free radical” reactions that destroy ozone and convert mercury into products that deposit to the surface. A particular interest of the OASIS team is how all this chemistry will change with climate change, and associated loss of sea ice, and what impact that will have on the composition of the atmosphere. Here Frank describes the set-up of the modules and what goes on inside!

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Atmospheric chemist Dr. Frank Flocke continues to discusse the location of his research modules and the reason they were set up away from the main building. The power plant and heating system near the building would alter the air quality measurements, and there was too much vehicle traffic and local emissions. The modules were placed in a V-shape to face the most likely wind direction, and the sampling tower was set up nearby to sample at different elevations. Anemometers measure movement of air in all three dimensions. He also uses a balloon to measure the boundary layer structure up to 500 feet in altitude.

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Dr. John C. "Craig" George

Senior Wildlife Biologist (Bowhead Whales), Department of Wildlife Management, North Slope Borough, Barrow, Alaska

Craig George has worked as a Wildlife Biologist with the North Slope Department of Wildlife Management in Barrow, Alaska for 25 years.  Craig earned a B.S. in Wildlife Biology from the Utah State University in 1976 and recently completed his Ph.D. in bowhead whale energetics, age estimation and morphology (comprehensive exams 2001).  Beginning in 1982, Craig worked on and later coordinated the bowhead whale ice-based population assessment project on the sea ice near Point Barrow for nearly two decades.   He also has conducted many postmortem exams on bowheads harvested by Alaskan Eskimos (since 1980) and published a number of papers on this work ranging from evidence of killer whale predation to structural anatomy to population biology. Craig has attended IWC meetings since 1987 focusing mainly on aboriginal whaling management procedures and assessments and population estimation. He has also participated in Eskimo traditional knowledge studies on the North Slope. Craig has lived in Barrow since 1977 and is married to Cyd Hanns, a wildlife technician. Together they enjoy community and outdoor activities with their two sons Luke and Sam.

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2009

An enthusiast of climbing mountains in the western states of the Lower 48, Craig found a similar sense of fulfillment when he came to the North Slope and in his decades-long exploration of the sea ice. He is passionate about the untouched, pristine nature of the ice and how it creates a feeling of being part of a renewable wilderness area. As a member of the close-knit Utqiaġvik community of whalers and scientists, Dr. George focuses on bowhead whales, emphasizing their extraordinary characteristics. Bowheads are massive creatures, known to reach lengths of up to 60 feet, and potentially even larger based on historical records. They possess thick blubber, long baleen plates used for filtering prey, and remarkably large heads that continue to grow throughout their lives. Bowheads captivated even Charles Darwin, he says, who recognized the uniqueness of their baleen structure. Additionally, evidence suggests that bowheads live exceptionally long lives, potentially exceeding 150 years. Various techniques, such as chemical aging and baleen analysis, provide insights into their slow growth and delayed maturity in frigid Arctic waters. The bowhead whale’s longevity and reproductive patterns contribute to their cultural significance among Eskimo communities, where whaling plays a central role. The act of hunting and sharing the harvested whale is a cooperative endeavor that brings joy and happiness to the community, highlighting the selfless nature of their sharing network. The experience of witnessing the communal celebration and the deep connection to this important resource leaves a lasting impression on Dr. George.

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2022

Dr. Craig George and Peter Lourie discuss the remarkable adaptability of bowhead whales in the face of climate change. Despite the retreat of sea ice, the whale population has thrived, surprising researchers. Yet Dr. George highlights the emergence of new challenges, such as infections in adult bowhead whales and changes in Arctic biodiversity. Overall, the conversation offers valuable insights into the resilience of the Arctic species amid a changing climate.

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Dr. George reflects on raising a family in the Arctic. Despite suggestions from family and friends in the lower 48 states to leave for better educational opportunities, Craig loved the small Utqiaġvik community, which offers good schools, a supportive community, dog mushing, fishing, hunting, Eskimo dances, and a vibrant whaling culture. He and his wife have had experiences unmatched elsewhere. The region is filled with beautiful rivers, a vast roadless region with few people and abundant wildlife. Utqiaġvik, Alaska, formerly Barrow, provides a sense of safety, allowing its children to freely explore and engage in activities that may not be possible in urban areas.

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Dr. Craig George talks about the rapidly changing Arctic and exciting developments in bowhead whale research. Dr. George reflects on how much has been learned over the past 40 years, transforming our understanding of these creatures. He emphasizes that it’s an equally exciting time for young researchers to get involved in bowhead studies. Native communities have also stepped up their involvement, contributing to a successful integration of native and western science. Dr. George mentions some promising young researchers who are making significant contributions to the field.

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Dr. Craig George discusses fascinating new cancer research in bowhead whales. As long-lived mammals, bowheads have unique mechanisms for tumor suppression and DNA repair, similar to other long-lived species like elephants and naked mole-rats. Bowheads also exhibit low body temperatures and metabolic rates, which may contribute to their longevity. The research has implications for human medicine. Dr. George expresses excitement about the work but also emphasizes the importance of including the native community that provided the specimens in any major breakthroughs or benefits that may arise from the research.

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Richard K. "Savik" Glenn

Arctic Slope Regional Corporation’s Executive Vice President of Lands and Natural Resources

Arctic Slope Regional Corporation’s Executive Vice President of Lands and Natural Resources.

RICHARD K. “Savik” GLENN is Arctic Slope Regional Corporation’s Executive Vice President of Lands and Natural Resources. Arctic Slope Regional Corporation (“ASRC”) is the Alaska Native-owned regional corporation representing more than eight thousand Inupiat Eskimos of Alaska’s North Slope. The shareholders of ASRC own surface and subsurface title to nearly five million acres of Alaskan North Slope lands with oil, gas, coal and mineral resources. Richard is a member of ASRC’s Board of Directors. From 1995 to 2001, Richard headed Alaska’s North Slope Borough Department of Energy Management, where he supervised the energy programs for all of the North Slope Borough villages.

Richard received a Bachelor of Science degree in Geology from San Jose State University in 1985 and a Master of Science degree in Geology from the University of Alaska (UAF) in 1991. Richard has special expertise in resource development in an Arctic setting, and is well-versed in on and offshore Arctic geologic processes. He is a certified professional geologist in the state of Alaska, and holds positions on many boards and commissions, most of them dedicated to education and scientific research. In addition to other postings, he has twice been appointed by the President to the United States Arctic Research Commission, is the Board President of the Barrow Arctic Science Consortium, and has served as Chairman of the Board of Trustees for Ilisagvik College.

Richard also serves as co-captain of the Savik Ahmaogak subsistence whaling crew. He is a member of the Suurimmaaniichuat Eskimo dance group and a budding rock-and-roll keyboardist.

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2009

Richard K. “Savik” Glenn is the founding president of the Barrow Arctic Science Consortium (also known simply as BASC) and a board member of the organization. He is also the Executive Vice President of Lands Natural Resources at the Arctic Slope Regional Corporation. Richard’s strong connection to the Arctic stems from his family history and personal experiences. He is deeply passionate about bridging the gap between traditional knowledge and Western science, recognizing the value of how science/community collaboration can lead to a wealth of insights. Richard’s dedication to connecting his community with visiting researchers and his commitment to preserving and integrating traditional knowledge make him a valuable advocate for the Arctic and its people.

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Richard Glenn, a renowned expert in Arctic science and traditional knowledge, shares his deep understanding of the Arctic environment. Through his experiences studying sea ice and its physical properties, he draws fascinating parallels between frozen ocean layers and cooling lava. Richard emphasizes the importance of being physically present in the Arctic, as it offers a unique opportunity to witness and comprehend the intricacies of nature firsthand. He values the concept of “ground truthing,” where direct observation and experience complement remote sensing technologies. Richard highlights the continuous learning process within traditional knowledge, where individuals pass down wisdom to younger generations, fostering a sense of self-improvement and growth. As a co-captain in his family’s whaling crew, he embraces the responsibility of passing on knowledge and experiences to ensure the preservation of cultural traditions. Richard recounts a perilous incident on shifting ice that taught him the importance of respecting nature’s power and relying on traditional knowledge to make informed decisions.

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Dr. Amanda Grannas

Professor of Chemistry, Vice Provost for Research and Chief Research Officer at Villanova University, Villanova, PA

She was in Barrow in 2008 and 2009 (along with several students) studying the cycling of persistent organic pollutants in air, snow and ice, as well as their potential photochemical breakdown in this region. Her research group is interested in a number of environmentally-relevant topics including cycling of pollutants in the environment, pollutant photochemistry and remediation techniques. She is also involved in a number of education activities including development of environmental chemistry curriculum for K-12 and inclusion of high school students in research activities.

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2009

Chemistry professor at Villanova Amanda Grannas, with a focus on environmental and atmospheric chemistry, is attempting to understand the chemistry of persistent organic pollutants (POPs) in the environment. She became interested in the Arctic during her first field study there in 2000, which was also her second year as a graduate student at Purdue University. The experience was challenging but empowering, as she was responsible for running the study on her own. Grannas is currently part of the OASIS team studying atmospheric chemistry in Barrow (Utqiaġvik), Alaska, where she and her team measure POPs and their impact on the environment.

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Chemist Dr. Amanda Grannas is describing an experiment she is currently conducting in the snowpack to understand what happens to different pollutants in different conditions when exposed to sunlight. She has prepared solutions containing known amounts of pollutants in clean water and snow melt water, and is placing them in the snowpack in sample vials. The samples are color-coded and will be exposed to sunlight for two weeks, while three samples from a buried blue container, which is the dark control, will be collected each day for comparison. The experiment aims to mimic what happens in snowpack and understand what kind of sunlight-driven chemistry occurs to these pollutants.

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Dr. Grannas talks about how serendipity works doing fieldwork in the Arctic. While conducting fieldwork on the North Slope, she and a group of scientists had a chance encounter with a local station manager who was also an Iñupiaq whaler. They asked him to help collect some samples for them, and after he agreed to help, he also invited them to join him on an ice-breaking trip that he and his whaling crew were conducting for the upcoming whaling season. He said they could collect the samples themselves. During their trip, they encountered Arnold Brower Sr., a respected whaling captain and Iñupiaq elder who shared his experiences and opinions on climate change. Dr. Grannas and her team had that special experience of hearing stories that illuminated modern and traditional lifestyles of the local Iñupiaq population, noting their use of technology alongside their spiritual subsistence activities. Dr. Grannas believes that in sharing Iñupiaq culture and the Iñupiaq approach to hunting, scientists come to learn so much that can then inform their own science, as well as teach the outside world important lessons.

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2022

This video clip describes expanding the Arcticstories.net website with present-day interviews with former interviewees in order to learn about the drastic changes in the Arctic over the past several years. Dr. Grannas, now Vice Provost & Chief Research Officer and Professor of Chemistry at Villanova University, speaks about how her role has changed from active fieldwork in Alaska to now sending her students off to do their own research. She also discusses with Pete Lourie and Paul Shepson, co-founders of the website, her current role as Vice Provost for Research at Villanova University and how Dr. Grannas has shifted focus to coaching and mentoring faculty members as well as students. She reflects on the importance of science communication and the joy she feels in seeing former students continue in the field of Arctic research.

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In this conversation, Villanova’s Dr. Grannas, Dr. Shepson and Pete Lourie discuss the issue of climate change and how it is affecting the world. They acknowledge that there has been a dramatic change in the climate, even in a short period of time, and that it is an issue that needs to be addressed and not kicked down the road. They also note that many people feel helpless and that there are too many “doomsdayers” who make people feel like there is nothing they can do to make a difference. The discussion emphasizes choices individuals can make that will have a positive impact for change and the economy. They also discuss the importance of communication and not demonizing those who work in the fossil fuel industry but finding ways to work together towards a solution. Finally, they stress the need to work together and not take immutable positions in order to solve the problem of climate change.

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Dr. Grannas discusses the importance of effective communication, particularly in the field of science. She mentions that it’s not just about having an “elevator pitch” but also about engaging in dialogue with the audience and being able to listen and respond to others’ questions and concerns. She notes that many scientists are not trained in communication skills and she suggests that graduate programs and postdoctoral mentoring could benefit from coaching in this area. Dr. Paul Shepson (Dean of SOMAS at Stonybrook) talks with Dr. Grannas about the importance of conveying a positive message, particularly in regards to climate change.

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Dr. Amanda Grannas discusses her scientific background and how even though she is in an administrative role at Villanova, after being in the field when Arcticstories first met her years ago, she is still actively involved in research, publishing, and mentoring students in the field or lab. She finds it rewarding to see students getting excited about research and flourishing, as well as seeing good science happen. Dr. Grannas thinks fondly of the past when she worked in Utqiaġvik meeting fantastic people like Iñupiaq elder and whaling captain Arnold Brower, learning from his experiences and appreciating the importance of traditional knowledge in the study of science. Grannas recalls a conversation she had with Mr. Brower in 2008 when he spoke about how, with changing ice conditions, it was becoming harder and harder for the Iñupiaq community to read the ice. Later that year, Arnold passed away after his snow machine went through the ice and he couldn’t get back to land and died of hypothermia. Her conversation with Arnold now haunts her because it serves as a powerful example of the impact of climate change on people’s lives.

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Dr. Matt Huber

Associate Professor, Purdue University’s Earth and Atmospheric Sciences and co-founder of the Purdue Climate Change Research Center

Matthew Huber is an Associate Professor in Purdue University’s Earth and Atmospheric Sciences Department and co-founding member of the Purdue Climate Change Research Center. He has been Associate Editor of Paleoceanography and G-Cubed, and co-Chair of the Paleoclimate Working Group of the National Center for Atmospheric Research Community Climate System Modeling initiative. Huber attempts to solve fundamental climate questions, such as: When global warming occurs, how much is the warming amplified near the poles? What are the impacts of climate change on the hydrological cycle and severe weather events? What sets the equilibrium equator-to-pole temperature gradient and how is this key parameter related to global mean temperature? Are there mechanisms that generate increased heat transport in warm time intervals? What are the negative feedbacks in the climate system that prevent a positive feedback loop, i.e. a ‘runaway greenhouse effect?’

Attempting to answer these fundamental climate questions has led Huber from the present to the deep past (Eocene–50 million years ago) and back again. Huber’s work covers many subjects and methodologies including: climate modelling , paleobiogeographic reconstructions, Lagrangian tracer modelling, compound-specific isotope record synthesis, and satellite observation investigation. One of his most exciting research opportunities was collaborating with other scientists who collected deep sea cores from the Arctic Ocean on Integrated Ocean Drilling Program Cruise 302. The paleoclimate proxy records indicated Florida-like temperatures in the Arctic 55 million years ago, whereas the climate models produced only tepid temperatures.

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2009

Dr. Matt Huber from Purdue University warns about the rapid increase in greenhouse gas emissions, which is occurring at a rate ten times faster than in previous major climate change events. He emphasizes that human reliance on burning carbon-based resources for energy is a significant contributor to this problem. Dr. Huber discusses the potential consequences of continued carbon burning, including a warming trend similar to the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum. He also highlights the alarming rate of present-day Arctic sea ice melting, predicting the possibility of it disappearing seasonally within the next few decades and eventually becoming ice-free year-round. Furthermore, he discusses the potential increase in precipitation in regions historically receiving more rain and the likelihood of intense convection events occurring over the Arctic Ocean during polar winters. Lastly, Dr. Huber mentions the vulnerability of ice sheets, particularly the Greenland ice sheet, and the uncertainties surrounding their stability in a warming world. Overall, his insights underscore the need for urgent action to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions and address the potential impacts on global climate and polar regions.

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Dr. Matt Huber, a paleoclimate modeler at Purdue University, focuses on studying past periods of global warming to better understand and test models for predicting future climate change. He explains the importance of reconstructing past climates and greenhouse gas concentrations. Dr. Huber emphasizes the amplified warming effect near the poles and discusses how the geological record reveals periods without ice sheets in AntArctica and Greenland, suggesting a significantly warmer planet in the past. But he highlights the rarity of our current climate compared to the period he studies, where the Arctic Ocean was mostly ice-free, and tropical conditions allowed for the presence of crocodiles and palm trees near Greenland. Dr. Huber also touches on the migration of early primates across the Bering land bridge during the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum, a warm period around 55 million years ago. He explains that long-term variations in greenhouse gas concentrations occur naturally, with factors like volcanic activity and carbon cycle feedbacks influencing CO2 levels over tens of millions of years. He discusses the rapid warming event during the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum, possibly triggered by the release of methane hydrates and positive carbon cycle feedbacks. This warming persisted for approximately 100,000 years. Overall, Dr. Huber’s work sheds light on past climate dynamics and provides valuable insights into the potential future trajectory of our climate system.

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Dr. Matt Huber, interviewed by Arcticstories’ Dr. Paul Shepson, discusses his views on the future climate and the potential impacts of global warming. Dr. Huber expresses a pessimistic outlook–he believes the next couple hundred years will not be favorable for most people. While the ice sheets in AntArctica and Greenland are expected to remain, the rest of the world will experience significant warming. This scenario deviates from the paleoclimate record, where warm periods were followed by the formation of ice sheets. Dr. Huber explains that the future will be characterized by anomalous conditions, including warm temperatures over ice sheets and the retreat of sea ice and land ice. Winter as we know it may disappear, and there will likely be a delay of 50 to 150 years before these changes fully manifest. Dr. Huber emphasizes that unless fossil fuel consumption is curbed, substantial warming is inevitable. He argues that climate sensitivity is likely higher than previously estimated, making it crucial to reduce emissions as early as possible. He acknowledges, however, that we are already committed to significant warming due to past emissions. Dr. Shepson adds that the future will bring more extreme weather events, such as extremely hot and humid days and nights, which have lethal consequences for vulnerable populations. He emphasizes the difficulties in preparing for such events, particularly in regions where people have little experience with extreme heat. Both scientists agreed that drastic and immediate action, such as transitioning to extremely low or zero emissions, is necessary to mitigate the worst effects of climate change. However, they also highlight the challenges of implementing such measures on a global scale with such a limited time available to make a substantial difference. Without significant changes, they conclude that we are already committed to a future with severe climate impacts.

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Anne Jensen

Anne Jensen is an archaeologist with the Science Division of the Ukpeaġvik Iñupiat Corporation

Anne Jensen is an archaeologist with the Science Division of the Ukpeaġvik Iñupiat Corporation in Barrow (now Utqiagvik), Alaska. She has worked on archaeological projects in northern Alaska since the early 1980s, and she and her family have lived on the North Slope since the mid-1990s.

 

Nuvuk Archaeology Project: https://www.facebook.com/nuvukarchaeology/

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2009

In the video, polar archaeologists Anne Jensen talks about her work in Barrow (Utqiaġvik), Alaska, where she runs the science subsidiary of the Ukpeaġvik Iñupiat Corporation (UIC). She explains her involvement in the excavation of a cemetery called Nuvuk, also known as Point Barrow, which was a village settlement until the late 1940s. Jensen and her team have been working on the excavation for the last 10 years and have been able to involve local high school students through a program called Echo. They have been using shovel testing to locate graves and recover artifacts. Jensen shares the excitement of finding a grave with hunting gear, including four harpoon heads, which revealed that the remains were much older than they had originally thought.

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Here polar archaeologist Anne Jensen discusses ongoing research in ancient and modern DNA of Alaska’s North Slope. The researchers, led by Dennis O’Rourke at the University of Utah, are extracting ancient DNA from human remains found in a well-drained gravel area. They have received permission from local Iñupiaq elders, who are also interested in the research. The modern DNA work is being done by Jeff Hayes at Northwestern Medical School, and they plan to compare the markers that turn out to be different in the ancient DNA with those of the modern DNA to better understand the genetic makeup of the population.

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Anne Jensen discusses the archaeology of the North Slope, an area in Alaska that has not been well-explored archaeologically. The logistics of exploring the area are complicated–much of the roadless area is difficult to access. Despite the difficulties, evidence of people on the North Slope over 10,000 years ago has been found, including fluted points and other artifacts. Dating these artifacts, however, can be imprecise due to the wiggling curve of radiocarbon dating. Jensen outlines the challenges of exploring coastal sites, which have been lost due to sea level rise and ice scouring. Dr. Jensen mentions a recent discovery of the Ipiutak Site on the North Slope. Such sites were previously only known to exist further south. The relationship between different cultures in the area, such as the Ipiutak, Thule, and Burner cultures, is also discussed.

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Jensen describes the migration of the Inuit people and their language across a vast area, from Nome, Alaska, to Greenland, which explains that despite the different dialects, people in this vast region all speak a language that is mutually intelligible. The Inuit people have faced various linguistic challenges, such as adapting words due to cultural traditions. Jensen suggests that the Inuit people migrated from Alaska to Greenland around 1100-1200 A.D and that they were likely aided by their experiences living and traveling in cold environments. Finally, Dr. Jensen talks about the discovery of an almost complete pot made from Point Barrow clay on the other side of the Arctic, suggesting that whoever it was that brought the pot must have crossed the region in just a few years.

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Dr. Anne Jenson talks about how the Thule people of Alaska have adapted Yankee whaling technology to their own culture over time. She describes how Charlie Brower introduced the use of Yankee gear to Thule culture and how the community initially doubted its effectiveness. Over time, however, the native community accepted Yankee gear as it proved successful in catching whales. Thule people have continued to adapt and modernize their whaling techniques over the years.

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Today polar archeologist Dr. Anne Jensen, though she no longer lives and works in Utqiaġvik, Alaska, remains just as fascinated with the Arctic’s history and culture, and how people have adapted and continue adapt to changes in their environment over time. Dr. Jensen xplores the impact of climate change on cultural change and the consequences of not adapting to new circumstances. Understanding how and why people make these changes can be useful in adapting to future challenges.

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2022

Arctic Archaeologist Dr. Anne Jensen discusses her work and experiences–how she fell in love with Alaska’s North Slope in the 1980s and moved there in 1996. The work she has done is often driven by the requests and interests of the local community. She talks about the challenges faced during her work.

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Anne Jensen is an active participant in climate change strategies and archaeological responses. She has served as the immediate past chair of the Climate Change Strategies and Archaeological Responses Committee of SAA (Society for American Archaeology). She emphasizes that people are becoming more aware of the impact of climate change, even those not residing on the North Slope. She highlights the importance of promptly excavating sites in the Arctic due to the vulnerability of these sites to erosion, fire, and other environmental changes. Anne recognizes the cultural significance of archaeological sites and acknowledges the need to prioritize the preservation of communities’ houses and schools. Anne argues that certain regions, like the Arctic, require continued and rapid excavation. She criticizes the inadequate funding allocated to Arctic research compared to other areas.

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Dr. Jensen collaborates with geologists, engineers, and other experts to understand permafrost degradation and its implications for ongoing engineering projects. She emphasizes that the engineering community in Alaska often underestimates the challenges posed by permafrost degradation. The effects of changes in the permafrost on infrastructure are significant and not well understood. In recent years, the COVID-19 pandemic has posed challenges to her work, particularly in conducting interviews in remote villages. The pandemic also restricted travel, and some institutions prevented fieldwork in inhabited areas. However, Anne expresses that they are now beginning to regain momentum in Arctic research and fieldwork activities.

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Arcitc Archaeologist Anne Jensen discusses the limited presence of archaeologists working in the Arctic region, particularly the North Slope. Anne herself has been engaged in contemporary archaeological work, including monitoring the removal of tar barrels that were used for shore protection in the 1960s. She highlights the significance of documenting such community-based projects. Anne explains that archaeologists in the Arctic study not only ancient remains but also more recent sites. She mentions the challenges of finding earlier occupation sites due to factors like sea level rise and ice cover. She talks about how Arctic archaeologists establish chronologies.

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Dr. Jensen is uncertain about the future of research in the North Slope due to its high cost and unique challenges compared to areas further south. She mentions that within the Iñupiaq community, while there are individuals who have received training, none of them are currently pursuing archaeology as a profession. Many opt for contract work, which provides more consistent employment. Anne shares an example of a person who majored in anthropology but had to move away to care for a family member, leading her to pursue a career in human resources instead of Arctic archaeology. Anne also mentions some issues with the anthropology department at the University of Alaska Anchorage (UAA), including problematic faculty and excessively long master’s theses. However, she notes that the situation has improved over time, with more awareness of the challenges faced by students.

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Coastal erosion makes Arctic archeology difficult. Also changes in sea level, and permafrost thawing. Many sites are disappearing as a result of these environmental factors. However, there is still a need for archaeologists to be present when new discoveries are made. Projects in areas with known archaeological sites often require monitoring, although it may not always allow for immediate action. Anne mentions that erosion is not only a problem in the coastal areas but also affects sites located along rivers and creeks. Additionally, with the warming of permafrost, sites in Greenland have experienced decay and loss of organic preservation. Bacteria that become active as the permafrost thaws can degrade the organic materials, leading to further deterioration. She shares her experience working with hunter-gatherer artifacts and the need for accurate interpretations based on firsthand knowledge.

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Anne Jensen discusses the current state of archaeology in the Arctic and offers insights into the future. She mentions that the future of Arctic archaeology depends on funding and whether there is interest in exploring sites that are currently underexplored, particularly interior sites. Many of these sites remain unknown because they are often avoided during surveys for oil field infrastructure, and there is a lack of information about them. Anne highlights the challenges of conducting research in remote Arctic locations, including the need for helicopters and logistical support. She expresses doubt that the National Science Foundation (NSF) would fund such endeavors, except perhaps if the site was in proximity to an existing base camp. Anne emphasizes the importance of studying Arctic sites, especially those on the North Slope, as they differ from sites on the Seward Peninsula or the coast of the Bering Sea. She laments the loss of archaeological materials, particularly older artifacts and recent ones along the Beaufort coast of Alaska, due to coastal erosion. Anne mentions a friend, Elite George Levitt, who was born in a sod house at Cape Halka, highlighting the rapid erosion and disappearance of such historical sites.

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Dr. Paty Matrai

Senior Research Scientist Emerita at Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences, Boothbay Harbor, Maine. 

Senior Research Scientist Emerita at Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences, Boothbay Harbor, Maine. 

 

Interim Technology Transfer Officer

Air-Sea Exchange Laboratory

Biological Oceanographer Paty Matrai from Bigelow Lab, Boothbay Harbor, Maine

Dr. Paty Matrai is a Senior Research Scientist at Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences in beautiful mid-coast Maine. Trained as a biological oceanographer, she became interested in biological-chemical interactions at the air-sea interface and, in polar regions, at the seawater-ice-snow-air interface. Her group focuses on biological production of gases and aerosols that are exchanged with the overlying atmosphere, both in the lab and in the field. The hardship of frequent sampling in and over the Arctic Ocean has led to build and/or deploy automated and autonomous systems that can sample the atmosphere and the ocean for chemical and/or biological processes; this is essential in a changing Arctic.

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2009

Dr. Patty Matrai, a biological oceanographer originally from Chile, shares her journey into the field of Arctic research since the early 90’s. Her first experiences in the Arctic were in the Beaufort Sea, around 72 degrees North, but it was her voyage to the North Pole, deep within the pack ice, that truly revealed the essence of the Arctic to her. As a biologist, Dr. Matrai studies microscopic algae, specifically marine phytoplankton and ice algae, which release compounds that influence climate, cloud formation, and ozone destruction. These algae play a crucial role in the ecosystem and are interconnected with the air, water, and ice. Dr. Matrai collaborates with atmospheric and marine chemists to understand the production and effects of these compounds. Her research aims to account for the sources and sinks of these compounds, contributing to a deeper understanding of climate change. The Arctic, with its short and intense period of ice melt and limited light availability, becomes a concentrated and productive region during late spring and summer. This productivity supports a complex food chain, from plants to fish and seals, and ultimately humans who rely on hunting for their sustenance. Dr. Matrai’s work sheds light on the intricate dynamics of the Arctic ecosystem and the interplay between its various components.

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According to Dr. Patty Matrai, there are noticeable changes occurring in the Arctic due to climate change. The growth season for phytoplankton and ice algae is extending in both the spring and fall. The snow is melting earlier and faster, allowing light to penetrate through the ice and promoting growth. Additionally, freeze-up is happening later in the fall, providing an extended period of activity. However, the availability of nutrients plays a crucial role in controlling this growth. The controversy lies in determining whether to focus solely on areas of open water that receive illumination or to consider nutrient inputs through winter mixing. Researchers are working on modeling and understanding these dynamics since sampling becomes challenging when there is ice present. To overcome this, automated systems such as the Ice Tethered Profiler (ITP) and underwater floats have been developed to measure meteorology, CO2 concentrations, bromine oxide, ozone, and other variables. These advancements are crucial to gaining a comprehensive understanding of the Arctic ecosystem throughout the year, rather than just during the accessible summer months.

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Dr. Paty Matrai, a Chilean-born biological oceanographer specializing in Arctic research, studies phytoplankton and ice algae, their impact on climate and atmospheric processes, and the effects of climate change in the Arctic. Dr. Matrai has conducted multiple Arctic expeditions and highlights the challenges posed by the changing Arctic environment, including extended growth seasons, thinner ice cover, and shifts in fish species. She also emphasizes the importance of sustainable tourism practices in the region. Overall, Dr. Matrai’s work sheds light on the intricate connections between the atmosphere, ocean, and ecosystems in the Arctic.

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Dr. Paty Matrai emphasizes the importance of interdisciplinary collaboration in Arctic research. She shares her experiences as a biologist in atmospheric chemistry and Arctic sciences, often being the only female in the field. Dr. Matrai discusses her collaborative projects with atmospheric chemists, glaciologists, oceanographers, and geologists, highlighting the diverse expertise needed to understand the Arctic ecosystem. She acknowledges the challenges of integrating molecular biology with biogeochemistry and the need to consider the heterogeneity of the Arctic region. Despite the complexities, Dr. Matrai finds the Arctic a fascinating and opportune environment to study.

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Dr. Paty Matrai discusses the size of organisms in polar regions, particularly in the Arctic. She explains that colder waters and a lack of predators contribute to larger sizes of species like sea stars. In the Arctic, there is a discontinuity in the timing of prime production by ice algae. When the ice melts, the fallen algae reaches the sediments, creating a food source for benthic fauna such as clams and seals. Dr. Matrai highlights the benthic-pelagic communication and self-basing interactions that occur in this ecosystem. She raises questions about the impact of earlier warming and the arrival of zooplankton from the south on the availability of food sources. Additionally, she mentions the discovery of green floc on the Arctic seafloor, which were observed by German scientists using cameras. These flocs are believed to be related to the thinning ice, early snowmelt, and increased light availability for growth. The scientists plan to conduct further research on this phenomenon to understand its implications for biological connections between ice and sediments in the Arctic.

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Dr. Paty Matrai emphasizes the vital role of the atmosphere in sustaining life and its interconnectedness with the ocean and ice. She explains that air-sea interactions are tightly coupled, with nutrients transferring from the air to the water and sea spray containing organic compounds affecting atmospheric chemistry. In the high Arctic, aerosols, which are particles in the air, have predominantly organic compositions derived from the ocean’s surface. These aerosols play a significant role in cloud formation, as cloud droplets require particles on which to condense. Changes in the organic composition can impact the number, size, and chemistry of aerosol particles, influencing cloud properties and sunlight reflection. This, in turn, affects the ocean’s temperature, ice melting, and broader climate dynamics. Dr. Matrai’s research focuses on connecting the biology of the ocean surface to cloud formation, radiation, and the global climate system, highlighting the significance of her work in a broader context.

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Dr. Paty Matrai discusses the challenges of communication during Arctic expeditions. She explains that when researchers venture above 60 degrees north, traditional means of communication like cell phones and emails become unreliable. To address this, they carry iridium satellite phones to stay connected with their teams and families. Dr. Matrai emphasizes the importance of maintaining communication with schools, especially during the Arctic summer when Northern Hemisphere schools are on vacation while Southern Hemisphere schools are in session. She actively engages with schools from countries like Chile and Argentina, establishing relationships with teachers and conducting outreach activities. Dr. Matrai recounts a personal anecdote where she communicated with her family from 89 degrees north using a satellite phone while they were camping in Canada. The immediacy of hearing her voice had a profound impact on her children, highlighting the challenges of being away for extended periods. She also reflects on the luxury of focusing solely on their research while in the field, uninterrupted by other responsibilities. Dr. Matrai appreciates the gift of working on a single project without distractions and how it can be a valuable lesson for her children and young professionals learning to balance multiple tasks. Despite missing their families, researchers in the field find joy in the opportunity to solely focus on their work. Dr. Matrai highlights the rigorous schedule and long working hours during expeditions, emphasizing the need for her team to get sufficient rest. She clarifies that fieldwork is not a leisurely cruise but rather an intense period of dedicated work.

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Arctic researcher Dr. Paty Matrai reflects on her time in the Arctic, where 24-hour daylight and the breathtaking colors of the ice captivated her. She shares anecdotes of encountering polar bears, emphasizing the need for caution in the awe-inspiring presence of this protected species. Dr. Matrai also discusses her attempts through public outreach to convey the Arctic’s sensory experience, acknowledging the challenge of fully capturing its beauty and immensity in words and visuals.

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Dr. Paty Matrai discusses the delicate balance between personal fulfillment and the urgency to communicate the fragility of nature in the Arctic. She emphasizes that changes in the Arctic have far-reaching effects, influencing not only the region itself but also global systems. Dr. Matrai highlights the importance of studying the Arctic’s physical and biological processes, such as circulation patterns, nutrient dynamics, and the impact of wind and waves. Collaboration among scientists and modelers becomes crucial in understanding and predicting these complex interactions. She mentions the challenges faced in modeling and the need for more comprehensive data to improve simulations and make accurate predictions. Dr. Matrai also emphasizes the significance of long-term observatories to gather consistent and extensive data on chemical, physical, and biological variables.

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2022

Dr. Paty Matrai, an emerita research scientist associated with Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences in Mid Coast Maine, reflects on her research over the past 15 years, focusing on the changes in Arctic ice cover. With shifts in ice conditions, field research has become both easier and more challenging. Deploying equipment and autonomous vehicles in the Arctic has increased significantly, pushing her research towards modeling and connectivity with remote sensing. While the biggest changes are occurring in the shoulder seasons (spring and fall), she still co-led an expedition to the North Pole in 2018. The evolving Arctic presents new opportunities for data collection during the polar night, and it is evident that the region’s ecosystem remains active even in darkness and winter. The research now encompasses understanding what happens during these dark periods and includes studying the Land-Ocean interface, which is essential as the ice and the people residing there are profoundly affected by these changes.

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Dr. Paty Matrai shares insights on how immigration, development, shipping, and tourism are affecting the Arctic. There’s a growing awareness among researchers and funding agencies about the necessity to collaborate with local communities and obtain proper permits for research. As interest in the Arctic rises, inexperienced individuals entering the region raise safety concerns. Dr. Matrai emphasizes the critical role of basic science and ice quality in addressing these challenges. Her experience aboard a research vessel highlights the changing conditions and the importance of considering safety and environmental impacts.

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Dr. Paty Matrai discusses her modeling work in the Arctic, focusing on autotrophic and heterotrophic processes. Initially, many Earth models underestimated the activity of the polar regions, especially during the winter. Dr. Matrai collected data to validate Arctic-specific models. Her research examines the transition zone between the North Atlantic and the Arctic, studying the movement of warm waters, productivity, and fish migration. Incorporating ocean biology and chemistry into models remains a challenge, particularly in the complex coastal regions affected by thawing permafrost. Remotely sensed data is limited due to ice and cloud cover, necessitating technological advancements on the ice and in the water itself for accurate data collection. The need for battery-powered devices hinders some research, but efforts like MOSAiC showed promise for conducting year-round work. (The goal of the MOSAiC expedition, 389 days on one Arctic expedition, was to take the closest look ever at the Arctic as the epicenter of global warming and to gain fundamental insights that are key to better understand global climate change. Hundreds of researchers from 20 countries were involved in this exceptional endeavour.)

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Dr. Paty Matrai discusses the increasing presence of women in ocean biology and scientific collaborations. In her recent cruise on the Icebreaker Oden, both chief scientists were women, and about half of the senior scientists were also women. She highlights these positive changes in science, with more female graduate students joining in fieldwork. One project she’s involved in, two younger women, Amanda Grannis and Kerrie Pratt (see interviews on this website) lead as Principal Investigators. She acknowledges that the challenge for young women remains reaching full professor positions while maintaining a balanced life with families. Institutional factors heavily influence gender equality, with smaller institutions showing more potential for positive change.

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Dr. Paty Matrai’s research continues despite disappearing Arctic ice. She is involved in a project studying the interactions between fresh and salt water around Greenland. Microorganisms, especially mixotrophs, play a crucial role in the Arctic’s ecology, switching between autotrophic and heterotrophic modes depending on conditions. Understanding these processes is essential for comprehending the region’s changing dynamics.

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Dr. Lily Peacock

Research biologist for the US Geological Survey, Anchorage, AK. Lily has studied Polar Bears in Canada where they are still harvested by native peoples.

Lily Peacock is a Research Wildlife Biologist with the United States Geological Survey at the Alaska Science Center, Anchorage, AK. She specializes in population ecology, harvest management, ecological genetics, polar bear conservation.

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2009

Dr. Lily Peacock provides insights into the population dynamics and behavior of polar bears across the Arctic. Based on professional knowledge and scientific data, she estimates that there are between 20,000 and 25,000 polar bears divided into 19 subpopulations. These subpopulations exhibit varying levels of interconnectivity and are managed and researched accordingly. Alaska is home to two subpopulations, those in the Southern Beaufort Sea and others in the Chukchi Sea, while Canada has 13 subpopulations, including the South Baffin, Kane Basin, and Davis Strait. Dr. Peacock highlights the distinction between seasonal ice populations–some bears spend several months on land during the ice-free period. Other populations have ice cover year-round, such as those in the Canadian archipelago. She mentions ongoing research focusing on understanding the changes occurring in the polar bears’ behavior, specifically regarding their choice to stay on the ice or come ashore in the fall.

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Dr. Lily Peacock discusses the primary objective of her research, which is to understand and regulate the sustainable harvest of polar bears. To achieve this, she and her colleagues gather extensive population data by marking and tracking individual bears over time. They aim to determine population size, growth rate, survival rates, and birth rates through intensive population ecology studies. The research involves catching and marking a significant number of bears, with capture rates of 20 to 25 bears per day. Permanent marking is crucial to ensure accurate identification, so tattoos are applied to the inside of each upper lip, providing a permanent and unique mark for each bear. These tattoos are used to track bears’ lifespans and mortality rates. In addition to tattoos, satellite tracking devices are attached to some bears, allowing researchers to monitor their movements and behavior. Dr. Peacock mentions the advancement of non-color tags, such as ear tag transmitters and glue-on transmitters, which provide more comfortable tracking options for bears, particularly adult males whose necks are too large for traditional collars. This new technology allows researchers to study the movements of adult males and sub-adults, expanding their understanding beyond just female bears.

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Don

Dr. Don Perovich

Don Perovich is a sea ice geophysicist

Don Perovich is a sea ice geophysicist, currently working as a Professor

in Engineering at Dartmough College. He worked for many decades at

the Cold Regions Research Engineering Laboratory of the U.S. Army, in

Hanover N.H. He is an expert in sea ice dynamics, and observations of

change in Arctic sea ice over, often using sea ice mass balance techniques. His group has been studying changes in albedo, and the sea ice albedo feedback as an important component of climate change impacts in the Arctic. His interests have expanded to understanding how these changes impact the Arctic ecosystem, including the impact of

increased sunlight penetration on Arctic Ocean phytoplankton.

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2009

Sea ice geophysicist Dr. Don Perovich discusses the changing conditions of the Arctic Ocean and the impact it is having on human activities. Dr. Perovich highlights the evolution of predictions around the Arctic becoming ice-free in the summer, with some projections indicating it could happen as early as 2013 or never. However, he notes that the more relevant question is when the reduction of sea ice in September will be large enough to impact human activity, as this is already happening. The conversation then turns to the potential impacts of these changes on weather and climate in other parts of the world, with Dr. Perovich noting that while there are some potential effects, it is a complex topic that requires further study and exploration through models.

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Dr. Don Perovich, sea ice geophysicist at the Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory in Hanover, New Hampshire, is primarily interested in sea ice, specifically the optical properties of sea ice and the heat and mass balance of sea ice. He has been studying sea ice for almost 30 years. Dr. Perovich was inspired to study glaciology and sea ice research after a conversation with a faculty member during his PhD studies at the University of Washington. His interest in sea ice has shifted over the years. Early in his career, he was supported by the Office of Naval Research, which was mainly interested in the Arctic because the Navy wanted to understand anything related to oceans. Later on, the National Science Foundation started to get interested in the planet’s ice cover, mainly because of its role in climate change. The ice cover is a proxy indicator of climate change, and his research focuses on the ice Albedo feedback.

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Sea ice geophysicist Don Perovich notes that there are many different ways to define the Arctic, but what sets it apart is the perennial presence of ice, which includes sea ice in the ocean, large ice sheets on Greenland, glaciers around the entire Arctic, and permafrost frozen ground. He emphasizes that as the ice starts to melt, it changes the fundamental nature of the Arctic and its ecosystem. Perovich shares his experience with a program called ICECAPE, which aims to understand the impact of changing ice conditions on the changing biology and biogeochemistry of the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas. He also talks about his most memorable field experiment, the Sheba experiment (Surface Heat Budget of the Arctic Ocean), which involved freezing an icebreaker into the pack and letting it drift for a year to measure every parameter of the Sheba column. Perovich shares anecdotes about his time on the ship and his encounters with polar bears.

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chris

Chris Polashenski

Adjunct Associate Professor of Engineering, Dartmouth College

Adjunct Associate Professor of Engineering, Dartmouth College

Research Geophysicist, US Army Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory CRREL

Chris Polashenski grew up in eastern Pennsylvania, and studied at Dartmouth College, where he began to study snow and ice.  He received a BA in Environmental Engineering, and a PhD in Materials Engineering, also at Dartmouth.

His research interests are in sea ice geophysics; the interaction of sunlight with ice and snow; the Arctic system and climate change

He is the author of ~70 publications (as of 11/2023) on sea-ice properties and processes, snow deposition and redistribution, and the albedo of sea ice and ice sheets. His research interests involve both remote sensing and detailed in situ field study of cryospheric processes.,Dr. Polashenski is a member of the American Geophysical Union, the International Glaciological Society, and the Association of Polar Early Career Scientists.

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2023

Chris Polashenski shares his journey into Arctic research, which began with a childhood love for snow and led to his involvement in the Arctic studies program at Dartmouth College. Influenced by Ross Virginia, he initially worked as a technician in Barrow (now Utqiaġvik) for a field program related to the Arctic tundra. His interest in the Arctic was further nurtured by mentors like Matthew Sturm and Don Perovich, leading to a long-term career in the field. Polashenski holds a complex professional role, dividing his time between Vermont and Fairbanks to stay close to his research area. He is involved with Dartmouth for graduate student supervision and teaching, while also conducting field work in the Arctic every winter and spring. Despite his academic focus, Polashenski emphasizes the deep personal connections he has formed within the Arctic community, mentioning close relationships with various Arctic researchers and residents. His story underscores the interconnectedness of personal passion, academic research, and community ties in the pursuit of Arctic studies.

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Chris Polashenski, a researcher specializing in the structure of sea ice, was found a couple of miles out on the sea ice, deeply engaged in his work. He studies how the physical characteristics of sea ice influence its melting patterns. Polashenski explains the significance of sea ice in the Earth’s climate system, highlighting its role as a reflective surface. The ice, being predominantly white, reflects most of the sunlight hitting it back into space, helping to keep the planet cooler. He contrasts this with the dark open water, which absorbs sunlight and heats up. This absorption of heat by the ocean exacerbates the melting of the remaining sea ice, leading to more exposure of the ocean surface. This feedback loop accelerates climate change by reducing the amount of energy reflected back into space. Polashenski’s research underscores the critical role of sea ice in regulating the Earth’s temperature and the profound implications of its melting due to climate change.

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Chris Polashenski, an expert on sea ice, discusses the complexities of understanding and measuring the Arctic’s changing ice landscape. His focus is on the structure and melting patterns of sea ice, particularly the contrast between the reflective white ice and dark open water, which significantly impacts the planet’s energy balance. Polashenski explains that the loss of sea ice exposes more ocean, absorbing additional sunlight, which in turn melts more ice – a cycle that accelerates climate change. He is involved in a campaign to better understand snow accumulation on sea ice, expanding the Ice Mass Balance Buoy program to include numerous measurements of snow depth. This research is crucial for understanding the reflective and insulating properties of snow on sea ice and for accurately measuring ice thickness, which is essential for climate modeling. Polashenski’s work involves ground-truthing satellite data to improve remote sensing techniques for snow and ice. His journey into Arctic research began with a simple love for snow and has evolved into tackling some of the most pressing environmental challenges in the Arctic.

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Chris Polashenski, expressing pessimism about global efforts to address climate change, shares his personal and professional experiences related to climate mitigation. Despite his efforts in public talks and educating people about the urgency of climate action, he has been disappointed by the limited response. Shifting his focus, Polashenski is actively engaged in climate mitigation activities, particularly on his wife’s farm in Vermont. They have committed to eliminating fossil fuel emissions from the farm within ten years, a project started in 2018. So far, they have significantly reduced emissions by implementing various initiatives like solar panels, heat pumps, and hybrid vehicles. Polashenski finds this approach of leading by example both achievable and impactful. However, he acknowledges the challenges in motivating broader societal change, highlighting the need for a deeper understanding of human behavior and motivation to drive effective climate action. His advice to those uncertain about their future is to consistently choose paths that are fun and involve good people, a principle that has guided his own career.

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Chris Polashenski, a physicist with observational experience in Arctic biology, discusses the ecological impacts of diminishing sea ice on Arctic wildlife and primary production. He notes a significant increase in phytoplankton growth beneath the ice, attributed to greater sunlight penetration through thinner ice and melt ponds. This change is leading to larger phytoplankton blooms and shifts in species composition, potentially impacting the entire Arctic food chain. Polashenski also observes a marked decrease in encounters with polar bears and Arctic foxes, suggesting a decline in their populations. He links these changes to the substantial reduction in sea ice over the past 15 years, which has altered the natural habitat of ice-dependent species, affecting their hunting and survival patterns. Polashenski’s insights underscore the profound and rapid ecological transformations occurring in the Arctic due to climate change.

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Chris Polashenski discusses the Mosaic expedition, an extensive Arctic research campaign that he was set to join but was unable due to the pandemic. Instead, he supported his graduate students who continued the work in his absence. Polashenski highlights the logistical challenges and the success of the expedition in gathering a comprehensive data set across an entire year. He points out a significant finding: the expedition’s ship drifted from one side of the Arctic to the other in less than a year, a journey that previously took three years, illustrating the rapid changes in Arctic sea ice. The ice’s increased thinness and dynamism were so pronounced that traditional measurement methods, like ice mass balance stakes, were rendered ineffective—none survived the entire year. This drastic change in ice behavior not only underscores the accelerated pace of Arctic transformation but also challenges scientists to develop new methods for studying and understanding these rapid environmental shifts.

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Chris Polashenski, a scientist focusing on Arctic sea ice, discusses his work in the context of climate change. His career primarily revolves around improving future climate predictions by targeting weak areas in existing models. He collaborates with the National Center for Atmospheric Research to identify aspects of the models that need refinement. Polashenski’s work has significantly focused on melt ponds—pools that form on sea ice, darken it, and accelerate melting by absorbing more sunlight. His efforts have involved observational campaigns to understand the evolution of melt ponds, initially in Barrow and later expanded across the Arctic using remote sensing technologies. Polashenski has also shifted his focus to other areas like snow on sea ice and its insulating properties, as well as the mechanical properties of ice, distinguishing between the resistance to fracturing in first-year ice and multi-year ice. These research initiatives are geared toward enhancing the accuracy of climate models, thereby helping in better predicting and understanding the rapid environmental changes occurring in the Arctic.

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Kerri Pratt

Professor of Chemistry, University of Michigan

https://lsa.umich.edu/chem/people/faculty/prattka.html

Kerri Pratt is a Professor of Chemistry and Earth & Environmental Sciences at University of Michigan. She is an environmental chemist who studies the interactions between gases, atmospheric particles, clouds, and snow in the Arctic and wintertime environments to inform understanding of climate change and air quality. Her focus is on field-based measurements using single-particle mass spectrometry and chemical ionization mass spectrometry. Dr. Pratt is a leading researcher in the study of halogen chemistry in the Arctic, including chemical mechanisms involving both aerosol particles (e.g., sea spray aerosol) and the snowpack that are key components of pollutant fate and natural chemical cycles in polar ice and snow-covered environments.

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2012

2022

Chemist Kerri Pratt from the University of Michigan shares her firsthand observations of significant climate change over the past 10 years. She describes how coastal erosion has caused roads to disappear and how the presence of sea ice near the shore in summer has dramatically decreased. Kerri discusses the changing weather patterns, such as waves crashing at the shore in early February and freeze-up happening later in the year. She emphasizes the impact of these changes on the local environment, including the reduction of sea ice and the importance of studying sea spray aerosol production. Despite these concerning transformations, Kerri finds joy in sharing the Arctic experience with others, especially witnessing her students’ excitement when encountering for the first time phenomena like the Northern Lights and polar bears.

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Professor of Chemistry Kerri Pratt discusses her ongoing research on snowpack photochemistry and aerosol composition, building on the work of her mentor, Dr. Paul Shepson. She explains how her team connects sea spray with snowpack halogen chemistry and Arctic Haze, studying the interactions between gasses and particles in a comprehensive system. Kerri highlights the importance of sea spray throughout the year, including a surprising discovery of sea spray with thick organic coatings, resembling algal blooms. Through years of analysis, she has found that these coatings are exopolymeric substances produced by sea ice algae and bacteria. This revelation has connected seawater microbiology to sea spray, leading to collaborations with experts in the field. Kerri and her collaborators are currently working on a project to investigate sea spray aerosol production in the high Arctic during summertime pack ice conditions, stemming from an Icebreaker campaign conducted several years ago.

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Arctic atmospheric chemistry expert Kerri Pratt from the University of Michigan shares insights from her research on sea spray and its effects on the Arctic environment. She discusses the role of sea spray in cloud formation, the impact of local pollution from oil fields, and the importance of engaging with local communities for scientific understanding. Her work highlights the significance of studying atmospheric chemistry in remote and unexplored regions.

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Kerri Pratt reflects on the disconnect between scientific knowledge and personal experiences of rapid climate change in the Arctic. Despite writing about it in research proposals and papers, witnessing the tremendous impact of sea ice loss within just 10 years is a startling realization. Kerri emphasizes the need to stay emotionally detached to cope with the frightening implications. But she acknowledges the resilience of Arctic communities who remain positive amidst ongoing changes, envisioning more water and increased fishing opportunities. The magnitude of change in the Arctic, such as open water in winter, is both awe-inspiring and alarming.

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Dr. Paul Shepson

Dean of Stony Brook University School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences (SoMAS) & Cofounder of ArcticStories.net

Paul Shepson was born and raised in Elmira, N.Y., a child of the Finger Lakes.  He is an atmospheric chemist, and SUNY Distinguished Professor and Dean of the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences (SoMAS), at Stony Brook University.  From 2014 – 2018 he served as Director of the Division of Atmospheric and Geospace Sciences at the National Science Foundation, as a “rotator”, on leave from Purdue University, where he was a member of the faculty from 1994 – 2018.  He obtained a B.S. in Chemistry from State University of New York College at Cortland, and a Ph.D. in analytical/atmospheric chemistry from Penn State.  He worked for Mobil Oil Corp. (Paulsboro refinery) in 1982, before moving to a research position in the Atmospheric Sciences Research Laboratory at the U.S. EPA in Research Triangle Park, N.C., from 1983-1987.  From 1987 – 1994 he was a Professor in the Chemistry Department at York University in Toronto, where he was also Director of the York Centre for Atmospheric Chemistry.  Most recently at Purdue he held an appointment as Distinguished Professor of Chemistry, and Earth, Atmospheric, and Planetary Sciences.  From 2008 – 2013 he was Head of the Department of Chemistry, and was also the founding Director of the Purdue Climate Change Research Center (PCCRC) in 2004. He is an avid pilot with instrument, commercial, and multi-engine ratings, and has done experiments with his airplane flying over 49 of the 50 states.  Professor Shepson is keenly interested in understanding and communicating about the impacts of anthropogenic activities on the composition of the atmosphere, and how that relates to climate change and ecological impacts.  With Peter Lourie, he is co-creator of the website arcticstories.net.  He is a Fellow of the American Geophysical Union, and has ~250 peer-reviewed publications on various issues related to atmospheric and analytical chemistry, and climate change impacts and mitigation.

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2009

Dr. Paul Shepson discusses the “Ozone Buoy,” an instrument deployed in the Arctic to study atmospheric chemistry and the ocean’s carbon dioxide absorption. The buoy collects data on halogen chemistry, pollutants, and the impact of climate change. It operates on solar power and transmits data back to California via satellite. The buoy’s successful performance will inform the deployment of additional buoys across the Arctic Ocean.

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Dr. Paul Shepson along with his colleague Dr. Jan Bottenheim express concern about the impact of engineering solutions on the environment. They emphasize the importance of addressing the root causes of problems rather than relying solely on technological fixes. The risks and unintended consequences of large-scale engineering interventions are highlighted, using examples such as sulfur injection into the stratosphere. Dr. Shepson advocates for responsible resource allocation and prioritizing investments in sustainable practices, such as clean energy and food production.

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2022

Dr. Paul Shepson, “Shep,” talks about his fascination with the remoteness of the Arctic. His first Arctic adventure in 1990 sparked a love for the untouched beauty of the region. And as a chemist, (he admits “it was my pathway, my excuse, to get to a place that was very exotic”), he delved into the Arctic’s chemical world, uncovering the impact of human activities on its atmosphere, including Arctic Haze. He discovered pollutants like sulfur dioxide and coal emissions and their effects on ozone depletion and mercury transformation. Dr. Shepson’s passion extends to meeting and learning from indigenous peoples of the region who are “much more in touch with the natural world.” Shep hopes his work has contributed to protecting the Arctic and inspiring the next generation to make a positive impact. Despite concerns for the future, he remains optimistic about humanity’s ability to implement sustainable practices and restore the Earth’s balance.

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In spring 2022, Dr. Paul Shepson and his team will conduct a field campaign on Alaska’s North Slope called “Cha-Cha.” They will study the chemical reactions in the Arctic snowpack when exposed to sunlight, which releases halogens into the atmosphere. These halogens have harmful effects on the ozone layer and impact the Arctic ecosystem. Using advanced instruments on two airplanes, the team will quantify the halogen species in the atmosphere and investigate the composition of particles and cloud water. This research aims to understand the role of sea salt particles from open ocean leads in atmospheric composition and the changing Arctic climate.

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Paul Shepson reflects on his love for the Arctic and his fascination with its untouched beauty. As a chemist, he shares his journey of studying the Arctic’s atmosphere and the impact of human activities on this pristine region. His research focuses on understanding the chemistry involved, particularly the role of sea salt particles and pollutants from burning fossil fuels, which can affect ozone levels and lead to Mercury deposition. Despite the challenges, he finds fulfillment in exploring this exotic and remote environment while pursuing important scientific questions that can benefit humanity.

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