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Naval Academy Polar Science Program Participates in Arctic Research

Posted on: October 18, 2013 08:00 EDT by USNA Oceanography Department

The U.S. Naval Academy Polar Sciences Program participated in the MACARENA 2013 field research project on the North Slope of Alaska from Aug. 16-25. 

The objectives of MACARENA, short for Measuring Arctic Carbon Research in Northern Alaska, were to collect data and field samples from the Arctic tundra and coastal Beaufort Sea on the North Slope of Alaska to measure methane flux to the atmosphere.  Data and results will be used to ground truth fly-over measurements of atmospheric methane being collected in collaboration with National Science Foundation-sponsored research being conducted by Harvard University. 

Lt. Cmdr. John Woods and Dr. Joseph P. Smith from the academy’s Oceanography Department and two oceanography majors, Midshipman 1st Class Rizalina Suriben and Midshipman 2nd Class Erik Boudart, joined a team of researchers from the Naval Research Laboratory and the U.S. Army's Engineer Research and Development Center.

The USNA team was divided between two MACARENA 2013 field research efforts.  Woods and the two midshipmen worked with the tundra and lake team operating around Prudhoe Bay and Deadhorse, Alaska.  

The daily routine consisted of long days traveling to and from remote field sites by truck followed by evening work to prepare samples and analyze data.  Along the way, the team was able to see some of the North Slope wildlife such as caribou and musk oxen, visit mile zero of the Alaskan pipeline, and even take a (quick) dip in the Arctic Ocean.

Smith worked with a coastal ocean team based out of Nuiqsut, Alaska, for sampling on the Beaufort Sea to collect water samples and in situ water column data from coastal sites in the vicinity of the Colville River, the largest freshwater source to the U.S. Alaskan North Slope.

A typical research day consisted of working from a 20-foot River Runner covering 70-90 miles per day, sometimes in freezing weather and occasionally even snow. No polar bears were sighted, only an occasional seal or musk ox.

The team members were instrumental in helping to collect data and samples from over 10 tundra and lake sites and 11 coastal ocean sites. 

“This was an experience I had always dreamed of,” said Suriben. “I made sure that I asked as many questions as I could to understand the science we were doing as best I could. These people had so much insight and expertise.”

Suriben will use experience, data and results from MACARENA 2013 as the basis of her honors independent research project next semester.

A blog site chronicling the USNA-PSP experience in MACARENA 2013 can be found at http://usnapsp.blogspot.com/.  Photos and live posts can be found on the USNA-PSP Facebook page. Additional photos are available on the Google + page
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