What's Happening Now?

    As the general public continues to receive news, updates, witness accounts, videos and other information regarding COVID-19, conferences and organizational meetings around the world are being affected. Many organizations are considering whether and how to address the potential impact of the coronavirus on their upcoming meetings and events. Unfortunately, this has been the case with our own PolarTREC orientation. And right now, I'm in New Zealand trying to make my way back home to Alaska!

    Hooker Lake
    Glaciers in Hooker Lake in the shadow of Aoraki/Mount Cook at Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park

    Flashback: Who Am I and What Am I Doing?

    I am currently the English and Engineering teacher, who teaches all high school students at Nenana City School in Nenana, Alaska (9th through 12th grade). With a city population of less than 400 persons, we currently have enrolled about 200 students attending our K-12 school with ~70 students in grades K-8, and ~130 students in grades 9-12. This number includes the ~100 students residing at the Nenana Student Living Center (NSLC), one of several statewide boarding facilities for high school students living in remote villages in Alaska.

    Living and working in rural Alaska, I have certainly realized the importance of community involvement and teamwork. The more I have worked together with - and come to value - the contributions of Nenana’s diverse population, the more I understand the importance of team building and see a need to develop new connections between our school and our community. During my PolarTREC expedition, I will be joining the Dr. Anderson/Dr. Pickart labs from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in the Bering, Chukchi, and Beaufort Seas for one month doing harmful algal bloom (HAB) research. This research is especially important to me and my students, as its cultivated data illustrates HAB-induced impacts on important subsistence lifestyle.

    PolarTREC 2019 Piper Bartlett-Browne
    Duing the 2019 PolarTREC HAB expedition, Jackie Grebmeier and Kelly Kapsar collect a recently pulled core and prepare it for experimentation on the back deck. (Photo by Dr. Jackie Grebmeier, Courtesy of Piper Bartlett-Browne (PolarTREC 2019), Courtesy of ARCUS)

    Present Moment: Recap

    Thanks to our PolarTREC leadership team for their diligence in planning around this challenge in order to best prepare everyone! It is incredible to have digital access to our training. It’s truly fascinating how successful people approach problems. Others see an impenetrable barrier, while successful people see challenges to embrace and obstacles to overcome. Even if this challenge has slowed the transmission of knowledge, we are experiencing amazing growth in our educational capacity.

    Screen Shot Photo Info
    Ronnie the Genius is teaching us how to upload our photos!

    Where To?

    Every journey has a starting point, and so has my personal growth journey during orientation. I am honored to be a part of PolarTREC because I know that my own experiences as a student – in particular, what I learned from my many amazing, passionate teachers over the years – has cultivated within me a desire to learn, to challenge myself, and to explore the world around me. My love of learning led to my love of teaching, and so far, my PolarTREC experiences have been helping me to become a better teacher today, so that I can better help nurture this same passion within my own students. Instilling a love of learning in students ensures a brighter future for them and all mankind. I discover terrific joy in guiding children to the acquisition of knowledge and skills, and more importantly, knowing that, through PolarTREC, I can make an impact beyond that of academics has cemented my excitement as part of this important experience.

    Lake Tekapo, New Zealand


    Jon Pazol

    Eric, I am always interested in a person's backstory - how and why he or she arrived at a current place in life. This is especially true of educators involved in these types of programs. First off, what have you been doing in New Zealand? And, did you grow up in Alaska? If not, how did you end up in Nenana? Living outside of Chicago, my students are very "removed" from Arctic and polar themes, and I sometimes struggle with incorporating the topics. Will your students have a strong connection to your research?

    Sarah Johnson

    It's so incredibly neat that you're PolarTREC expedition will link students to a not so foreign world that is deeply rooted within their community's landscape and recent and ancient history. You're connecting their stories and doing science all at the same time. So very cool!