Arctic Science day

Just thought we were going to escape the cold weather for our Arctic Science Day with a mild February, our Arctic Science day happened to land on the coldest week in March with school being cancelled due to wind gust up to 82km/hr the day before.  Although the wind did dissipate from the strong gusts the day earlier, the wind along with -20C temperatures did definitely provided us with the true Arctic experience.

Four brave students with their full snow gear from head to toe, joined students from 18 other schools in a full day of what science conducted in the Arctic is like. We started our day trekking a 1.5km path of frozen ice, shrubs, wild wolves and arctic foxes and gravel to one of the Lakes to start our first activity (ok fine, there weren’t any wolves or foxes). We were met by 3 actual researchers that were either completing their Masters or PhD through the University of Manitoba, and helped us in collecting water samples to test the oxygen conductivity and pH level of the lake to investigate in the health of the lake. The oxygen content is important because it tells us how much dissolved oxygen is in the lake and how much it’s available to sustain the life that exists below. In the picture, M is using a water sample tool (fig.1) to 1st determine the depth of the lake, and then to collect water. As simple as the task is, the tool is uniquely designed so that water will seep into the collection bottle in both ends (top and bottom) to get accurate readings, instead of just collecting the surface water (science and engineering for the win!).

In other activities, we looked at the differences between lake ice and sea ice (ocean water), and to my amazement, sea ice can be as thick as 9m! We were taking guesses and thought that sea ice may have been about 2-3 metres in thickness, but to think that sea ice can reach to 9metres was a definite discrepant event.  In the pictures, you can see M using an auger to drill, while L is using a uniquely, hand-made, and expensive sea ice auger. The sea ice auger is said to cost around $10,000 because there is only one person that makes the auger by hand in the entire country.

In one of our last activities, two PhD candidates shared their research on algae, yes algae. They specialized in looking at the photosynthetic rate of algae in the Arctic as it can play a role in the wild life such as whales. What was remarkable though, was the living habitat and the kind of life you must have if you were to be an Arctic scientist because 1) you would have to live up in the Arctic 2) you live in one of the research stations where it’s mainly 3 large tents (one for sleeping, one for eating, and one for the bathroom).  3) you are extremely isolated from everything and everyone else and lastly you spend your warm summers in the Arctic, and spend your winters back in Winnipeg. It definitely takes a special person to be studying in the Arctic for the understanding of our climate.

All in all, the weather definitely set a tone to our Arctic Science Day. The students had a tremendous time meeting real scientists, and seeing the dedication and perseverance that is required in the scientific field. Science is not simply the memorization and regurgitation of facts and figures as what most of our students believe, but the questioning, designing, and testing of our natural world.