Breaking the ice for research

October 25, 2017 | Science

Alexandre Caouette and Rabecca Thiessen are student research assistants who spent two weeks in the Arctic helping their faculty members collect marine sediment samples in order to study de-glaciation and the paleoclimate and paleo-oceanography of the region. The work is part of a major seafloor mapping project as well as research into sea ice decline related to climate change.

STORY-ARCTIC_ALEX_RABECCA

We were at sea for two weeks. We saw polar bears and whales, and ice for miles.

I couldn’t get enough of seeing all the ice. Even on my downtime, when I should have been sleeping, I was just standing on the deck. It was so beautiful.

And it didn’t matter if we slept for 20 minutes or eight hours. When the ship arrived at the next Arctic station, we had to start working. The scientists on board the CCGS Amundsen, including our profs Dr. Anna Pienkowski and Dr. Mark Furze, had specific samples they wanted to collect at each station. We were part of the team recovering core samples and bringing them to the ship’s lab for processing. The time in between each station could be half-an-hour or even a day, so we sometimes ended up working 12- to 14-hour days.

We were among the only undergraduate students. Most of the people on board were working on their master’s or PhD, or doing post-doc research. But there was a lot of comradery on the ship. We were trying to learn, and they were learning different skills than we were, but everybody would put their skills together, saying, “Hey, I know how to do this—I’ll show you.” The chance to network with others who all have something to do with our field was a rare thing.

To be able to go to the Arctic, a place where few people have gone, and to know that the work we’re doing might possibly become a paper or something that can change the world in some way was so powerful. It was just amazing to be a part of that.

We’re really grateful to Anna and Mark for giving us this opportunity.

—Alexandre (3rd year) and Rabecca (4th year), Bachelor of Science, Biological Sciences majors
 

Join Rabacca and Alexandre as they discuss their research and experience from the recent Amundsen Arctic expedition at "Amundsen Expedition 2017: Through the Arctic Aboard Canada's Flagship Icebreaker" on October 30.


Photo by Alexandre Caouette
Photo by Alice Li, Washington Post
Rabecca and Alex with their profs, Anna Pienkowski and Mark Furze
Photo by Alexandre Caouette
Photo by Alexandre Caouette
Photo by Alexandre Caouette
Photo by Rabecca Thiessen
Photo by Rabecca Thiessen
Photo by Rabecca Thiessen
Photo by Rabecca Thiessen

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