The Crowe Report
sporadic updates about current lab or field research in a longer format than the highlight reel on the home page.
Let there be (northern) lights
While many tourists travel to the Northwest Territories every winter with the hopes of maybe seeing views of the northern lights, Greg landed in Yellowknife, Canada this week for a strategic meeting about summer fieldwork.
Completely unaware that Yellowknife is also known as the Aurora Capital of North America, Greg happened to arrive during one of the strongest solar storms seen in the last 20 years! The luck of the Irish!
The coronal mass ejections super charged the aurora borealis and the elevated geomagnetic activity produced some of the most intense and productive auroras seen in years, and regions usually too far south to see the northern lights were also treated to beautiful displays of dancing lights in the sky.
Greg wasn't the only scientist lucky enough to see this spectacular event while at work; NASA Astronaut John Cassada snapped this picture of the northern lights over Canada from a different angle, seen here.
I guess we can all add Yellowknife to our bucket list for seeing the aurora borealis!
BELUGA ON THE MOVE: Click through each map to see specific satellite tracking details from the adult male beluga whale tagged in Kasegaluk Lagoon, Alaska on July 6, 2021. For background information about the location, field work, and team of scientists working together on this research, scroll down to the post titled "FIELD WORK 2021".
Field Work 2021
The best laid plans... you know the drill!
The global pandemic has impacted us in many ways, even in places as remote as the Arctic. This is the second consecutive summer where Arctic expeditions and field studies have been cancelled. Just when it looked like 2021 was going to be another washout, Greg got the opportunity to participate in a field project on beluga whales north of the Arctic Circle. A long term community-based research project that WEB has been involved in since the 1990's, this wasn't just a field trip... it was like returning home. The team lead, Robert Suydam from the North Slope Department of Wildlife Management in Utqiagvik, wanted a small presence in the community of Point Lay, and this suited us too. WEB's research approach is based on small teams working in remote locations in equal partnership with local communities.
The Iñupiat community welcomed us, and soon we were working together to gather critical biological information on the eastern Chukchi Sea stock of beluga whales that they depend on both culturally and dietarily. While much of our focus was on gathering critical data on whale reproduction, health, and survival rates, we hoped to get an opportunity to catch and tag a whale. If we could get a satellite tag on even one whale, we could continue to amass the critical time-series of whale movements and dive behavior, now spanning more that two decades, that would inform us about the impacts of a changing Arctic on marine ecosystems. We developed methods to safely capture these 3,000 pound whales with relatively small teams of trained personnel, but now there was just four of us! On the very last day- success! We caught, tagged, sampled, and safely released an adult male beluga whale.
Here is his story so far: initially, he cruised northeast along the coast through open water and marginal ice to Barrow Canyon, off the tip of America's continental land mass. There, he lingered and undertook some impressive dives before heading further out in to the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas, covering hundreds of kilometers along the shelf break. His odyssey continues and we will update frequently as data comes in!
We would like to thank the community of Point Lay, Alaska, for their hospitality and for providing the opportunity to conduct this research. Also, thanks to Justin Crawford at the Alaska Department of Fish and Game for the excellent maps.
Greg wrote a series of blog posts (called waves) for Vero Beach Portfolio Magazine's Blue Issue. Originally a limited series, our favorite naturalist caught the writing bug and we can now expect regular installments (known as 'waves') on the Swell Life about science, nature, and (hopefully) some field work adventure stories too!