I knew I did not want to leave the tundra. As I stood with friends on the cliff next to the sand spit where the barge was parked, I leaned into the wind from the south. Something was welling up inside me. At the time, it came out as song—all five of us were belting as we watched dark blue storm clouds pierced with lightening in the northern sky and bronze sunlight dancing on the Kolyma River water to the south.
Before I came to the tundra, I imagined it to be a vast, flat landscape. And it is indeed vast, but flat is the last word I would use to describe the tundra. The topography is dynamic, just on a very tiny scale.
The core students have been working hard in the field collecting, mapping, photographing, and measuring their plots, streams, and ponds. Now that we are into the last days of our time in the tundra the focus has turned toward extracting the numbers from the various samples.
Even though mammoths are absent from the park, we still have a plethora of arctic megafauna influencing our sites. The animals leave signs of their presence in the form of hair, trails, browsed shrubs, and especially dung.
Only a handful of returning students are still here at the North East Science Station. The Core and the rest of the students are up in the tundra, working on their projects. Although historically being sent to the tundra is a bad thing, I can’t help but feel a little jealous as I pull yet another tiny tin of soil out of the oven.
It is very exciting to watch the core students and listen to how their conversations and questions develop and evolve as they experience the tundra firsthand and receive insights from the faculty members. This team has shown a huge amount of support for each other and a high level of understanding about what it takes to conduct successful polar science in the field.
I want to understand how arctic ground squirrels are influencing carbon flux in the tundra. These little critters are one of many examples of wildlife that can affect the processes that affect climate change.
The barge is the central hub of life. The metal hull is about 30 meters long with a 10 meter flat deck in the bow where two tents sit. They are tied down by an ancient bison femur, a mammoth scapula and other bones we found on our travels.
I thought I knew what I wanted to study, and how to do it. I needed water—a stream that ran from headwaters down through beaded pools and into an outlet. There were many of them around Cherskiy, but there were none near our mooring on the Kolyma River.
Major funding for the Polaris Project comes from the National Science Foundation and the Woods Hole Research Center. Additional funding comes from the Betsy and Jesse Fink Foundation, the Cogan Family Foundation, College of the Holy Cross, Clark University, St. Olaf College, Western Washington University, and Colgate University.