I think of Leana almost like our Russian “mother:” she always makes sure we don’t head out to the field without a lunch, often puts out our favorite snacks for late night lab work, and looks out for us with a watchful eye.
In the aftermath of our symposium presentations at the Northeast Science Station, I thought about what further analyses to run on the data I collected in the tundra. I have found a few exciting initial patterns, but I have to work much harder to understand my more complicated measurements. I have a nagging question. How does knowing what I now know help?
We have returned safely back home, with mixed feelings, at least in my case. I’m happy to be back, but miss the friends we left behind at the Northeast Science Station, and the immersion in a world unlike anything else I ever get to experience.…
The core group has been gone from Cherskiy for not an hour, and already an eerie silence has settled over the Northeast Science Station. Craig Connoly, Seth Spawn, and myself, along with some German students, are all that remain here.
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.
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.