Archive for the ‘Hanover, NH’ Category

[as seen in Dartmouth’s The Graduate Forum (newsletter)]

As graduate students, we all share this singular pursuit, this unabashed chase of scholastic glory. We all enjoy the burden of late nights glazed with copious amounts of caffeine and buoyed by an endless sea of scientific papers. We all enjoy the bucolic wonders of Hanover and the Upper Valley, the unrelenting, yet rewarding, joys of being a graduate student at Dartmouth College. If you’re reading this, I imagine you are, like me, toiling away at some novel and intractable question while balancing the rest of your life. Not easy, but we’re all getting by. So what happens when, in the midst of this sometimes-stultifying stupor, you find yourself on the front-end of a 40-day traverse of the Greenland Ice Sheet?

Buy sunscreen!

The 3 amigos ... Thomas, Galen & Giff
[Getting ready for a day of snowmobiling! From left: Thomas Overly (IGERT), CH2MHill-supplied mountaineer and all-around awesome guy Galen Dossin, and Gifford Wong (IGERT)]

That is what I did when I found myself days away from joining the 2011 Greenland Inland Traverse (GrIT). GrIT, conceived primarily as an overland supply-run for the year-round science station at Summit Camp located on top of the ice sheet, recently became open to the idea of supporting science. The first leg of the journey is a flight from Baltimore, Maryland, to Thule Air Base on the northwest coast of Greenland. Thule Air Base is the US Armed Forces’ northernmost installation, located 750 miles north of the Arctic Circle, and serves as the home base and garage for GrIT, a joint operation involving the National Science Foundation (NSF), the US Army Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory (CRREL) and CH2M Hill Polar Services.

Professor Robert Hawley, in the Department of Earth Sciences, originally proposed the idea of pairing science with this traverse. He passed this tremendous field opportunity to two of his current graduate students – Thomas Overly and Gifford Wong (yours truly). Some of the fantastic reasons, science-wise, why this traverse was so tremendous were it provided a comfortable (relatively) platform from which to perform ground truthing studies, it was an opportunity to revisit science sites along a route that was first studied in the 1950s by Carl Benson, a CRREL-based researcher, and it lead to a wealth of data for his lab group to sift through for the next couple years.

Sunset ...
[Sun setting behind one of our Case Quad-tracks.]

But that’s not all. Nearly everyone enjoys fantastic, and sometimes far-flung, field adventures. For me, the thing that made this past field season so special was the traverse itself. It is the journey that is interesting. I’ve been fortunate to participate in polar science before (McMurdo Station [see pg.3], West Antarctica, Summit Station, and Byrd Surface Camp [see “Views of a Deep Field Virgin”, pg.11]), but I’ve never had to drive there. I’ve never had to submit myself to 1400 miles worth of ice sheet whimsy. I’ve never had so much of my livelihood rely on what continually seemed like never-long-enough days. And, I’ve never had the fortune to be surrounded by so much serenity. Perhaps my favorite moments, outside of the general tomfoolery that emerges when 6 young-at-heart individuals combine for 40 days of toil and effort, were those spent with my own thoughts as we bounded across the endless ice sheet like a small convoy of ships crossing an endless sea, buoyed by thousands of years worth of snow and ice all waiting to tell their stories.

Waypoint B11A
[The traverse train trundling along in front of some mountains at GPS waypoing “B11A”.]

This story starts out, however, as a pseudo-survival guide for any would-be ice sheet traveler. If you’re contemplating such a trip, I imagine most of the obvious concerns have already been addressed, such as packing a lot of high-calorie food or outfitting yourself with plenty of puffy and warm clothing. Like this summer’s list of things to do in Hanover, I present, in no particular order, my top 5 things to think about when traversing an ice sheet:

1) Be prepared to be cold. Not surprising, but it bears repeating.

2) Be patient. This goes along with the cold component, but hardly anything happens quickly when you’re waddling around in 8 layers of clothing. Seriously.

3) Try not to sweat. This pairs well with that patience thing, for if you do sweat you’ll definitely feel the cold.

4) Eat. You’re essentially stoking your internal, caloric heater with food, so eat often. Besides, when else can you indulge in over 4000 calories a day and lose weight?!

5) If there’s a plane, get on it. As much as I love the ice sheet, there truly is no place like home. I spent an extra 7 days in Greenland because I did not get on a plane. Silly.

And sunscreen? That ranks right up there with oxygen and a -40 sleeping bag!

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5 weeks back in Hanover after 6 weeks of field work in Greenland and the real work still lies ahead. The answers to almost all of my research questions lie within a small box, one that contains almost 2,000 dried Greenlandic mosquitoes, each of which needs to be individually weighed on a microbalance. I have started on this endeavor, and it takes approximately 1-2 minutes to weigh each mosquito. You can do the math.
The Box
[My current most valuable possession.]
Individual mosquitoes
[Samples, and individual mosquitoes in foil weighing tins (yes, I made 2,000 of these).]

But in addition to the lab work, now is when the planning for next year really begins. I always come back from the field feeling refreshed, excited, and with my head exploding with ideas for future projects. I have to get these ideas down on paper and submit them to various funding agencies, such as the National Science Foundation’s Doctoral Dissertation Improvement Grant program. With any success, I can return to Greenland next spring with a field assistant by my side and continue my mosquito study, and hopefully deliver my newest outreach project, details to come.

Have questions about my project, mosquitoes, or Arctic insects in general? Feel free to leave questions in the comments section.

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IGERT Cohort #2, consisting of Sam, Nina, Ben, Alex, Thomas, and Me are packed and ready to go to Greenland for 4 weeks.  We figured out the cargo tracking system (CTS) of the National Guard and CH2MHill’s Polar Services and delivered our cargo to NY two weeks ago.

Sam, Ben, and Alex packing cargo in the Arctic Library

Next hurdle, get the 6 of us, some faculty, an undergrad, and all our personal gear to NY for 5am Sunday the 17th (My mom’s birthday – Happy birthday Mom!). I suspect it’ll look like this:

5am on the 17th our adventure begins on this beast as we travel thousands of miles away from the heat wave of North America to Kangerlussuaq, Greenland.  Kangerlussuaq means “big fjord” in Greenlandic and the American’s call it Kanger.  So far I hear 65 and sunny in Kanger, can’t wait!

Ski equipped LC-130 of the 109th Airlift out of Schenectady NY

Greenland here we come!

P.S> this is my first ever blog post!

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Julia and I made it to Greenland, or Kalaallit Nunaat, as they call it here, meaning Land of the People. We landed about 2 hours ago after a long but delightful 45 hour journey. We left a very hot and humid Hanover at 3pm on Thursday.

LC & JBC departure 002

We took a bus from Dartmouth to the Boston airport and flew to Reykjavik Iceland where Julia did a little work on her poster over breakfast.

Travel to Greenland 001

Greenland2010 001

From there it was off to Copenhagen, Denmark. We had an overnight “layover” and made sure to do some last minute shopping for essential field gear.

JBC & LC in Copenhagen

Our Air Greenland flight left Copenhagen at 9:10am this morning (Copenhagen time) and arrived in Greenland at 9:30am (Greenland time- only 2 hours ahead of the East coast!!!). This was not necessarily the most direct route, but because of our travel dates, Julia and I could not take an Air Guard flight that goes direct from Schenectady, NY to Kangerlussuaq. The only options for getting to Greenland commercially are to fly to Nuuk via Reykjavik, or Kangerlussuaq via Copenhagen.

LC&JBC flight path

Now, we are here at the KISS building unpacking and breathing in the fresh, cool Greenlandic air. We just learned that the mosquito season is waning… good news for our sanity but I need to get to work!

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Originally uploaded by Laura Levy2010

While Gifford is up at Summit doing research, we’re back in Hanover, NH, getting ready for the IGERT trip to Greenland in July and August. Today Simone and I went grocery shopping for food. We’re grocery shopping now because we need to bring it to the Air National Guard base next week so it can be shipped to Greenland whenever they have space on one of their flights. We had fun shopping (see Simone, at right, performing ‘basket ballet’) and bought lots of good field food. We’ll take more pics as we prepare for our trip to Greenland and will share them with you.

Laura amidst the groceries...

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