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31 March, 2002

Easter Sunday, March 31, 2002 -

I have spent the last four days snowmobiling 200+ miles through a true wilderness. Not sign of people, just vast openness filled with arctic life (or at least the potential for life). What a world. Things read have taken on much different meaning - a clearer picture has been formed, to say the least. The idea of cold, frozen, vast, beautiful - all fall short of the experience. I've seen the frozen tundra lakes that will be home to the millions of summer buzzing insects, the plains that will be home to the caribou, the dips and draws that will fill with moisture from melting ice and snow to provide homes to the diversity of birds, and a small hill overlooking miles and miles of wilderness in all directions which I will be calling home. Too much to think about! Permafrost is real - seeing this frozen land, it is a wonder that even the top layer has the potential to thaw in the short summer. On the other hand, witnessing the extension of daylight each day has shown how easily the sun climbs allowing for "the midnight sun". Even while I was out for 4 days, the day length increased by more than an hour (causing me to miss sunrise Easter services I planned to attend on Lake Teshekpuk). This entire area abounds with science and the potential for more research. The amount of information already learned is small in comparison to other ecosystems, as field studies are limited by climate and the frailty of humans. The remoteness provides the area of untouched research, and the uniqueness of the polar region's weather patterns, global position, and geological formations provides more questions than can be asked. And many are being asked. At last count, there were 66 National Science Funded research projects active in the Barrow region right now. There are both state and federal wildlife offices, NOAA, and affiliations with many top researchers right here in Barrow. The science that is taking place is almost as overwhelming as the environment itself. Although I've been here a week, it has felt like just moment. Now anticipation for the summer field season has my heart racing. What I will have the opportunity to learn, see and do is more than can be written. Science is an incredible process to take part in!

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