Off to Alaska!

Professor Marc Frischer and research technician Victoria Baylor are traveling to Point Barrow, Alaska for field work on their project to study the effects of global climate change on the coastal environment there.

Dr. Frischer will be blogging about their adventures. Here is the first report.

Notes from the Arctic — We’re on our way!  August 23 & 24th, 2010.

Today was a travel day.  After months of planning, preparation, ordering supplies, and shipping we’re finally off.  This will be our second sampling trip to Barrow Alaska, the most northern point in the continental US.  Our goal is to collect information concerning the response of the organisms at the very base of the food web (the microbes) to climate change.  Arctic ecosystems are considered to be the most sensitive environments to the effects of climate change.

The journey itself is an adventure.  Victoria Baylor and I left Savannah on Monday August 23,  early in the morning traveling to Atlanta, Minneapolis, Anchorage, Fairbanks, Prudhoe Bay, and finally to Barrow — racking up nearly 5,000 frequent flier miles along the way.

Marc Frischer (right) with friend in Anchorage hotel lobby

It never ceases to amaze me how big our country is and yet, at the same time, how fragile it is. This is certainly one of the great paradoxes of our times.  Amazingly, with the exception of a few minor delays that we’ve all come to expect whenever we travel by air, the trip itself was thankfully uneventful.

Sunset in Anchorage

After arriving in Barrow and being greeted by the rest of our team who had arrived earlier, we spent the next 14 hours readying our equipment and laboratories for the first sampling expedition tomorrow. Our team, in addition to Victoria and myself, includes Debbie Bronk, Quinn Roberts, and Rachel Sipler from the Virginia Institute of Marine Sciences, and Tara Connelly and Karrie Sines from the University of Georgia. Our goal is to sample coastal water just a couple of miles offshore at a standard station we have previously established.  The last time we were here in April, we had to access our site on snow machines and had to drill a hole in the ice to sample the water below.

Now in August, the ice is melted and we’ll be traveling to our site in a small boat charted from a native whaling captain. Currently the temperature in Barrow is in the upper 40’s (F) and, at least for now, sunny. For sure, one thing that really slaps you in the face up here is the extreme climate.

Stay tuned for more, the fun really begins tomorrow!

Marc Frischer

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