Reflections on a meat donut

July 14, 2008

Day three on the barge, and we are currently in the middle of the Kolyma river. The barge is being pulled along south so we can experience the range of environments along the river, and eventually bear witness to dynamic changes in permafrost when we reach Duvannyi Yar. So we have some time on our hands as we wait for the barge to stop, and I find myself thinking about lunch in Yakutsk (this is no reflection on our culinary experience on the barge, which has been great). Just around the corner from our hotel-like structure in Yakutsk we found a little cafeteria-style restaurant where I tried my first piroshky. In case you have never had one, a piroshky is a pastry filled with potatoes or vegetables or meat, whatever you prefer. The version of choice this day was deep-fried and filled with meat and was aptly described by Andy Bunn as a ‘meat donut’.

Upon further reflection, it occurred to me that the meat donut is a metaphor for one of our objectives on the Polaris Project.

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We don’t normally associate donuts and meat as belonging together in the same mouthful, nor would most of us naturally assume that the juxtaposition of these two would result in something better than the sum of the parts, that there would be a synergy between them that would result in a tasty mix of flavors, and yet it works. Spectacularly.

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In our work on the Polaris Project, we are attempting to achieve a similar synergy. We are starting from the premise that focusing the energies of an interdisciplinary group of scientists on a common objective, specifically understanding factors influencing the transport of C and N from forests to ocean will generate a more complete and effective result. The mix of students and faculty we currently have includes a wide diversity of skills and theoretical and conceptual backgrounds. We hope that mixing us all together here in Cherskiy and immersing ourselves completely in our Polaris world, we can achieve a level of understanding greater than any of us (or our disciplines) could achieve on our own. So far, this seems to be working. We are maintaining our sanity, getting some work done, and some interesting ideas are emerging from uncountable conversations in the field and on the ‘barge of science’.

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We can, I believe, live up to the standards of collaborative success represented by the meat donut.

One Response to “Reflections on a meat donut”

  1. July 17, 2008 at 2:16 pm, Mary Alice Llewellyn said:

    We enjoyed reading your analogy to the piroshky. We think you can get a good explanation of the Rettkowski version of a Wilbur, WA version of a Mexican/American piroshki from Tyler! Piroshkis are a “staple” food in our family for camping!