Visiting Brevig

    It’s only been a couple of months since the cruise, but it already feels like ages ago! Since disembarking the ship, we’ve all been very busy catching up with life, analyzing data (me), starting a whole new school year (Rebecca). And now I’m back in Alaska visiting Rebecca at her school in Brevig Mission! Usually, my time in the region is spent on a boat and far from shore, so I’m really excited to have this opportunity to spend some time on land and meet the people who live here.

    It took me 40 hours and 4 flights to get to Brevig from my home on Cape Cod. When I arrived, Rebecca greeted me in the school truck and brought me to her house, which is right next to the school. I was quickly reacquainted with her dog Bailey, who I had the pleasure of meeting in Nome at the end of the cruise.

    The Bering Air plane to Brevig was the smallest I’ve ever ridden in.


    I’d already heard a lot about Brevig from Rebecca, but I was still struck by how beautiful and remote it is here. The lagoon and ocean are on one side of the village, and the tundra and mountains are on the other. Everyone I’ve met has been kind and welcoming, and I can tell that this is a community where people look out for each other.

    Rebecca already has her hands full working with students all day - and now she has a scientist to manage on top of it! I am so grateful to her for being such a patient and generous host. After school every day, we’ve gone on a little adventure outside of town…one day we went four-wheeling along the coast to pick berries, and another day we took Bailey for a walk up a nearby mountain.

    Mountain View
    The view from the mountain behind Brevig Mission

    Four Wheeling
    My first time on a four-wheeler and I’m covered in mud!

    Science Activities

    Of course, I didn’t come out just to pick berries, and most of my time has been spent at the Brevig Mission School in Rebecca’s science classroom. These are just a few of the activities that we did this the week:

    IFCB PhytoplanktonSmall or microscopic aquatic plants that float or drift in fresh or salt water. Identification

    One of the instruments that we used on the ship this summer was the Imaging Flow Cytobot, or IFCB for short. This robot takes images of the phytoplankton in the water, allowing us to detect blooms in real time. Unfortunately, I couldn’t bring an IFCB out to Brevig with me, since they weigh over 100 lbs and are quite challenging to transport, but I was able to bring some data from the cruise. The students got to look at images from the IFCB, compare summer and fall communities in the Bering Strait and Chukchi Sea, and practice identifying different kinds of phytoplankton. I’d love to give a shoutout to the folks at Kachemak Bay Research Reserve for their incredible [phytoplankton guide]( or microscopic aquatic plants that float or drift in fresh or salt water.%20Guide_May_11_2015_sm.pdf) , which we made great use of in this activity.

    IFCB Example
    An example of what the IFCB data looks like.

    Saxitoxin Game

    Rebecca came up with the idea for this game when we were on the ship this summer. We began to testing it out when we were still at sea, and it was awesome to see it take shape in the classroom! In this game, each student plays as a clam in the ocean eating phytoplankton (they pick from a deck of phytoplankton cards that Rebecca made). Each round, the students poop and eat new phytoplankton, and then check to see whether they’ve eaten any toxic Alexandrium. As the game progresses, Rebecca manipulates the deck by adding or removing Alexandrium, simulating the progression of a bloom. At the end of the game students calculate how toxic they are based on how many Alexandrium are in their stomach, and use this information that to find out what symptoms they would give someone who ate them. This ended up being such a thoughtful and engaging way for students to think about how toxins are transferred through the food web, learn about paralytic shellfish poisoning symptoms, and consider how different environmental scenarios can impact bloom development.

    Cup Cast

    A common research cruise morale activity involves decorating Styrofoam cups and sending them down on the deepest CTDA research tool that is submerged in the water to measure conductivity (salinity), temperature, and depth. cast (often over 2000 meters!). The pressure from the water causes the cups to shrink and compress, and they re-emerge from the water very different from how they went in. You can learn more about the CTDA research tool that is submerged in the water to measure conductivity (salinity), temperature, and depth. from Rebecca’s blog post, or about cup cast science in this lesson plan created by a past PolarTREC teacher. There is another research cruise leaving from Nome in just a couple of weeks, so the students had the chance to decorate some cups to send along on this trip! In a couple of months, they will get their cups back and see what happened to them on their journey to the bottom of the Arctic Ocean.

    Can’t wait to see what these look like when they get back from the bottom of the ocean!

    I’m so thankful to all of the students for testing out some of these activities with us, and we will use their experiences and feedback to make the lessons even better in the future. Once we’ve had time to polish them up, we’ll be posting some of these as lesson plans to share – so stay tuned!

    Some lessons and drawings from the week.

    Brevig Mission