Here's an update from Kaitlynn up in Alaska:
This summer I’m working at the University of Alaska Fairbanks’s Arctic biological research facility (Toolik Field Station), which is located eight hours north of Fairbanks just off the trans-Alaskan oil pipeline on the North Slope. There are a lot of researchers here from a variety of institutions and I’ve met quite a few Vermonters! One of the first people I met here actually went to Bowdoin and had the same undergrad advisor as me. I’m technically working for the University of Alaska Anchorage and my research group is studying the climate change feedbacks of the carbon and hydrological cycles in the tundra. I spend a considerable amount of time picking plants, which I can do surprisingly well thanks to my many years of weeding experience.
View of the Brooks Range from one of our field sites
The oil pipeline and the haul road
I get most Sundays off so I’ve had the chance to go on some fun hikes in the Brooks Range. A few weeks ago I hiked in an area called Atigun Gorge, which is actually part of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). The wildflowers were beautiful and I saw some really neat birds including a Snowy Owl and a Golden eagle. The running here is also pretty good and the station even has a very small gym with a set of free weights and a pull-up/dip apparatus. Unfortunately the haul road that parallels the pipeline is under pretty heavy construction right now so my running options are a bit limited unless I want to fight belly dumper trucks and massive graders for road space.
Atigun Gorge in ANWR
Life at the field station is quite fun. I live in a nice tent with electricity and a real bed, and the food here is amazing! The camp cooks make delicious homemade ice cream and bread, and there is an extensive salad bar. The kitchen serves real maple syrup, which means I think the food here is better than at Bowdoin! Two weekends ago we had a huge bonfire to celebrate the fourth of July. We exploded helium-filled plastic bags as firework substitutes and people were dancing in mud puddles. The kitchen staff went all out and made king crabs legs and steak for dinner!
The researchers are not the only ones who are eating well up here. Apparently the mosquitoes are the worst they’ve been in about 10 years. I don’t leave any skin exposed when I go into the field and sometimes our equipment malfunctions because the sensors get clogged with bugs. I’ve become a pro-bug swatter and the walls of my tent are dotted with squashed bugs. I’m incapable of outrunning the mosquitoes so I’ve had to start exercising in my hooded bug shirt. I’ll be mosquito food for another four weeks and then it’s back home for a few days before returning to Bowdoin for Pre-Os!
Lots of mosquitoes (Photo: Jesse Krause)
Knitting in the field in my mostly bug-proof attire (Photo: Niccole Van Hoey)