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Success Stories

David Babb (Grant Park High School, Winnipeg)

I had the great honour of being part of the inaugural Schools on Board Field program during the winter of 2004. It was my first true exposure to science performed outside of the classroom and will forever be one the most memorable and influential experiences of my life. When I was onboard, the CCGS Amundsen was frozen in the ice in Franklin Bay which is on the South East corner of the Beaufort Sea and where the Amundsen Gulf meets the Beaufort Sea. The experience of living on and working off a ship frozen in ice was already cool enough but the people onboard the ship made the experience all that much more amazing! While on board I gained experience working with a wide range of scientists who were more than generous with the time and effort they dedicated to us. The research onboard ranged from Polar Bear tracking, atmospheric measurements, thickness and thermodynamic properties of ice and snow measurements, water sampling, examining extremophiles in the arctic ecosystem, and many more interesting topics. The trip was unbelievable and even temperatures of -500C weren’t enough to slow us down or keep us from working out on the ice for extended periods of time.

The Schools on Board experience like I said earlier has been one of the most influential experiences of my life. Like many students finishing high school I had no idea what path I wanted to pursue but my experience onboard the CCGS Amundsen lead me to the Clayton H. Riddell Faculty of Environment, Earth and Resources at the University of Manitoba where I am currently finishing my B.Sc Physical Geography Honours. After my undergrad I am looking forward to continuing onto do my Masters with Dr. David Barber here at the U of M in the field of Remote Sensing. I have also been fortunate to work at the Centre for Earth Observation Science (CEOS) at the U of M as a research assistant for the past two years working part-time during the school year and full time over the summers. This work experience has re-affirmed my love for science and especially Arctic science as it is so vitally important to the future which faces our warming Planet. Over the two years I have worked on many projects some of which include,

This summer through my work at CEOS I was fortunate enough to fulfill my goal of getting back onboard the CCGS Amundsen as a scientific researcher. I was so excited to get back on the ship and to work within a different capacity onboard the ship. I boarded the Amundsen in Victoria with Sachs Harbor NWT as our final destination, of course to get their we travelled through the North Pacific for 4 days until we crossed through Unimak Pass along the Aleutian Islands of Alaska. Two days later we travelled through the Bering Strait and were able to see both the Russian and American sides in clear daylight even though we crossed at 1 a.m (24 hours of sunlight). From there we continued north along the Alaskan coast, even breaking ice around Point Barrow Alaska which was very cool. We then headed East for several days of sampling in the Beaufort and then to Sachs Harbor for a crew change. The trip was breathtakingly beautiful and allowed me to see a part of the earth that not many get to see firsthand. There were also countless wildlife sightings which included Polar Bears, Walruses and plenty of Whales. As for research onboard the Amundsen it was mainly a transit leg but we setup and tested much of the equipment for groups from the U of M. My work onboard involved setting up the Meteorological equipment and starting to record the underway data, setting up the Scatterometer, Setting up the Meteorological tower on the Bow of the ship and preparing a Buoy for deployment from which instruments hang at varying levels in the water column and sample for dissolved elements, sunlight penetration, temperature, currents and many other variables. Overall it was very interesting to see how all the systems work and provided me with a good basis to build on in my, hopefully, many future trips to the arctic.

If it were not for Schools on Board I may have never ended up on the path that I am now on and doing the things that I love. I would like to thank Lucette Barber for organizing Schools on Board and opening the eyes of students to the ground breaking science which is taking place right here in Canada. I would also like to thank Grant Park High School especially my science teachers Mike Patenaude and Dennis Kuzenko who helped organize my participation in Schools on Board and Michael Ffrench for opening my eyes to the wonderful world of science in grade 9. I must also thank Dr. David Barber and the whole group at CEOS for letting me achieve my dream of going back to the Amundsen as a researcher and for opening the door for many more field work opportunities.

 

Ginette Potentier (Victoria, BC)

I was first introduced to the Schools on Board program by the Senior Biology teacher at my high school (Glenlyon-Norfolk School) in Victoria, British Columbia. Thanks to his initiative, the school was given the opportunity to send a student delegate on the program, and I excitedly applied and was later chosen to join the group of Schools on Board participants of 2006.

On the trip, I learned so much from the team of research scientists who were with us. They were kind and eager to share their knowledge of what they were researching, and the students were all equally eager to learn what they were teaching. It was, as one of the teachers on the program put it, “experiential learning at its best.” For me, this was pivotal: at that point as a high school student, I had little concern for where my education might take me, or how it could be applied in real life. On Schools on Board, I was finally learning practical skills, and doing so for the simple pleasure of learning itself. In my opinion, every student should have an opportunity like this.

After the trip, I was motivated to both take local environmental initiatives, and to pursue my interest in scientific research. That year, I planned school events such as Bike to Work Week, and the student-organized Change Conference themed on sustainability. That summer (in 2007), I was also privileged to get a summer job as a laboratory technician at the Institute of Ocean Science (IOS) in Sidney (BC) as a result of my Schools on Board experience.

At IOS, I was supervised and mentored by two scientists, Robie Macdonald and Sophia Johannessen. During July and August, I helped out in the lab, and got to take a trip on a Coast Guard research vessel, collecting sediment cores from the Strait of Georgia (between Vancouver Island and mainland BC). However, my work at IOS mainly comprised of organizing, analyzing, and presenting carbon data that was collected from the Strait in 2003. I learned to make hypotheses about what trends I might see in the data, and after interpreting it, to either prove or disprove the hypotheses.

In the fall, after my summer at IOS, the work I had done was incorporated into a scientific paper written by Sophia Johannessen and Cynthia Wright, of which I am now documented as second author. The paper was accepted, and is in press for publication in the journal Marine Environmental Research.

I feel privileged to have had all of these wonderful and memorable experiences. I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of those who made it possible: Richard Zuk, my biology teacher and the man who introduced me to Schools on Board; Lucette Barber, the talented coordinator of Schools on Board, who has always gone out of her way to help; her invaluable assistant on the 2006 field program, Pascale Colin; and Sophia Johannessen and Robie Macdonald, without whom I would never have had the opportunity to co-author a published scientific paper.

 

Katy, Windsor Park Collegiate (Winnipeg, MB)

My first exposure to scientific research was aboard the CCGS Amundsen during the 2005 Schools on Board program. I loved it so much that I wondered if there was any job or volunteer opportunities for a high school student like myself. While I was on board the Amundsen I started asking various people from the University of Manitoba about how I could get involved. I was directed to the Chief Scientist on board, Dr. Gary Stern, and when I approached him with my query I was greeted with a very promising answer. We kept in contact throughout the winter, and as spring came around, he and Dr. David Lobb from Soil Sciences at the U of M offered me a job up in Churchill, Manitoba. I was thrilled at the idea that I would be up North doing research for most of my summer.

I was going to be collecting water samples that would be analyzed for total mercury, methyl mercury, trace elements, nutrients, dissolved organic carbon (DOC), dissolved inorganic carbon (DIC), colour dissolved organic matter (CDOM), and particulate organic carbon (POC). I had five sites to collect my samples from, the Churchill River, Frisbee Pond, Puddle Pond, Dugout Pond, and Strange Pond. I was going to be creating a base line of information from the area I was sampling. It is part of a bigger picture that is looking at the Hudson Bay, and what is moving through its watershed and then into the Bay itself.

I was accompanied by Debbie Armstrong, a clean lab technician from the Chemistry Building at the U of M, for the first five days I was in Churchill. She showed me where my sites were, how to sample, and taught me everything I needed to know about what I was going to be doing. My sampling seemed hard, especially when I was going to be collecting mercury samples because they can easily become contaminated as mercury is found everywhere. I had to make sure that my equipment stayed as clean as possible and that I followed a very thorough method, deviating as little as possible from the specified steps for collecting samples. The first few times I went out on my own I was a little hesitant and unsure of myself, but after awhile the steps and rules for sampling became cemented in my mind and sampling seemed to go much smoother.

It was fun going out onto the peat plateau where my pond sites were, it’s a place relatively untouched by people. The landscape was so different from what it’s like in southern Manitoba. The trees were smaller and usually had branches growing out of one side because of strong winds coming off of Hudson Bay. The ground was cushiony to walk on, and lichens and mosses grew everywhere instead of grass. The Churchill River was pretty cool. It was really wide and I had to wade in waste deep to collect my samples. I saw some of the wildlife too; 5 polar bears, some beluga whales, birds, and frogs. The polar bears were the best to see, they’re so big and powerful.

When I wasn’t sampling, I would help other researchers with their work, so I was exposed to a lot of different projects. Some people were studying gas emissions coming off of the peat lands, others the permafrost, and there were some very lucky researchers who spent their time with the whales in the Churchill River. I was able to help collect soil samples, gas samples, and tree cores with some students. There were people from all over the country studying the North at the Studies Centre, and I learnt a lot from all the university students.

My summer in Churchill was awesome. The work, although it might have been tough sometimes, was interesting and rewarding. The people at the Churchill Northern Studies Centre were welcoming and helpful, and I even made some new friends. I feel very fortunate to have had this experience. Being up North has given me a better idea of what I want to do after high school.

Now I’m back at home, finishing up my last year of high school. Gary has offered me a job to work periodically throughout the year at the university analyzing my samples, so I’m currently working out a schedule with the school administration. I’ll go on to university next fall, and I’ll probably be taking Environmental Sciences. I’m thinking about maybe trying to get a PhD one day, but it’s a long way away still.

I wanted to take a moment to thank the following people for making this happen: Dr. Gary Stern, Dr. David Lobb, Dr. Feiyue Wang, Dr. Tim Papakyriakou, Dr. Mario Tenuta, Debbie Armstong, everyone at the CNSC, and all the students in Churchill who assisted me with my work and taught me all about their projects. I would also like to acknowledge my science teacher, Mrs. Catherine Salki and my school, the Windsor Park Collegiate, for supporting my interests in science and providing me the opportunity to experience it first-hand as a participant of the 2005 Schools on Board Field Program. Thank you to all the ArcticNet scientists that shared their time, their knowledge, and their passion for science.

 

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