Sea Ice &
Snowpack

The Arctic climate, Arctic habitats, the lives of Indigenous People, and much of the geographic Arctic is defined by sea ice. This critical component is changing rapidly.  In lieu of conversations with bowhead whales, here we ask scientists and Iñupiaq Eskimos to tell us what they know about sea ice.

Polar Bear expert, Research Wildlife Biologist, US Geological Survey, Anchorage, AK

Dr. Len Barrie is an atmospheric chemist

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

Jose D. Fuentes is a Professor of Meteorology at Penn State University

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

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

Senior Director of Conservation and Staff Scientist At Polar Bears International

Adjunct Associate Professor of Engineering, Dartmouth College

Professor of Chemistry, University of Michigan

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

Dr. Steve Amstrup

Polar Bear expert, Research Wildlife Biologist, US Geological Survey, Anchorage, AK

Steve Amstrup is chief scientist emeritus for Polar Bears International.

He also is an adjunct professor at the University of Wyoming in Laramie. He earned a B.S. in Forestry from the University of Washington (1972), a M.S. in Wildlife Management from the University of Idaho (1975), and a Ph.D. in Wildlife Management from the University of Alaska Fairbanks (1995). Prior to joining PBI, he led research on all aspects of polar bear ecology in the Alaskan Beaufort Sea between 1980 and 2010. He is a past chair of the IUCN Polar Bear Specialist Group and has been an active member of the group since 1980. He has authored or co-authored over 150 peer-reviewed articles on movements, distribution and population dynamics of large mammals, and is the senior editor of a recent text on population estimation methods. In 2007, he led a USGS research team in production of nine reports that became the basis for the 2008 decision by the U.S. Secretary of the Interior to list polar bears as a threatened species because of the threats they face from global warming. More recently Dr. Amstrup led an effort showing polar bears are not inevitably doomed. In the December 2010 issue of Nature, he and his coauthors showed that preserving polar bears is all about controlling human-caused temperature rise. In 2012, Dr. Amstrup was selected as recipient of the Indianapolis Prize and a Bambi Award for his efforts in animal conservation. In July 2020, Dr. Amstrup and his coauthors published a study in Nature Climate Change, following up on his 2010 study, this time using new understandings of polar bear energetics with projected sea ice loss to forecast when and where polar bear reproductive ability and survival would decline across individual subpopulations. This marked the first time that scientists answered the critical question of when the persistence of polar bear populations across the Arctic will be threatened due to sea ice loss from global warming.

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2009

Dr. Amstrup shares his personal journey as a wildlife biologist specializing in bear research, including his involvement in the international efforts to conserve polar bears. He explains the importance of studying polar bears through techniques like capture and recapture, as well as aerial surveys, to gather essential data for population management. Dr. Steve Amstrup also discusses the impact of global warming on polar bears. As the world warms due to human influences, there is less sea ice available, which is crucial habitat for polar bears and their primary prey, such as ring seals and bearded seals. The decline in sea ice reduces the carrying capacity for polar bears. In the past, hunting was the main concern, but now the focus is on global warming and its effects on polar bear habitats.

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Polar Bear expert Dr. Steve Amstrup warns about the severe impact of global warming on polar bears. Due to melting sea ice, bears are forced to inhabit unproductive, deep waters, resulting in food scarcity. Or when the ice retreats far from land, bears remain on land, further depriving them of the natural food sources in the shallow waters of the continental shelf. Amstrup emphasizes that the current rate of warming is unprecedented, posing a significant threat to polar bears. He urges individuals to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions to preserve polar bear habitats and ensure their survival. Managing climate change is crucial for the long-term preservation of these magnificent creatures.

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Dr. Steve Amstrup is one of the approximately 25-30 polar bear specialists worldwide who dedicate 100 percent of their efforts to studying these remarkable creatures. He has been a full-time polar bear biologist since 1980, focusing mainly on the southern Beaufort Sea population. This area was chosen due to logistical convenience and the presence of Canadian colleagues studying the same population. The shared jurisdiction between Alaska and Canada allowed for effective monitoring and collaboration. Dr. Amstrup emphasizes the importance of understanding specific populations in order to extrapolate knowledge to regions where data is limited. He values the insights of local native communities who live in polar bear habitats year-round and acknowledges their crucial role in polar bear management. Additionally, he highlights the significance of traditional lore and legends in shaping the relationship between native people and wildlife resources, particularly polar bears, in their respective areas.

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Dr. Steve Amstrup, a polar bear specialist, emphasizes that global warming is the single biggest threat to polar bears. The decline in their habitat is directly linked to the increase in greenhouse gas concentrations. Dr. Amstrup describes the process of global warming and talks about the relationship between climate and weather. Despite some uncertainties, scientific consensus supports the understanding that a warmer world will lead to less sea ice, posing dire consequences for polar bears.

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Dr. Steve Amstrup highlights the importance of applied research in polar bear management. Initially basic research can later become crucial in understanding and conserving polar bear populations. Collaboration and sharing of information among nations are essential, particularly for shared populations. By exchanging research findings and resources, scientists avoid duplicating efforts and gain a comprehensive understanding of polar bear behavior and habitat. Focusing on specific populations, such as the southern Beaufort Sea and Western Hudson Bay, allows for in-depth knowledge that can be shared across jurisdictions, promoting effective conservation measures throughout.

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Dr. Steve Amstrup explains the diverse types of radio tags used in polar bear research, tailored to specific study objectives. Researchers employ various collar designs depending on the desired data frequency and duration. Detailed movement patterns and foraging behaviors require high-frequency transmissions, while long-term habitat usage analysis may rely on infrequent but long-lasting transmissions. Trade-offs exist, as more information depletes battery life more quickly. However, across the global polar bear range, similar radio tagging methods are employed to collect data. Fieldwork spans a few months, followed by extensive data analysis and report writing. Initial objectives guide data collection, but unexpected insights often arise during subsequent analysis. The advent of advanced GPS radio collars provides a wealth of information, including location, activity, water presence, temperature, and more. These technological advancements require robust data storage and management systems, facilitated by advancements in computer technology.

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2022

Steve Amstrup highlights the importance of sea ice for polar bears’ survival and explains that despite increasing primary productivity in some areas of the Arctic Ocean, it doesn’t necessarily benefit polar bears. While the productivity increase might be suitable for other species, polar bears primarily rely on catching seals from the surface of the ice. Seals, in turn, depend on the productivity that starts on the underside of the sea ice. If the sea ice diminishes or disappears, polar bears lose their essential hunting platform, and seals lose the nourishment they need. Steve refutes the idea that polar bears could simply adapt to land-based hunting, citing evidence from the past when polar bears disappeared from regions where the sea ice retreated. He emphasizes that the Arctic’s unique ecosystem supports large polar bear populations, while adjacent terrestrial environments, home to grizzly bears, can only sustain small numbers of smaller bears. Steve concludes that maintaining healthy populations of the world’s largest bears requires preserving the sea ice and the nutritious food source it provides for them.

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Steve Amstrup, Chief Scientist for Polar Bears International, works to raise awareness about the impact of global warming on polar bears and their Arctic habitat. He believes polar bears’ iconic status draws public attention to climate change. While more people are concerned about global warming, translating it into action and policy changes remains a challenge. Steve connects the polar bear’s plight to the changing climate worldwide, emphasizing the far-reaching consequences of climate change. He hopes to inspire action by keeping climate change in the public eye. Steve envisions a future where the world embraces cleaner energy options to mitigate climate change and reduce conflicts over fossil fuels. Ultimately, he remains hopeful for a sustainable and climate-resilient future.

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Steve Amstrup reflects on his thrilling years conducting polar bear research, capturing (darting and collecting data and samples) and studying these majestic creatures in the Arctic. Despite missing the excitement of fieldwork with the US Geological Survey, he made a conscious decision to focus on polar bear conservation with Polar Bears International. Witnessing the profound changes in the bears’ habitat due to global warming, he emphasizes the importance of understanding and preserving these ecosystems. Steve believes their work at Polar Bears International contributes to the cause of polar bear conservation, aiming to safeguard these iconic creatures and their Arctic environment from the increasing human impacts.

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Dr. Steve Amstrup and his colleagues published a groundbreaking paper in 2020, shedding light on the future plight of polar bears in different regions. By analyzing the energetics of polar bears and their ability to fast during ice-free periods, they predicted when different sub-populations will face challenges due to climate change. The study, involving 13 of the world’s 19 sub-populations of bears, provided valuable insights into the impending risks polar bears are likely to encounter. For example, in Hudson Bay and the Beaufort Sea of Alaska, polar bears are already facing significant challenges. This information is crucial not only for scientific understanding but also for policymakers and conservation managers.

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Dr. Steve Amstrup, former Polar Bear Chief Scientist for the USGS (US Geological Survey), transitioned to working with Polar Bears International in 2010 to address the main threat to polar bears: global warming and habitat loss. As a small non-profit, the focus of PBI is on outreach and education to raise awareness about the challenges polar bears face due to climate change. Through research projects and supporting other scientists, they aim to disseminate current science and emphasize the importance of collective action to combat global warming. Their mission is not only about polar bear conservation but also about safeguarding the planet as a whole. Through media engagement and website stories, they strive to keep the plight of polar bears in the public eye, inspiring action to protect these iconic creatures and the environment.

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Dr Leonard Barrie

Dr. Len Barrie is an atmospheric chemist

Dr. Len Barrie is an atmospheric chemist, currently an Adjunct Professor at McGill University, who has spent much of his professional career studying various aspects of chemistry of and long-range transport of chemical species to the Arctic.  He obtained his BS degree in engineering physics from Queens University in Ontario, an MS in cloud physics and meteorology from the U. of Toronto, and a PhD in atmospheric chemistry and meteorology from Johann Wolfgang von Goethe University, Institute of Meteorology and Geophysics, in Frankfurt, Germany.  Len’s accomplishments include many years of study of the transport of organic contaminants such as PCBs, pesticides and PAHS to the Arctic, and the use of analysis of the chemical composition in Arctic aerosols to determine the origin of the precursors of “Arctic Haze”.  He and collaborators Jan Bottenheim, Russ Schnell, Paul Crutzen, and Rei Rasmussen discovered the remarkable inverse correlation between ozone and aerosol phase bromine in the Arctic.

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2024

Dr. Leonard Barrie recounts the significant impact of his discovery at Alert on his scientific career. The breakthrough stemmed from ongoing work involving high volume air samplers and neutron activation analysis, tracking major ions and trace elements, including bromine, chlorine, and iodine. By 1986, Barrie had amassed a six-year time series dataset from Alert, revealing bromine’s seasonal peak in spring. However, the ozone connection didn’t crystallize until Yon Bottenheim’s involvement in the April 1986 AGASP (Arctic Gas and Aerosol Sampling Program) expedition. Collaborating with Bottenheim, Barrie observed a striking anti-correlation between bromine aerosol and ozone depletion events, indicating a meteorological influence. Barrie attributes his comprehensive understanding of this phenomenon to his background in both meteorology and atmospheric chemistry, further enriched by collaborations with boundary layer meteorologists like Bob McKellar and Jerry Deane Hartog. He also fondly mentions lifelong collaborator Jose Fuentes, who completed his PhD at Guelph University. This discovery not only advanced Barrie’s scientific trajectory but also underscored the importance of interdisciplinary collaboration in atmospheric research.

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Dr. Leonard Barrie reflects on his experiences in the Arctic during the late 1980s and early 1990s. He describes the remote and tranquil atmosphere of the Special Studies Laboratory, emphasizing the profound quietude and stillness of the environment. Barrie marvels at the vastness and beauty of the Arctic landscape, accentuated by the crisp, wind-driven snowpack, which contrasts with the softer snow of his Appalachian upbringing. Despite the extreme cold, he feels at home in this environment, finding it peaceful and relaxing. Barrie’s colleague, Pete, shares similar sentiments, having also explored various facets of the Arctic. The duo’s experiences, including flying over the Arctic Ocean, evoke a sense of gratitude towards Barrie for facilitating such unforgettable adventures.

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Dr. Leonard Barrie reflects on his scientific achievements, particularly his contributions to understanding Arctic air chemistry. He highlights the significance of his work in unraveling the widespread nature of pollution in the Arctic and its origins in Europe and Asia. Barrie’s publication in 1985 provided a crucial overview of Arctic air chemistry, setting the stage for further research in the field. Additionally, he mentions his collaboration with Bill Schroer on the connection between halogen chemistry and the mercury cycle, emphasizing the transformative impact of this discovery on the scientific community. Paul acknowledges Barrie’s role in changing lives and scientific focus, emphasizing the importance of serendipity in scientific discovery. Overall, Barrie’s work has significantly advanced our understanding of atmospheric processes in the Arctic and beyond.

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Dr. Leonard Barrie discusses his involvement in acid rain research, particularly in setting up the Air and Precipitation Monitoring Network for Canada, which later evolved into the Canadian Air and Precipitation Monitoring Network (CAPMoN). This initiative reflects the broader atmospheric science community’s efforts in addressing and solving the issue of acid rain, a problem now considered largely resolved. Barrie also reflects on collaborations with Carrie Pratt and Lucy Carpenter regarding iodine research, highlighting the intriguing findings regarding seasonal variations in bromide and iodine levels. These discoveries spurred interest in studying photochemistry within snowpacks, with Europeans and other researchers approaching the topic from different perspectives. Barrie emphasizes the contrasting viewpoints between those studying halogen chemistry from satellite data and those examining ground-level instrumentation, underscoring the complexities of Arctic atmospheric chemistry. These insights have had a significant impact on understanding long-range transport chemistry and its implications for various fields, including the study of ice cores and post-depositional processing of chemical species in snow.

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Dr. Leonard Barrie reflects on the observable impacts of climate change both at home and in the Arctic. He notes significant changes in the timing of the sugaring season in southern Quebec, with maple tapping starting earlier due to warmer temperatures. Barrie also highlights the drastic reduction in multi-year ice fraction in the Arctic Ocean, leading to the projection that the Arctic Ocean will become a seasonal lake by the middle of this century, with implications for atmospheric chemistry and ocean dynamics. He discusses the turbulence over open water, sea salt deposition into the snowpack, and the profound effects of diminishing sea ice on Arctic communities and subsistence hunting practices.

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Dr. Leonard Barrie discusses his involvement in studying persistent organic pollutants (POPs) in the Arctic, alongside his atmospheric chemistry research. He highlights the collaboration with the Northern Contaminants Program in Canada and the Arctic Monitoring Assessment Program, focusing on measuring POPs in the high Arctic. Barrie describes setting up samplers in various locations, including the Yukon, Gluck, and Alert, as well as a contract in Russia. He emphasizes the importance of this research in generating valuable databases and insights into POPs, contributing to international conventions like the Stockholm Convention. Barrie’s discussion prompts reflection on the evolving understanding of atmospheric stewardship and the recognition of the atmosphere’s limited capacity.

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Dr. Leonard Barrie shares a memorable story from his time working in the Arctic, highlighting both the excitement and the challenges of the environment. He recounts a moment with his colleague Joe Kovik during the establishment of a special studies laboratory at Alert. While preparing for the Polar Sunrise expedition in 1992, Joe encountered an unexpected encounter with an arctic fox. Despite the freezing temperatures, the foxes were attracted to Joe’s discarded gloves, prompting a comical chase as Joe pursued the playful animals. The incident reflects the unique blend of adventure and wildlife encounters that characterize Arctic research expeditions. Leonard fondly recalls the significance of the special studies lab as a hub for groundbreaking scientific discoveries amidst the captivating Arctic landscape.

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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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2009

Research scientist Matt Druckenmiller spends a few months each year in Barrow (now called Utqiaġvik), Alaska, measuring sea ice thickness. He is also involved in a scientific study on the changing dynamics of sea ice. Matt studies the trails created by the Iñupiaq whalers as they hunt whales, examining the relationship between trail depth and ice conditions. His measurements are conducted precisely where the hunters operate, enabling meaningful communication with them. Originally from Pennsylvania, Matt obtained his undergraduate and master’s degrees at Penn State University before joining the University of Alaska at Fairbanks. Utqiaġvik is the largest Native whaling community in Alaska, with an annual quota of around 22 whales. The population of bowhead whales, which migrate through the area, has shown signs of growth, now estimated to be around 13,000 individuals. These whales spend summers in the Arctic Ocean and return to the Bering Sea in the fall.

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2022

Matthew Drukenmiller, a research scientist at the National Snow and Ice Data Center, has taken on a new role as the Director of Navigating the New Arctic Community Office. This office is part of a five-year agreement with the National Science Foundation to coordinate and support the Navigating the New Arctic program, which focuses on research addressing the challenges posed by environmental changes in the Arctic. The initiative aims to collaborate with indigenous communities, incorporate their knowledge alongside Western research, and produce actionable solutions for Arctic societal issues.

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Matt Druckenmiller emphasizes the significant shift in how indigenous knowledge is perceived in the research landscape. In the past, traditional knowledge was often seen by scientists as fragmented observations of the environment. But this perspective has evolved, and now indigenous knowledge is viewed as a way of thinking, deeply rooted in stewardship, honoring the land, animals, and ancestors. In today’s world, facing the immediate challenges of the climate crisis, researchers are recognizing the limitations of Western research and technology in caring for the natural world. Indigenous wisdom challenges the scientific community to embrace diverse ways of thinking and consider alternative approaches to stewarding and understanding the environment.

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Matt Druckenmiller discusses a his 17-year-long project on the North Slope surveying the ice trails of Iñupiaq whalers. They have observed substantial changes in the thickness of the shorefast ice. Matt notes that the ways in which people hunt and assess risk on the ice have adapted in response to the changing ice conditions. The project has been a valuable endeavor, offering unique insights into how the shorefast ice during whaling has evolved over generations. Despite missing a couple of years due to other commitments and the pandemic, Matt remains passionate about going up to the Arctic every spring for fieldwork, envisioning his ice-trail project as a long-term monitoring effort in the future.

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Dr George Durner

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

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

https://www.usgs.gov/staff-profiles/george-durner

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. His research focus is in polar bear habitat relationships, particularly on how polar bears have and will respond to declines in sea ice. Hence, his research has been reliant on a 29 year history of polar bear location data gained through the Argos Data Collection and Location System. Much of his research results were used to inform the United States Secretary of the Interior’s decision in 2008 to list polar bears as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act. George is a member of the IUCN Polar Bear Specialist Group, and serves as a scientific advisor to the Joint Commissions of the Inuvialuit Game Council and the North Slope Borough for polar bear management, the US Fish and Wildlife Service Polar Bear Recovery team, and the Canadian Polar Bear Technical Committee. George has authored or co-authored more than 25 scientific papers on polar bears and other wildlife.

https://www.clsamerica.com/george-durner

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2022

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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Over the past 30 years, the Arctic has undergone significant changes, especially in the region where polar bears are studied, the Southern Beaufort Sea. The loss of sea ice has increased in duration and extent, causing polar bears to be displaced from their optimal habitat on the continental shelf to deep waters of the Polar Basin during summer months. As a result of finding less to eat in these deeper waters, polar bears experience reduced body condition, muscle mass loss, decreased activity, and challenges in reproducing and raising cubs. Dr. George Durner, a research zoologist, highlights the complexity of these changes and acknowledges the substantial amount of research conducted by his team and collaborators to understand the impacts on polar bear populations.

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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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Dr. Hajo Eicken

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

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/

In his own words: 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 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. Jose D. Fuentes

Jose D. Fuentes is a Professor of Meteorology at Penn State University

(http://www.met.psu.edu/people/juf15).  He has a Ph.D. in micrometeorology from the University of Guelph.  His research interests are in boundary layer meteorology, turbulence in stable atmosphere, biosphere-atmosphere interactions, and Arctic chemistry and boundary layer dynamics.  He is a Fellow of the American Geophysical Union, the American Meteorological Society, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

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2024

Dr. Jose Fuentes describes his experience traveling to Alert, located in the province of Nunavut, Canada. He expresses awe at the breathtaking beauty of the Arctic landscape, especially when viewed from the Hercules planes during the journey. Upon arrival at Alert, he is struck by the pristine environment and reflects on the importance of preserving such natural beauty for future generations. Jose emphasizes the significance of protecting Earth’s environment, highlighting the Arctic as a particularly special place that holds a special place in his heart.

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Dr. Jose Fuentes shares his journey into Arctic research, revealing that his interest in climate science dates back to the 1980s when he studied the deposition of pollutants into forested ecosystems during his PhD. After joining Environment Canada, he became connected to Arctic research through colleagues who made significant discoveries in the region. Inspired by his undergraduate advisor’s prediction that he would excel in teaching, Jose sought teaching positions, eventually coming to the United States. It was through connections with colleagues like Paul Shepson and Yan Bottenheim that Jose became involved in Arctic research expeditions, starting with a polar experiment in May 2000. Since then, he has continued to contribute to Arctic research.

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Dr. Jose Fuentes reflects on the motivations driving scientists, emphasizing the desire for discovery and knowledge as well as the application of that knowledge for the betterment of society and the planet. He stresses that personal wealth isn’t a driving factor in scientific endeavors, but rather the pursuit of understanding and improving the world we live in. Paul Shepson adds that many scientists undergo a transformation, becoming more than just researchers but also advocates for the Earth and its ecosystems, especially as they witness the impacts of climate change firsthand. They discuss the profound changes occurring in the Arctic, highlighting the rapid decline in perennial ice cover over the past few decades and the urgent need for action to preserve the planet for future generations.

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Dr. Jose Fuentes discusses his research experiences during expeditions to the Arctic, highlighting various projects aimed at understanding the atmosphere’s dynamics and pollutant interactions. He describes setting up flux towers to study pollutant absorption by snowpacks, conducting balloon measurements to assess ozone depletion, and investigating the impact of water channels on atmospheric thermodynamics. These studies reveal crucial insights into feedback mechanisms and climate processes not yet fully accounted for in climate models, emphasizing the ongoing need for scientific exploration in the rapidly changing Arctic environment.

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Dr. Jose Fuentes reflects on his efforts to promote diversity and inclusion in science, particularly among underrepresented groups. He discusses his personal journey, emphasizing the importance of determination and mentorship in overcoming obstacles. Fuentes highlights the need for diverse perspectives in scientific research, encouraging young students to pursue their goals with confidence and seek out mentors who can offer guidance and support. He shares anecdotes from his own experiences, underscoring the resilience needed to navigate challenges and the importance of believing in oneself despite skepticism or negativity from others. Ultimately, Fuentes emphasizes the transformative power of determination, mentorship, and a commitment to inclusion in shaping the future of scientific discovery and innovation.

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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 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. 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.  Dr. Matrai is now retired.

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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 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 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 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’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. 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, in his discussion, reflects on the dramatic changes he has observed in the Arctic over his career. Starting in 2005 in Kaktovik, he recalls seeing multi-year sea ice blocks several meters thick. In contrast, in recent years, he hasn’t seen any such ice formations, with the ice often not even grounding offshore. Polashenski notes the significant reduction in stable ice platforms, making operations like ice camps increasingly challenging and risky. He compares his experiences to those in the 1970s when ice camps like T3 could be occupied for decades, highlighting the drastic shift in ice stability and thickness. Polashenski also discusses his participation in Navy ice camps, noting their adaptation to the changing conditions by shortening camp durations and using more mobile and quick-setup structures. The changing ice dynamics have led to a shift from a permanent settlement approach to a more expeditionary one, with a growing focus on risk management due to the unpredictable and dynamic nature of the ice. This transformation, he observes, is a stark indicator of the rapid environmental changes occurring in the Arctic.

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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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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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Paul Shepson finds optimism in two contrasting time horizons when considering the dramatic changes in the Arctic. In the long run, he believes life’s resilience and adaptability will lead to solutions for climate change, allowing the Earth to recover. However, in the next 200 to 300 years, he is concerned about the challenges posed by the world’s commitments to unsustainable practices, which might impact the quality of life for future generations. Despite this, he remains hopeful that humanity will learn and evolve to overcome these obstacles.

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Alexandra "Sandy" Steffen

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

Sandy Steffen is National Senior Mercury Researcher at Environment and Climate Change Canada in Toronto, and also Adjunct Professor at the University of Toronto Scarborough.  She is Lead mercury researcher for Atmospheric Processes Research (ARQP) Section at ECCC, specializing in environmental processes relating to the transport, transformation and deposition of mercury in and around the atmosphere.  She specializes in designing research to study the processes driving the transformation of mercury in and around the Canadian and Arctic atmospheres.  Her work focuses on investigation of the spatial and temporal trends of atmospheric mercury on a national, regional and global scale.  She serves as Science Advisor to the Canadian government for national policy including the Minamata Convention on Mercury.  Sandy’s work has shown that halogen chemistry above sea ice and snowpacks can result in rapid oxidation of elemental mercury that converts it to particle-phase mercury that can deposit to sensitive Arctic ecosystems.

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2009

Dr. Alexandra “Sandy” Steffen and Dr. Ralf Staebler, conducting experiments around Utqiaġvik, Alaska, discuss the challenges of working in such extreme conditions and how they have to adapt their equipment to withstand the harsh environment. Although they must plan carefully to make the most of their time here, they both agree that working in the Arctic is a valuable learning experience.

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Dr. Alexandra “Sandy” Steffen has been working in the Arctic for over 13 years. Sandy emphasizes the importance of protecting the Arctic and its environment, which is crucial to the well-being of both the local communities and the world as a whole.

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Dr. Mattew Sturm

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

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

Dr. Sturm is responsible for conducting wide-ranging geophysical studies on snow in high latitudes. His work has taken him from the Antarctic to the Arctic, and he has been the leader of more than 30 expeditions in winter in pursuit of his science. He is based at the Alaska Office in Fairbanks but collaborates with a wide range of scientists both at CRREL and elsewhere. His most recent work focuses on the role of snow cover on climate, with particular attention to snow ecology, and climate change resulting from snow-vegetation interactions.

University page: https://www.uaf.edu/experts/matthew-sturm.php

Profile: https://www.uaf.edu/nanooknation/sturm.php

https://asr.science.energy.gov/news/program-news/post/13183

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2009

Dr. Matthew Sturm, a passionate Arctic explorer, describes the unique allure of the region. He finds the beauty of the Arctic to be subtle and nuanced, unlike the more obvious grandeur of the Alps or other majestic mountains. Here the interplay of light, ice, and colors an exotic landscape captivates him. Dr. Sturm emphasizes the rich history embedded in the Arctic, from the first footsteps of indigenous peoples to the achievements of Western explorers and scientists. The vastness of the Arctic, with its expansive spaces and the solitude of being hundreds of miles from the next human, adds to its appeal. He highlights the strange and captivating lighting phenomena, such as diamond dust and halos, that add to the Arctic’s allure. In terms of comfort, Dr. Sturm notes that with proper gear and acclimatization, the discomforts are minimal, and the relaxed environment offers respite from the busy office life. He also acknowledges the timeless quality of the Arctic, where one can momentarily escape the hustle and bustle of daily routines and be immersed in the serenity and magic of the icy landscape.

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Dr. Matthew Sturm is an experienced explorer who has undertaken several snow machine traverses across long distances in the Arctic. These trips ranged from 200 to 3,000 miles, with the longest being a successful thousand-mile journey to Barrow, now called Utqiaġvik. The expeditions require careful planning, taking into account factors such as weather conditions, snowmelt, and the availability of sunlight. Dr. Sturm emphasizes the importance of securing funding, selecting a logical route, and choosing reliable companions for challenging and often stressful conditions. The logistics of the trips involve determining the amount of fuel and food needed, arranging for scientific research along the way, and ensuring that equipment is in good working order. Despite occasional dramatic incidents such as encountering thin ice or equipment breakdowns, most of the stories from these expeditions revolve around camaraderie, breathtaking snow-covered landscapes, and the patience required to endure long stretches of challenging terrain. Dr. Sturm and his team document their experiences through notes, movies, and a book titled “Finding the Arctic,” which also explores historical aspects of the Arctic region.

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Dr. Matthew Sturm describes Barrow (now called Utqiaġvik), Alaska, as a place filled with contradictions. On the one hand, it is modern and well-connected to the rest of the nation, with easy accessibility and political sophistication. On the other hand, it holds onto core values related to whaling and a traditional way of life. The people of Barrow embody these contradictions, where whalers embrace tradition while using high-performance snow machines and modern technology like cell phones and radar pictures of ice. Dr. Sturm aims to capture this complex and nuanced Arctic reality in his writing, challenging the common stereotypes of the Arctic as either a noble savage or socially problematic place. He believes that the Arctic’s adaptations have a unique twist and offer a rich tapestry of modern and old intertwined. The real Arctic, according to Dr. Sturm, is confounding, messy, and continuously evolving, contrary to the notion of a frozen-in-time culture. Barrow (Utqiaġvik), with its diverse cultural influences from Polynesian, Filipino, Japanese, and black communities, exemplifies the fascinating and multifaceted nature of the Arctic.

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2022

Matthew Sturm has had a lifelong fascination with snow, its beauty and complexity. Through exhibits and outreach, he promotes public appreciation for snow. While day-to-day changes in snow can be challenging to observe, his work provides valuable insights. Notable climate events, like once-in-a-century rain on snow, have impacts, but overall, snow’s deviations from the norm remain within expected bounds.

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Matthew Sturm’s lifelong fascination with snow continues, and he remains personally invested in understanding it. As a scientist, he has successfully shared the wonder of snow through books and museum exhibits, enhancing people’s appreciation for it. He acknowledges the complexity of water and the puzzle-solving aspect of snow research. Technological advancements have improved snow mapping capabilities, allowing for detailed measurements on large scales. Dr. Sturm’s contributions continue to advance our understanding of this vital element of nature.

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Matthew Sturm reflects on the evolving dynamics of Arctic villages. Over the years, these communities have become more connected to the global economy and technology, yet still maintain their unique identity. With the advent of cell phones and improved communication, they are more wired-in than before. The traditional way of life intersects with modernity, creating a fascinating blend of cultures and influences. Despite these changes, the Arctic’s icy landscape remains a constant presence, a reminder of the region’s enduring essence.

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In a thought-provoking conversation, Matthew Sturm discusses the challenges and concerns surrounding the study of the cryosphere and the Arctic’s changing landscape. He acknowledges that the speed of change is outpacing our ability to understand it fully. While advancements in technology are promising, they might not be enough to keep up with the rapid changes happening in the Arctic. As an Arctic scientist, he recognizes the limitations of current tools and models in grasping the complexity of snow behavior across vast scales. Additionally, he reflects on the shifting perspective of people towards the Arctic, emphasizing the importance of historical context and understanding the region’s past to inform our present and future endeavors.

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Dr. Matthew Sturm discusses the noticeable pace of change in the Arctic landscape and the societal responses to it. He reflects on the deteriorating condition of infrastructures due to thermocarving and the struggle to keep pace with environmental challenges. Sturm emphasizes that these changes are not limited to the physical environment but also impact cultural aspects, like hunting and fishing traditions. Climate change is altering the Arctic’s weatherscape and transportation patterns, leaving people with a sense of loss and a profound awareness of the transformations around them. He points out that change is often met with resistance and apprehension, but recognizes that inconvenient truths tend to resurface, urging us to face the realities of climate change and prioritize actions to mitigate its impacts.

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Matthew Sturm expresses his personal interest in studying drifting snow and its significance in the context of climate change. He highlights how climate change discussions often focus on temperature and precipitation, but wind is a crucial factor that shapes the Arctic’s snow patterns. Despite its importance, little attention has been given to predicting future wind patterns in the Arctic. Drifts of snow are particularly significant in determining the region’s snow conditions, impacting both accumulation and loss of snow through sublimation. Sturm and his team have been studying snow drifts and their quantities, hoping to conduct a drift census to better understand the overall snow landscape.

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In this heartfelt conversation, Matthew Sturm and Paul Shepson share their profound passion for studying halogen chemistry and snow drifts. They consider their work in the Arctic a privilege and feel fortunate to explore the mysteries of the natural world. While they may not always see immediate practical applications, they believe in the intrinsic value of understanding the world and hope their curiosity inspires others.

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