As my Honors Biology students at St. Thomas Aquinas High School shuffled out of my third block class, my phone rang. It was Sarah Bartholow on the other end of the line and my heart began to race.

“Dr. Lee Cooper would like to work with you for the 2019 PolarTREC season!”

With remarkable calmness, I accepted the position and thanked her for the call. The minute I hung up, I did my happy dance and smiled. I would be joining Dr. Cooper's ship-based research group in the Chukchi Sea, contributing to his long-term data set of ecological and biochemical factors and how they are being affected by climate change. I was about to embark on an amazing journey that would provide my students with a unique opportunity to interact with real scientists in the unfamiliar arctic ecosystem.

A short two and a half months later, I was on a plane to orientation in Fairbanks, AK. My redeye flight from Boston consisted of two layovers and by the early morning hours I was exhausted. That all changed on the final leg of the journey from Anchorage to Fairbanks. As the sun began to rise, I looked below to see the snow-capped mountains of the Alaska Range and the spring thaw of the river valleys separating the peaks. I was re-energized.

I got into town a day early so I dropped my bags off at the hotel and headed into town. People were so friendly and willing to share their knowledge (or golden nuggets!) about local mining history and ecosystems. It was sunny and relatively warm, which made walking around much more enjoyable. I visited the Moose Antler Arch, the Morris Thompson Cultural and Visitors Center, and the Fairbanks Community Museum. As I gathered cultural information for most of the day, I was looking forward to start talking science with my fellow educators the following day.

The Moose Archway
Piper Bartlett-Browne under the Moose Archway in downtown Fairbanks, AK

The End of the Line
The northermost point of the Alaska Railway System

Orientation began in the lobby of our hotel where we were picked up and taken to UAF. It was exciting to meet all of these creative teachers that also had a love for science. As the first day progressed, I remembered something that I had learned the previous day during my time downtown. Two major rivers, the Yukon and the Tanana, merge in Interior Alaska and is known by the Alaska Natives as Nuchalawoyya. I realized that this was the perfect way to describe how I was feeling about my PolarTREC appointment. This expedition was my Nuchalawoyya. My passion for education and science would be merging during my experience in the Arctic aboard the USCGC Healy. This meeting will create a strong current of ideas to share with my students and community for years to come!

The Morris Thompson Cultural and Visitors Center
Visiting The Morris Thompson Cultural Visitors Center in downtown Fairbanks, AK

Today's Golden Nugget

Fairbanks, AK is known as "The Golden Heart City"

A Question From the Crow's Nest

How long is the research vessel the USCGC Healy? Comment below with your answer!

Weather Summary
Sunny and clear
48 degrees F



Hmm... USCGC Healy is about 535 feet long????

Deanna Wheeler

Hi Piper-What a great 2 days of discovering your journey. I am very interested in your expedition as I was able to experience the beauty of the Chukchi and Bering Sea in 2009 and 2012 with Drs. Cooper and Grebmeier.
Looking forward to chatting with you as your two rivers intertwine.

Deanna Wheeler

Piper Bartlett…

Hello Deanna,Thank you for reaching out! I am looking forward to talking with you more about the project and your experience.

Dominique Richardson

PolarTREC has such a wonderful community to be a part of! It's great to be surrounded and supported by so many other people who are passionate about education and science. Can't wait to follow your expedition and your future collaborations!

Bill Schmoker

Hey Piper- congrats on joining the PolarTREC crew!! Very excited to see another Healy sailor getting ready to go- I spent 14 weeks on that ship over two PolarTREC expeditions. I'll let others dig into Healy's length, but I have it engraved in my muscle memory that 5 laps of the weather decks is equal to roughly a mile (with a few stairs up and down along the way for bonus.) Hit me up if you have any questions about Healy etc.!!

Regina Brinker

Hi, Piper - Nothing like walking under an arch of moose antlers to mark the start of a polar expedition! Looking forward to following your expedition.

Piper Bartlett…

Hello Bill!
I will be in touch about your expedition. I would like to pick your brain about your experiences and I look forward to sharing mine. Do you teach in Boulder, CO? I used to live there and my first teaching position was at a middle school in Commerce City!


Bill Schmoker

Indeed, I teach at Centennial Middle School in Boulder! Be in touch any time- hit my gmail (bill.schmoker) since I don't get journal notifications unless they are on my expedition page.
Best- Bill