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5 July, 2003

Clams for Kate

Today in Kotzebue
The weather is sunny and is has been in the 60’s so we don’t have to dress in jackets. We are all a little tired after staying up late for the fourth.

What Science Is Happening?
Kate Meltzer, our grad student, has brought along an experiment of her own to work on. She is going to feed clams different things that are available in the ocean in different amounts to see which helps them grow best. This is an important experiment because one of the things these clams eat is ice algae. As the Arctic gets warmer, there will be less ice and less algae. If these bottom-of-the-food-chain feeders can do as well on other food sources that will be less of a disturbance in higher trophic levels.

Kate didn’t fair too well today. She went to purchase supplies to build a floating feeding station but the only store in town was closed for the holiday weekend. Then Kate and Lisa put on wet suits and we dragged sampling equipment down to the rocky coast. After wading out chest high in the Arctic water, however, we were unable to get mud samples containing clams. We will have to take grabs from the boat in water farther out.

Dr. William Ambrose arrived today from Maine, very tired and missing luggage. We managed to have a nice dinner before everyone tumbled off into bed. Long day tomorrow, we will have 8 hours on the boat and another 6 processing samples when we return.

Classroom Connections:

Global Warming Fact or Fiction?

A debate rages as to whether or not planet Earth is getting warmer. Some say yes and some say no. One of the big problems is that the argument is very political. Some people blame the warming on the gases that come out of car exhausts and say there should be laws to make people drive less. Other people say it is happening naturally, just like the ice ages. People can be so caught up in blaming that they aren’t good fact detectives. This is where you come in.

Divide into teams and research the following in your library or online:
1.) What has the temperature been doing since we started recording it a little over a hundred years ago? Things to consider: Is 100 years a good length of time to use to study, why or why not? (hint: The dinosaurs died out “suddenly”. The word ‘suddenly’ in this case means over 100,000 years)
2.) How could the TEK (traditional ecological knowledge) that we are studying in Kotzebue give us access to more than one lifetime’s perspective? Other history can be researched. There are illustrations of “Ice Fairs” that were held in London in the middle ages, every year on the Thames, the main water way, when it froze over. This river hasn’t frozen over in many years now.
3.)What are “green house gases” and what do they do?
4.) What makes green house gases, (don’t forget volcanoes, they make more air pollution than all the cars out together) and how much of an effect for how much gas produced? Predict what will happen in 10 years and 100 years.
5.) What will the effect be on the environment (animals and plants) if the temperature warms? In some places in Europe, spring comes 3 weeks sooner. This is bad news for the polar bears. They need the ice edge to hunt from because they eat seals. That means less cubs are born and bears are less nourished.
6.) What about the impact on humans? Remember, the poles will melt and there is a continent the size of the United States and Mexico combined covered with 2 miles of ice at the bottom of the world. When that melts what will happen to the level of the sea? What will happen to towns, like Kotzebue, by the water?

When you are all finished you can make a class display and give “the real scoop” on global warming.

This was the first day I was able to walk down the beach. One difference I have noticed in Kotzebue is that people don’t “fight” nature as much as we do at home. There aren’t cultivated yards, the flowers are all natural and death too is a part of nature. As we walked that short stretch, I saw several seals or possibly baby beluga’s that didn’t survive the winter. Some were mere skeletons and some were still a food source for local animals. Death is one of the things we are often sheltered from, but as unpleasant as it is, it is a part of life, just the same.

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

Lone scientists headed for Arctic Waters

Lisa and Kate trying in vain for a mud grab, but the shore is too rocky.

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