Welcome to my adventure!!!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Heading Home

Most of us flew out of Churchill this morning to -53C temperatures. In Winnipeg, most caught connecting flights, either to the way home or off to another adventure. Some of us have an overnight in Winnipeg.

It was not easy to say good-bye. After all, for the past 10+ days we have endured some challenging weather conditions, seen some amazing displays of nature in the northern lights, witnessed the beauty of an ecosystem in a truly intense season, and shared so many laughs that it is hard to believe that we did not know each other prior to this experience. How is it that we have been able to work so well together....when we have come from many different places on this earth; have such different backgrounds, customs and beliefs, interests, ages, native languages, and jobs?

Is it the mission of the work that allowed us to work so well? Is it the leadership of the principal scientist, Dr. Peter Kershaw? Is it the intensity of the conditions? Is it the human spirit? I think it is all those things and more. I am feeling a huge sense of satisfaction and renewal as a result of this experience.

I am hoping that my fellow teammates will chime in and give some feedback on this blog and share their thoughts with my students.

For my students, continue to read this blog and spend your class time on Thursday completing any assignments that you have not posted to. Thursday will be the last day to finish any undone assignments.

I am looking forward to seeing you on Friday to share more of my adventures.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Volunteer Around the World

Two people I met during my time at the Northern Studies Centre are volunteers in the kitchen. Lucy and Steve have both had very interesting experiences traveling the world, volunteering on research projects, getting paying jobs to fund their travels and then heading out again to volunteer and travel the world. Their experiences have been fascinating......

Lucy started her international travels when she was only 18 years old. She became an au pair (a nanny) for a family in the Boston area. Lucy grew up in England so the journey to the States was quite an adventure. While in the States, she also travelled to the West Coast. Afterwards, she went back to England to take her A Levels (the exam that gave her high school credit and was required to go onto university). After a bit of time, Lucy found herself ending a relationship, losing her job, and having to give up her house. If this sounds bleak to you; it wasn't for Lucy. It was the kick in the caboose for her to do the traveling that she had always wanted to do. She decided to go to Australia through Thailand, but once there ended up in Malaysia, Laos, Singapore, Cambodia, and Vietnam. Once in Australia, Lucy had a variety of jobs including grape harvesting, working at a outback bar, cleaning, and massage. In all, Lucy ended up spending 18 months in Australia before she went back to England to work and earn more money to travel back to New Zealand. While in New Zealand, Lucy worked at a dairy farm, and a sheep ranch. Lucy found out about the job at the Northern Studies Centre in Churchill by randomly searching on the Internet. She will work here for a little over 1 month and then continue her travels to the west, maybe to Alaska.

For Steve, he has always felt that animals need a voice. Many of his travels and volunteer experiences revolve around caring for and rehabilitating animals. But he also done a variety of humanitarian related work. His experiences include hands-on work with animals, construction as well as cooking for guests. He has worked with gibbons in Thailand, orangutans in Borneo, and rehabilitating dancing bears in Agra, India. Steve has also done humanitarian work in Nepal at an orphanage for street children. He will continue his humanitarian work by next travelling to India to help build homes for people displaced by the 2004 tsunami in the Indian Ocean. Steve says "There is no better way to see the world than through volunteer work."
Steve recommended the book, The Lonely Planet's Guide to Volunteer Opportunities. I found an Internet link to some of the same information: http://www.lonelyplanet.com/volunteer/index.cfm

Tuesday's assignment:
Go to the Lonely Planet web site and look at volunteer opportunities that interest you. Pick one and write a paragraph (at least 5 sentences). Tell me about the volunteer position AND why you are interested in the job. Please remember to use Spell Check. Again, if you are having difficulty posting the assignment to the blog site, please print off a copy and give it to Mrs. M.

How Can You Tell That The Temperature is More Than -50C?

If you did not have a thermometer,
how could you tell that the temperature was more than
-50C? Here are some photos of me and my teammates. See what we all have in common?

Answer: Eyelash Icicles : D

After our video conference this morning, I went out in the field to do the final tree sampling. We were lucky the winds were not too bad but the temperatures were still brutal. Fortunately, we only had to sample from 1 site so we were only out for approximately 1 hour. Afterwards we came back to the Northern Studies Center and took group photos. The photo below shows all the women working on the project. This photo is going to be sent to Glamour magazine in both the Unites States and England. Apparently, Glamour magazine publishes photos of readers who include a copy of the magazine in their photograph. In the photo, you will see a copy of both the UK and US versions of the magazine.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Tuesday's Video Conference

I am looking forward to our video conference on Tuesday morning. There will be time for questions, so be thinking about what you might want to ask me.

Your assignment for Tuesday is to finish Monday's assignment. Several people did not answer the comet questions. Make sure you answer both sets of questions - northern lights and comets. If you are having difficulty posting onto the blog site, just print out a copy of your answers and give the page to Mrs. M. Make sure you spell check and put your name on the paper.

News Flash - I Survived the Night in an Igloo But Northern Lights and Comet Hidden by Clouds

Yes, we survived our night in the igloo. My teammate, Oonah (a college student from Wales) and I stayed toasty warm; but the smallest member of our team, Eunice (a doctor from Australia) was a little cold all night. All in all, it was a successful night. The temperatures outside were in the mid -20Cs with windchill of -35Cs. Of course we did not have to deal with a windchill since we were in the igloo and the great insulating properties of the snow probably kept the temperatures inside around the -10Cs. I will post my pictures later this evening.

Unfortunately, we were not able to see any northern lights or the comet because we had clouds and snow flurries. We are keeping are fingers crossed that tonight and Tuesday night will be clear. Tuesday night is our last night together as a team. It has been a fun and challenging 1 1/2 weeks and it will sad when we all go our separate ways. Luckily, we will be able to keep in touch as most folks have Facebook and we are sharing each others addresses.

That's all for now...we are heading back out into the field this morning. The low clouds, wind, and snow flakes continue...

Aurora Borealis in Full View

The aurora borealis or northern lights are now occurring almost every night that we have clear skies. The following photographs were taken on Saturday night/Sunday morning by an English visitor to the Northern Studies Centre who is here taking an aurora borealis class. I am hoping to take some photographs and maybe some digital videos tonight when the lights are back out.

Welcome back from your mid-winter break!

Your Monday assignment relates to the Northern Lights. Remember to write your answers as complete sentences using Spell Check. It is very obvious when you do not use SpellCheck.

1. What is another name for the Northern Lights?
2. What causes the Northern Lights?
3. What is the name given to the other Northern Lights? What makes them different?
4. What causes the different colors in the Northern Lights?
5. Why is Churchill, Manitoba a great place to see the Northern Lights?
6. Is it possible to see the Northern Lights in New York state?

In addition to the Northern Lights, there is also an opportunity to see a comet for the next few days. So here are questions that you should answer related to the comet.

7. What is the name of the comet that I am looking for?
8. What causes a comet?
9. Can this comet be seen in New York State?
10. Where in the sky should you look for the comet?

I hope to see you all on Tuesday morning during our video conference. I think you are going to enjoying seeing some of the items I will be showing you. Remember to talk to your 1st or 2nd period teacher to get their permission to come to the Media Center.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Igloo Building 101

On Friday afternoon, we started building an igloo. By Saturday evening it was finished and the first team of hardy adventurists was gearing up to spend the night.

We began the construction with Dr. Kershaw giving a short lesson on igloo building. Another spelling for the traditional house of the Canadian and Greenland Inuit people is iglu. The translation means "house."

To build an igloo, the snow has to be be the right type. The snow must be hard and able to be cut into slabs. The snow in New York tends to be too fluffy or icy and not the hard-packed, dry snow found in northern Canada.
Using a saw or machete-like knife, the snow is cut into uniform slabs. The Inuit would have used a knife made from a whale's jaw bone or a caribou antler. Each slab is then placed next to each other with the ends shaved so that they have contact with the previous slab. It is also important the each slab angles so as to form the dome-shaped structure. It is a slow process, makng sure that each slab fits into the previous slab.

Eventually, the slabs get smaller as you reach the top. The last couple of slabs are challenging to put into place. The process where each of the spaces between the slabs have to be filled with snow is called chinking. And finally, the last step is to dig out a door and create an entrance.
Caribou skins are placed on the floor. Then thermarest pads are put onto of the skins. Finally, the winter sleeping bags are placed on the thermarest pads. Inside, the entrance is blocked so cold air does not flow into the igloo.
On Sunday morning the first team to sleep in the igloo emerged around 6:30am with comments ranging from "cold for the past 3 hours" to "warm all night."
My night in the igloo comes tonight. Prior to entering the igloo, we will be staying up to watch the northern lights and the comet Lulin. I will report back Monday evening on how the igloo night went.


Saturday, February 21, 2009

The Winds Have Arrived

This morning we had an easy time of field work. We were doing our regular routine of work - snow pits and the variety of measurements we do in the pits, core samples, and ram penetrations. It was overcast with a low ceiling of clouds. By the afternoon, the winds had picked up to 38 km/hr on top of a temperature of -18C - felt like -32C. I think it felt colder with the wind. We were out helping Steve Mamet, graduate student of Dr. Kershaw, with his PhD work on the impact of climate change on subarctic forest and tundra tree species. Our work involved clipping the previous year's tree growth at 3 levels on the tree and from 3 directions on the tree. The wind made the gathering of samples very challenging as the wind kept trying to make the collection bags fly. We were only able to finish one site - 27 samples per team/81 samples total before we headed back to the field station. The wind and cold kept us from collecting at the other site - we'll save those for another day.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

A Typical Day Here In Churchill OR How Fast Can You Get Into and Out Of 4+ Layers of Clothes?

A couple of people have asked about the daily routine here at the Northern Studies Centre; so here goes:

We wake around 6:30 am to go to breakfast at 7:00 am. The meals at the Centre are great - lots of carbohydrates. The kitchen makes lots of dishes with carbs for the energy and so we can stay warm when we are out working in the cold temperatures. After breakfast we have a briefing to discuss the weather as well as the sites that we will be going to. We have been lucky in that we have not been getting the winds that had been forecast. The lowest temperature that we have had, to date, is air temperature -31C with slight winds to -42C. The weather is a huge part of the logistics of our work.

After the briefing, we then usually have 20-30 minutes to change into our field work clothes. I have been wearing 3 or 4 layers on all parts of my body. After changing into the inner layers we wander throught the Centre to the classroom/labratory where all of our outer layers are kept drying. That phase of dressing usually takes 10 minutes; in addition, there is a fine balance between dressing and becoming too warm. Too warm is very easy to do, given all of the layers. We usually start moving outdoors to minimize the sweat.

Then we are off to the work site in the qamutik (the wooden box behind the snowmobile). See the previous post about the winter amusement park ride as well as what we do in the field. We come back to the Centre for lunch. Of course, we have to take off our outer layers and let them dry out a little. After lunch, we have another briefing for the afternoon's work activity. And then we get dressed again, and go back out in the field. We come back to the Centre, we take off our layers and if there is time before dinner, we start on our lab work and data entry.

All of the samples that we collect during the day have to be melted and tested for pH and conductivity. At the end, all the data has to be entered into the computer.

After dinner, we attend a lecture by Dr. Peter Kershaw, the project scientist, on a variety of topics related to our work, including snowflake formation and evolution; peat polygonals; climate change; arctic landforms, and how to build igloos. Afterwards, it is back to lab work and data entry. By the end of the evening, we are completely exhausted and usually go to bed so that we can start the process all over the next day.
The team is a great group of people - the variety of accents, customs, and personalities as well as antics, jokes, and humor keeps each day full of fun. Dr. Kershaw also brings a wealth of knowledge and a unique sense of humor to the experience. Tomorrow, I will share the igloo building lesson and results.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

A Winter Amusement Park Ride

I think I have experienced a new winter amusement park ride....it involves sitting in a wooden box attached to a snowmobile and flying over the tundra....oh yeah, the temperature should be at least -20C. Sound like a lot of fun? Actually, it is not too bad. We have old couch cushions to sit on and the scenery is beautiful, that is if your goggles have not fogged up.

Today was our first full day of sampling in the field. Yesterday, we tested our gear with a half day in the field. It has been sunny for the past 2 days but wind chills this morning were supposed to be around -42C. Lucky for us, there was no wind. It was still cold!!

We were divided into teams of three at each sampling site where we had to dig a pit and investigate the various layers of snow. For each layer we had to measure depth, temperature, density and compressibility, as well as analyze the type of snow particles and their size within each layer. Then we had to take 11 core samples, noting depth and weight of the snow core, and bringing three of the samples back to the lab to measure conductivity and pH. The photo shows me taking the cores with the Adirondack Snow Corer. Yes, that is what it is called - it was invented in the Adirondacks. Go figure, and now it is used for Arctic research. Pretty cool - no, cold :) We then moved to 2 other locations within the site and repeated the process. Then, it was back to the Study Centre for lunch and back out in the field after lunch. In all, each team collected data at 5 sites with 44 snow cores made. With 5 teams, that is 25 sites and 275 cores. Remember what I always say about sample size....bigger is always better. Tomorrow is another day for us to collect more data.
We took the scenic ride home this afternoon; we went out onto the frozen Hudson Bay. We saw huge wolf tracks - the tracks were everywhere. They belonged to a male grey wolf. Here is my foot for size comparison. Did I mention the tracks were huge!

The snow is absolutely beautiful. The snow formations look like the flowing water frozen in place. Instead of liquid water, it is the frozen snow that is shaped by the wind. The wind has an incredibly strong influence on the entire arctic environment. The trees showing something called "flagging." The wind can blow so hard that the trees loose their needles and only have branches on the downside of the wind. If the wind can do that to the trees, I hate to think what it can do to me. I am keeping my fingers crossed that we continue to have calm days.
That's all for now. Time to get to bed, so I'll be ready for tomorrow's field work.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Arrival in Churchill, Time to Get to Work

I arrived in Churchill on Saturday. On the train I met 4 other expedition teammates: Erika, a teacher from Southern California; Sergio, who works for Shell Oil as a computer guy; Michael, from Denmark who also works for Shell Oil; and Eunice, from Australia, who is a doctor taking a year off to do volunteer work around the world.

We have already formed a nice friendship. We toured the Eskimo museum and walked around town to visit the sites.

On Sunday, the entire team (14 people) was fitted for cold weather gear. We then drove out to the Northern Studies Centre. On the way, we saw the most beautiful, female grey wolf. We were told that it was not good for her to be as close to the road because it is hunting season and she could be shot since her pellet would sell for more than $1000.

Tonight, we had our 1st fulltime briefing. We met the entire team and Dr. Kershaw. He outlined all of our work for the next 10 days. The schedule sounds incredibly busy yet exciting. Tomorrow, breakfast starts at 6:30 am and then we meet for another briefing at 7:30. I volunteered for dishwashing detail for tomorrow so I need to have an early start. So, I will signoff for now.

To my students: I hope you continue to post to the comments sections (remember extra credit) or feel free to email me at school at greena@hlcs.org

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Winnipeg: An Environmental City?

I have made it to Winnipeg. What a difference from Chicago! Chicago had no snow and Winnipeg has had snow flurries throughout the day. Once I gathered up my luggage, my plan was to take a taxi to the train station to stash my extra luggage and then go to the Manitoba Museum. Guess what, the taxis here in Winnipeg are Toyota Prius, the hybrid cars. What a great idea! My taxi driver said they have been using the Prius cars for 3 years. Even in winter, the small amount of Winnipeg that I am seeing, I am impressed with. Many of the older city buildings have huge murals painted on them. And there are polar bear statues around town with different decorations - like what Saratoga Springs does with the horse sculptures. I have taken some pictures, so I will try and post them. The other environmental thing that I am seeing here in Winnipeg is recycling containers everywhere - the kind of containers that sort out plastic, glass, paper, and aluminum.

I am back at the train station waiting for the 7:20 pm train to Churchill. The Manitoba Museum was spectacular. There were a lot of exhibits on the Arctic as well as all of the areas of Manitoba. One exhibit that I was really impressed with was the exhibit on the Hudson Bay Trading Company. There was even a replica of the boat, the Nonsuch, which was the first boat of the soon to be formed Hudson Bay Trading Company. Since I grew up in Texas, I never learned very much about the Hudson Bay Trading Company.

What do you know about the Hudson Bay Trading Company? Here's the next assignment:

1. How are the Hudson River (that flows between Hadley and Lake Luzerne) connected to the Hudson Bay that I will see when I arrive in Churchill on Satuday? Please don't tell me that one flows into the other - they are 2 separate watersheds. But what is the connection?

2. Using complete sentences (and spell check), tell me 3 facts about the Hudson Bay Trading Post. Extra credit to whomever can tell me why someone would name their boat the "Nonsuch" - such an odd name.

3. What natural resources did the Hudson Bay Trading Company utilize to grow their business?

And for extra credit.....
Pick one of the Scientists as Explorers that no one had written about and answer the 5 questions.

Have a great winter break and a lovely Valentine's Day.

Chicago, Chicago

After almost missing my flight in Albany, I am in Chicago. It was very foggy this morning in NY - must be the warm air temperatures and all the snow. I am not seeing any snow in Chicago but the temperature is 24F, clear and sunny. I leave here in 1 hour for my flight to Winnipeg, Manitoba.

I am liking the posts that you are creating for the Scientists as Explorers. Remember to include the web address from where you got your information. Also remember to use the spell check - take advantage of the tools available to you. If you have not started the assignment yet, look at the comments and pick a scientist that no one else has chosen. Extra credit for more than one scientist posting.

I will tell you about Winnipeg in a couple of hours......

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Scientists as Explorers

Those who dare to dream
Those who dare to challenge the boundaries of space, time, ignorance & science
What kinds of people chose a life of explorations, challenge & discovery?

There have been many scientists who are also known as adventurers – travelling to distant and often unexplored lands. I am feeling a little like an adventurer - travelling to an environment that is remote with a climate that can be harsh and intolerant. With all the modern equipment that we have today, I know my adventure will be a vacation compared to what those early scientists had to deal with.

The list below contains the names of scientists who are also known as explorers/adventurers. For this assignment, you will need to pick 1 scientist and write a paragraph answering each of the following questions. At the least, you should write 1 sentence to answer each question. Remember, more information earns you extra points. Pictures will also earn extra point. Make your posting great!

Scientists/Explorers (pick one):
Alexander von Humboldt
Charles Darwin
Mary Leakey
John Wesley Powell
Dr. Sylvia Earle
Fridtjof Nansen
Alfred Russel Wallace
Henry Walter Bates
Maurice & Katia Kraft
Jane Goodall
Jacques Piccard
Sally Ride
Louis Agassiz
Dian Fossey
Jacques Cousteau
Ernest Shackleton
Roaald Amundsen
Robert Ballard

Write a paragraph with sentences that answer the following questions
1. What country is the scientist from?
2. What kind of education did they have in their youth?
3. Where did they travel? Name the continents and countries they visited.
4. What were their discoveries? What scientific information are they credited with?
5. Include other interesting information about the scientist or their adventure.

Please include the web address at the end of the paragraph.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Anticipating My Departure to Churchill

I can't believe the day is near for me to leave on my adventure. I am immensely excited and yet thinking of all the things I need to do before I catch my plane for Winnipeg Canada on Thursday morning. Please help me out by finding the following information:

1. I am frantically trying to pack my suitcase, what is the weather forecast for Churchill, Manitoba for the end of this week into the next week?
2. Using what you now know about the difference between weather and climate, tell me the climate of Churchill Manitoba.
3. On the train ride from Winnipeg to Churchill, I will be passing through several ecosystems. Name the ecosystems and their characteristics.
4. Once I get into Churchill on Saturday afternoon, I will have a few hours to explore the town; what should I see and do?

Thanks in advance, for all the information you can send my way!