22 July, 2004
Today was my last day in Alaska and I spent it in Barrow with another TEA teacher, Dora Nelson, and Misty Nikula-Ohlsen, a teacher who is a part of the TREC program. Dora?s work is complex, and the best way to learn about it is to go to her homepage on the TEA site. When I was there, Dora was in Barrow for her third trip, and she had recently said goodbye to three students who joined her there this summer. Dora is a teacher at the Carolina Day School in Asheville, NC. Misty?s work involves carbon dioxide flux. The group with which she is working is trying to find out if the Arctic, in this case, the tundra, is a sink (takes in more than it releases) or a source of armospheric CO2. You can find out more about Misty?s work by going to the TREC link from the TEA homepage. Misty is a middle school math and science teacher from Bellingham, Washington.
We (Alicia Clark and I) were lucky to have the chance to go out on the tundra with Misty and her colleague as they checked their instruments and downloaded data. Dora decided to come along with us and, as we walked into the site, she explained some of the changes seen in Barrow recently. For example, natives are seeing robins in Barrow for the first time, and there are species of grasses on the tundra that have never been there before. Researchers who came up this year to study the snowy owl (as they have done for years) left early because there were virtually no owls to be found. That?s most likely because there are almost no lemmings, the usual food for the owls. The natives believe the lemmings have gone because there are so many more people, but no one knows for sure. Another problem across Alaska is that many buildings that are anchored in the permafrost are in trouble as the permafrost is melting.
Changes are taking place very rapidly in the Arctic, both on land and in the Arctic Ocean. It?s unclear how much of the change is natural and how much humans have had an impact. Hopefully scientists like Dr. Grebmeier and those with whom Misty and Dora are working can collect the data needed to evaluate and understand exactly what is happening and why.
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