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17 July, 2003

Better Weather

Today in Kotzebue

The weather is much improved. Yesterday we were unable to get in any boating because the water was too choppy. Clear and sunny with not too many mosquitoes.

What Science Is Happening?
There were 3 trips out in the boat today so, we had a lot of work to do today. We had lots of mud to sieve. Not too many interesting creatures today, just a lot of rocks.

They also took sediment (bottom mud) core samples. We squeezed the sediment out of the syringes and measured it into bags. This will be shipped to North Carolina and tested chlorophyll (the amount of plant that makes it to different levels of sediment. Then we know how much there is for mud dwelling creatures to eat.
After work was finished I stopped by Alex and Martha Whiting's house. Alex works for the Kotzebue IRA, the official tribal organization and he is one of the primary researchers on our project. Martha is a life-long resident of Kotzebue. She told me some very interesting stories about the changes she has seen in Kotzebue. Her family is one of the last "migrating" families. They stay in town during winter and in April they go to one of their 3 camps. Martha still goes out to camp and just returned. At this time of year people are hunting ugruk (bearded seals) The seal oil is used as an all purpose spice and salad dressing. Residents also harvest sea gull and duck eggs. In August begins the berry season begins, while blueberries and black berries are always favorite, it is salmon berries (named for their pinkish color) that highly prized.

When Martha was a child she left school one month early and returned two months late every year so she could go with family to camp. Now there is a traveling teacher that visits the local camp once a week to help kids keep up. The traditions, although they are dying out are still being passed on. Denali, Alex and Martha's 11-year-old daughter is now learning skills that have been passed down for generations.


Something you haven't heard about in a while. The dread fear that society would collapse in the year 2000 never came to pass, but many in Kotzebue would have been prepared. Martha tells me that she would have been just fine. Alex hunts, they fish, they have fresh water, berries and sour doc (a spinach-like plant), herbal medications.

I was sitting here reflecting on the traditional ecological knowledge portion of our project. Besides learning local food webs and changes, there are a lot more things that it would be beneficial to have recorded. I hope that we can expand studies to include more of this knowledge that has been refined by time to teach our own kids.


Learn more about our project here
View curriculum for this project, "Ask a Scientist" and learn about other Arctic Real Time research at Arctic Alive
City of Kotzebue Webpage
Listen to the local radio station KOTZ live

Time for me to start packing up here. How am I going to pack up my 5 foot, garbage-picked find of a carabou skull and antlers? Unfortunately, after inquiring with the local cargo company, I'll have to pack with a hack-saw. Hopefully, I'll be able reassemble these magestic antlers to give my classes the full effect.

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