Four FIU students will embark on a three-week expedition through the Arctic Ocean’s Northwest Passage later this summer.
The students are Mark Barton, a Ph.D. student in Marine Sciences; Catherine Guinovart, an undergraduate student in Earth and Environment; and Kevin Montenegro and Talia Byerly, undergraduate students in biological sciences. They will join a team of 18 other undergraduates, graduate students and post-doctoral researchers on the three-week journey through the largely unexplored route.
“This is an extraordinary opportunity for our students to participate in an integrated science initiative framed around a historically and culturally significant ecosystem,” said Kevin Boswell, assistant professor of biological sciences at FIU. Boswell serves as the university’s faculty liaison for the project.“I expect that this will be a formative experience for these students and that they will be excellent ambassadors to represent FIU.”
The Northwest Passage is a sea route connecting the northern Atlantic and Pacific oceans through the Arctic Ocean. For centuries, it has been unforgiving to those attempting to travel through it. However, the recent decline in Arctic sea ice has made the passageway more navigable. The expedition will explore the changing Arctic aboard the R/V Akademik Ioffe. Research projects include the physics of Arctic Ocean circulation, chemistry of the melting Arctic and surveys of Arctic habitats.
“What excites me most about this expedition is that I believe it will be a powerful opportunity to change the way people think about climate change,” Guinovart said. “I hope to inspire the world to take action and do whatever it takes to protect not only the ecosystems of the Arctic, but all ecosystems being impacted by climate change.”
The team of researchers will conduct the first interactive transmissions from the legendary passage, including several via Facebook Live. They will use the ‘Slocum Glider’, an autonomous underwater vehicle, which will take samples from the eastern waters of Lancaster Sound, a critical point in the Northwest Passage between the Beaufort Sea and Baffin Bay. The Inner Space Center of the University of Rhode Island is leading the expedition. A two-hour television documentary of the expedition will air in 2019.