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18 July, 2003

Lots of Fun Critters

Today in Kotzebue

The weather has warmed up for my last day in Kotzebue; it is a beautiful sunny day. The water is calm and it is finally a perfect day for diving. Unfortunately, the water has been so stirred that visibility was very limited but Steve and Max had fun.

What Science Is Happening?
With the lovely weather the we decided to go across the sound to Cape Krusenstern National Monument on the Chukchi Sea. Creatures were pulled up in crab pots and were dredged from the bottom of the sea.

We cataloged and photographed all the different species. They were then bagged. Tissue samples will be sent back to the lab for isotopic analysis. There were things I was familiar with like starfish, crabs and sand dollars, but also raspberry coral that looked like, well, a big raspberry. There was a large sea creature that looked like a giant slimy potato, but it was really a colony of smaller animals.

My job was to catalog the clams, into living and dead. This wouldn’t have been a problem except, when I found a live one, I had to take the insides out. Clams tend to resist this procedure. Mollusks (clams, oysters and scallops) have a foot (it looks like a tongue) and it would try to “lick” me and close on my finger; this was a bit unnerving. I decided to video myself doing it, so we have great footage of me screaming. In the end, I had to put them in hot water for a bit before shucking them.

Classroom Connections:
Cataloging the organisms was a concerted effort between:
1. general knowledge
2. looking them up in reference books and
3. picking the brains of the Steve, Max and Will.
What do you do when you find something and you don’t know what it is/ You can use the same formula.
1. First, visually classify. LOOK at it, what is it like? Is it a seed or an animal product, a flower or a grass? You can use that as a starting point to then
2. consult a good reference book.
3. When that fails, ask an expert. Take the item to your local zoo, or nature center.


Tomorrow, I board a plane for home and my Arctic adventure is over. My only regret is that I didn’t get to spend more time on the TEK portion of the project, directly during interviews. The interview process is a long one of gaining trust and earning community respect. Terry Reynolds is working on that part of the project. He and his wife, Melinda moved to Kotzebue over a year ago and will be living there for another year and a half or longer. It is hard for short-timers, like myself, to make those connections but I have learned a great deal from talking with people about the immense scope of Traditional Ecological Knowledge and the reasons why studying and preserving that wisdom is so important.

While I am missing my home and family, I’m going to miss Kotzebue too. This has been a fascinating experience, it has brought science alive for me and I hope that it has brought a crack of understanding of the scientific process into your live.


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

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