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Climate Change at the Arctic’s Edge: Day 2

Today we officially began research! I can’t believe it’s only day 2 and the first day of research because so much has happened in this one day.

We began the day getting fitted for our trusty waders. As this is a wetland study, cold and full of bugs we need the waders to protect us. These neoprene beauties also paired well with our rubber boots and bug nets. It’s a stylish look, for sure.

After we found the correct waders, shoes and bug nets we returned to our classroom to learn all about maps. I’ll be honest I’ve never had a love for maps but our tech and trainee Danielle was so excited it made me feel the same. She explained the difference between GPS, GIS and cartography. They really do some interesting things with maps that I didn’t realize. The layers of GIS can give so much information about certain areas and the inhabitants there along with the landscape. We also talked about Google Earth, which many people love but don’t always think about the technology involved in those maps.

We learned about the satellite landsat7 that takes the images for Google Earth. Since we were talking about images and mapping we also looked at many other satellites at the website stuffin.space It’s amazing! The website basically showed all the junk we’ve put into orbit and there is a lot! I will definitely be using this in my classroom, the kids will love it.

After our lesson on maps we went out into the field and began learning to use GPS. I’m fairly certain if my dad were here he’d be making fun of me for my lack of use and understanding of the GPS Sorry, Dad! I figured it out!

After some quick practice with the GPS we had the absolutely amazing experience of watching the team here release some snowy owls! Apparently, the owls were supposed to be released yesterday but our flight delay also delayed their release. These owls were born in an owl sanctuary knowing that the ultimate goal was to release them when old enough. Their parents unfortunately cannot fly so they can’t release but these owls are bred and then their offspring are released into snowy Owl environments. Which, is just amazing! There was 1 female and three males (if I remember correctly).

Our PI, LeAnn and tech Morgan told us their history and then released them. The owls were a tad hesitant to leave their current homes but once they were out they were fast in their flight. I am so grateful to have been here on a day this occurred and be able to watch their release. It was beautiful.

After the release and lunch we had a short safety briefing. We talked about the importance of safety in the cold wetland conditions and the risk of polar bear encounters. To sum it all up we need to listen to our PI and bear watchers. Their whole job is to ensure our safety and that’s definitely appreciated. We are in bear country and need to respect that.

After the safety briefing we had our first experience in the field! As I said yesterday, we are helping one of the researchers, Tom, with the study of his Wood Frogs (not woodland). What we are doing is helping him flag known locations of the frogs as well as random locations. His thesis and study is to see what will happen to the frogs as earth continues o warm and the permafrost layer melts. This layer is so important in the wetland environment here because it keeps the wetlands from drying out. When this permafrost melts the water dries up, as do the wood frogs homes. He wants to study their area of living to see what will occur and he’s using plaster molds of frogs to also see the amount of water loss that occurs.

It is such interesting research and really shows the correlation of our changing climate and the effect it will have on the animals living here. We know this melting of permafrost will occur. Only time can tell what will happen to our wood frogs when this does happen.

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