Some of you may see this title and think oh, Tom has another research project. But no, this time Andrea is chasing birds. Andrea received a Toyota Tapestry Grant to involve her students in a shorebird study with YK-Delta. She will be taking two students to the Aropuk Lake research camp in July (by float plane). This large wetland is believed to be one of three places that the Hudsonian Godwits stage before flying non stop to South America. They must bulk up on food to complete this marathon. The students will spend a week researching, video taping and photographing birds with scientist who are looking for clues about the ecology of Godwits. During the school year, the ecology classes will use summer footage to create documentaries to share with students in South America. Students will meet through video conferencing and provide each other with clues about the birds dual existence in two hemispheres. View Larger Map
One of the things you notice in Bethel, is the steel grating that is used for steps, ramps and elevated walkways. I have never seen this before. But this toothed flooring provides traction and allows snow to fall through it. We have a patch of it in front of our door to allow snow, dust and mud to fall through before entering the house.
Here’s a movie of the last ice passing through. I big ice dam formed up at Akiachak and Akiak. When it broke, the ice passed through like this for hours. Everyone rushed out on the river the next day looking for driftwood and snags to collect for firewood. One student reported a rabbit stuck on a chunk of ice and traveling by.
Our first geocache. I have been teaching a mapping unit in Earth Science. The kids are preparing a geocache for their village. I told them that I wanted to be the first to find their cache and sign their log. So I convinced Tom that we should practice by finding the only geocache in Bethel. We found the amo box in a clump of willow on the tundra. It was fun to read the log book. All sorts of cracks about how leaving how wet the box was and how there wasn’t much else to do in Bethel, so why not geocache. I can’t wait to get the boat in the water and find the Oscarville cache. We are trying to think of a good place to put another one near Bethel.
At last, the ice is gone. The river broke at 8:15 on Tuesday. There are still some ice jams North of here, but the river should be free this weekend. The kids in Tununak have been pointing the camera out the window for me. Yesterday there was solid sea ice and lots of snow on the coast. I could see snow machines zoom by the school. Today the ice on the coast was turning dark. But still lots of snow gos passing by. The fish should start running soon. They scoop smelt up with a dip net. That should be fun.
Coming to an Imax Theater near you, Mysteries of the Great Lakes. Watch closely, Tom’s in the movie. Tom helped the producer film the bald eagles on the Bad River Reservation last year. He almost sunk all of the camera equipment getting the photographer back to safety. The camera man spent a long night in a tree blind during one of the worst spring storms on Lake Superior. But he said it was some of the best footage of Bald Eagles he has taken. Placing the blinds was a year long project. We can’t wait to watch it on DVD here in Alaska. We hope to catch the show in Minneapolis this Xmas. Check it out!
The kids were a bit antsy in class last week. They were planning for prom. There was talk about tuxes, balloons and dates. Most High Schools invite other students to attend their proms, but when you live in a village on a river in Alaska with no roads, and the ice has melted too much or safe travel, logistics are hard. Napaskiak invited Oscarville to attend their prom. These two schools often socialize because Oscarville is just across the river from Napaskiak. But when the river thawed, prom seemed a doubtful endeavor. Oscarville is too close to Bethel to have an airstrip, so they are stuck between ice out and boats in. Then came the news that a local helicopter pilot had volunteered to fly the kids across the river to prom. This is coolest prom ride I have ever heard of. You can read more about it from “Getting There From Here“
Tom’s official handle is Ice Man. Remember Val Kilmer in Top Gun? I have to remind him that there is no hazard great enough to warrant the helmet in the Lazy Boy. Although we are close enough to the airport runway to feel the big jets take off and land. Tom is waiting for the Ice to leave the lakes in Anchorage so he can complete his float plane rating. This will probably happen next week. He’s been on a few aerial bird surveys and everyone is busy getting gear out to the study camps for summer projects. So the Ice Man is waiting for the ice to go out!
Here’s a shot of my classroom, Tundra studio. This is a shot from my last Saturday class. You can see the remote sites on the left display and a preview o what I am broadcasting on the right display. I have a document camera and a computer connection just off screen. I also have a white board.