Archive for the ‘Courtney Hammond’ Category

Just a quick note to say that IGERT cohort 3 has safely arrived in Greenland! We got here yesterday evening, and are about to begin our adventures today. Here’s a quick recap of our trip north:

We arose around 4:00AM yesterday morning in order to catch a 5:00AM shuttle from our hotel to the New York Air National Guard base in Scotia. After waiting around at the base for a few hours, we finally boarded the LC-130 plane around 8:30AM.


Boarding the LC-130. Note the cool colored logo: a dragon at the north pole!

The LC-130s to Greenland are not known for their comfort, and this flight was no exception. The aircraft is very loud, and all passengers have to wear ear protection for the entire flight. It’s also cold, so most opt to wear down jackets and boots. Lastly, and most importantly, it’s quite cozy! The tail of the plane is filled with cargo, and passengers sit on webbing seats in the front. Alas, the flight lasts about six hours.


Cozy accomodations on the flight to Kangerlussuaq.

The best part of the flight was, of course, stopping in Goose Bay, Labrador. Most flights from Scotia to Kangerlussuaq have to stop to refuel, and we were lucky enough to be on one of these flights. What could make refueling so exciting?? The ice cream, of course! We were happily greeted in Goose Bay by assorted ice cream sandwiches and coffee, and all enjoyed the refueling stop immensely.
The sky was mostly overcast while we flew over Canada and over water, but cleared up as soon as we got to Greenland’s coast, and we were treated to spectacular views as we flew inland to Kangerlussuaq. Most of the scientists on the flight huddled around the two windows in the tail, pointing and yelling over the roar of the engines.


Beautiful views of the landscape west of Kangerlussuaq. Note the awesome glacial geology features!! I almost wept with joy when I saw the partially eroded looping end moraine at the terminus of the glacier on the right side of this photo.

Upon arrival in Kangerlussuaq we were greeted with hot dinner, hot showers, and numerous other scientists from around the world. All in all, a great trip northward!


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IPY people

IPY Montreal 2012

This week the polar community is taking over Montreal for the International Polar Year (IPY) Conference.  Since the Dartmouth Polar Environmental Change IGERT was born out of an IPY project in 2007, it seems fitting that a number of IGERT students are up here to present their research.  Moving from learning and researching to presenting and sharing their knowledge, just as the IPY Montreal theme, From Knowledge to Action, promotes.

Dr. Brundtland

Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtland’s opening keynote address

Yesterday morning the conference started off with a bang with an opening keynote address by Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtland, member of the UN Secretary General’s High Level Panel on Global Sustainability and former Prime Minister of Norway.  Dr. Brundtland’s work in the 1980’s, with the Brundtland Commission, laid the foundations for the today’s model of sustainable development.  She opened the conference by placing an emphasis on the role of science in sustainability and the importance of the polar research in finding solutions for the rest of the world.

IGERTS on the move

IGERTS making the rounds at IPY

And on that note students rushed off in all direction to various talks and sessions relating to their particular interests, ranging from polar ocean dynamics to human health and well-being to communicating polar science.  We’ve got a busy week ahead, including poster presentations and talks by Alex Lauder, Julia Bradley-Cook, Laura Levy, Ben Kopec, Rebecca Williams, Lauren Culler and, last but not least, our intrepid leader, Dr. Ross Virginia.

Lauren and her poster

IGERT Fellow Lauren Culler with her poster

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You’ve seen the Arctic once, that vast, white nothingness, so you’ve seen it all, right?  Not quite.  After spending 6 months in the Arctic, transitioning from Greenland to Alaska half way through, I realized how different various parts of the Arctic could be from one another.

White Tundra
A view of the tundra just outside of Barrow, Alaska from a helicopter.

In Greenland this summer, IGERT Fellow Julia Bradley-Cook and I trekked and camped in the stunning mountainous region of tundra bordering the Greenland ice sheet near Kangerlussuaq (67° 01’ N, 50° 42’ W), collecting samples for her research on soil carbon dynamics in the area.  Kangerlussuaq is more of an outpost than a town; mainly existing to support the international airport located there, the scientific community, and a growing tourist economy.

Russel glacier
One of our many stunning lunch spots, at Russell Glacier near Kangerlussuaq, Greenland.

Barrow, Alaska (71° 18’ N, 156° 44’ W), on the other hand, is a booming city compared to Kangerlussuaq.  The city is the seat of the North Slope Borough’s government and has a population of around 5,000 people, approximately 60% of whom are Alaskan Native Iñupiaq Eskimo.

Barrow by helicopter

Barrow, Alaska

When I arrived in Barrow I was stunned to see a completely flat horizon line in all directions, the Ocean to the North, and the openness of the “slope” to the South.

The community also seemed improbable: hundreds of houses built on stilts, plopped down on a dirt patch.  There are no paved roads in Barrow (due to permafrost), but there are a number of stoplights and no shortage of cars, ATVs and snowmobiles.

My street in Barrow
My street in Barrow.

During my three-month stay in Barrow I worked as a community outreach intern for the Barrow Arctic Science Consortium (BASC) through the Dartmouth Stefansson Fellowship program.  Up until very recently BASC provided logistical support for researchers visiting Barrow and functioned as a bridge between the scientific community and the local community through weekly outreach events.  I came onboard to start up a new outreach effort targeting local k-12 students.

A researcher heading out into the large patch of tundra that makes up the Barrow Environmental Observatory.

What really surprised me in my work with students was the lack of awareness for the wealth of research taking place in Barrow (since Barrow is one of the major hotspots for Arctic research). With the support of the school district, I was able to connect students to visiting scientists and local science organizations via small group field trips and class visits. In the three months we organized and ran 33 field trips and set up a framework to continue the program throughout the school year and into the summer. It is my hope that this internship will continue either with BASC or with another local logistics organization so that teachers and students can take advantage of all the special opportunities and resources in their community.

Field trip with Archaeologist Anne Jensen
Middle School Students on a field trip with local Archaeologist Anne Jensen.

While my experiences in Greenland and Alaska felt like polar opposites, together they gave me a bigger and better picture of Arctic life!

Two Foxes
A couple Arctic Foxes enjoying the first snow of the season in Barrow.

If you would like to see more of what I was up to in Barrow, you can check out the blog I was keeping during my time there: http://above66degreesnorth.wordpress.com/

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I got back from Greenland one week ago, yet I find myself caught in the transition between fieldwork mode and the “real world”. I am still shaking the impulse to pack a fleece, hat and rain gear when I head out the door for short errands on these indisputably beautiful summer days. I am struggling to convey to friends and family all the big and small things that made my 6 weeks in the tundra absolutely wonderful — like how thrilling it feels to dig and hit flat, smooth frozen soil, or how, when isolated without internet in the tundra, Courtney and I turned to Courtne-pedia and Juli-pedia as the most reliable (and entertaining, if not credible) sources of information.

To smooth the transition I seek out the things that bridge my summer of science and adventure with the world that has gone on without me. For this reason, I found myself at an exhibit of Ruth Gruber’s photographs at the International Center of Photography in my home town of New York City.

Ruth Gruber in Alaska, 1941-1943

Gruber is a photojournalist who spent time in Alaska and the Soviet Arctic during the 1930’s and 1940’s. The exhibit had amazing documentation from her travels – pictures of Juneau, AK as a small frontier town on the precipice of the Alaskan wilderness and film footage of a native Alaskan cutting a child’s hair during a boat ride.

The most stunning photos were a series of color photos which are thought to be the earliest color images of Alaska, and were developed for the first time for this particular exhibit.  The series is full of vibrant red and yellow tones that convey the conundrum of how much and how little has changed in the past 60 years. The single image that struck me most was one of a native woman reading an issue of Life magazine: her face and fur hood are lite up by the Arctic sun and a famous baseball player is poised on the magazine cover.

Eklutna woman reading Life magazine, photograph by Ruth Gruber

Looking at the photo I could almost feel the Arctic air on my own cheeks; I felt the profound significance of the merging cultures that now define Alaska.

In addition to the enthralling content of her photographs, I could not help but be impressed by Gruber’s life story. In 1931, at the age of 20, she became the youngest person (male or female!) to earn a PhD. Shortly after, she became the first journalist (again, male or female!) to travel into the Soviet Arctic and later, with a letter of reference from the famous polar explorer Vilhjalmur Stefansson, was assigned by the U.S. Secretary of the Interior to report on the conditions of the remote Arctic frontier. On display in the ICP exhibit was video footage of an interview with Gruber from earlier this year. At 100 years old, she is engaging and provides animated reflections on her own career. She did not harp on her early scholarly success and did not even mention the innumerable challenges that she surely must have faced as an intelligent and ambitious young woman working in extreme conditions. Instead, she talked about how the Arctic forced her to reevaluate her native New Yorker instinct to speed through life and showed her how to exist in the present. She spoke about how her greatest moments came out of her dedication to the greater cause of human rights; photojournalism just happens to be her tool. I am inspired to learn Gruber’s story, to see the Arctic through her lens and, most of all, to hear her reflections on a lifetime of astounding success.

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While Julia and I camped out with the IGERT cohort 2 this last week, Corina Gamma, a documentary filmmaker in Greenland filming for her latest project Warm Greetings, visited us out at camp to get some footage of what the IGERT crew is up to.  In the morning, I was able to chat with Corina, over oatmeal and coffee, about her project and the motivations behind it.

Documentary Filmmaker Corina Gamma

Documentary Filmmaker Corina Gamma

Corina’s film intends to explore two stories occurring in tandem in Greenland during this period of dramatic social and ecological change.  These stories are that of the Greenlandic Inuit, reflecting on their long lasting and strong connection with the land; and that of the scientists studying Greenland, piecing together the picture of the earth’s climate history and it’s future.  Through exploring these two stories together, the film will demonstrate the interconnectedness of these perspectives and attempt to put forward a more complete description of Greenland’s current situation and potential future state.

Corina Gamma interviewing Thomas Overly in front of the ice sheet.

Corina Gamma interviewing IGERT Fellow Thomas Overly

In my mind, both the IGERT program and Corina’s project are two responses to the same question:  how do we overcome the gap between science and public understanding to raise awareness and enact real, sustainable changes?

IGERT fellows, on top of making a commitment to further the body of scientific knowledge in their respective field of study, also have recognized the importance of communicating this research beyond the scientific community and engaging in constructive dialogue surrounding these issues.  One of the main goals of the IGERT program is interdisciplinary learning. And while this goal includes the interactions between students in earth sciences, engineering and biological sciences, importantly, it also means extending the impact and understanding of these research questions into social and political realms.  Just today the IGERT cohort 2 took off on a flight to Nuuk (the capital of Greenland) to spend the week meeting with local residents and key political figures.

During Corina’s visit, it was inspiring to see the confluence of these two approaches to solving the same problem.  Truly an interdisciplinary moment!

For more information about Corina Gamma’s Warm Greetings  project, you can visit her webpage at : http://warmgreetingsthemovie.com/

And to read Corina’s own blog post about visiting the IGERT students, click here.

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Julia and I are half way into our time here in Greenland, and the tundra still seems to have surprises in store for us on a daily basis.  Here are some of the recent highlights:

baby arctic hare
Baby Arctic Hare

Niviarsiaq, the Greenlandic National Flower

Arctic Fox
An Arctic Fox who decided to run through our camp.

skull and flowers
A Caribou skull with some blooming tundra.

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On July 5th, IGERT Fellow Julia Bradley-Cook and I met up with 20 some Greenlandic, Danish and American high school students in Kangerlussuaq participating in the Joint Science Education Program.  After a chat in the morning where Julia shared her research interests, methods and goals, we headed out into the field with the students to collect some data!  Here are some highlights from Julia’s chat and the day:


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