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Arctic research team discusses unique education initiative with WDBJ7

Members of the 18-person Arctic research team from Radford University are hard at work in Barrow, Alaska, measuring ice depth and temperature and sending information home to inspire the next generation of scientists.

WDBJ7 in Roanoke aired a feature on the team on March 7, highlighting the unique educational aspect of the research mission.

The Barrow team is attempting to use measurements of ice thickness and surface temperature to find out just how much ice is left in the Arctic. Education majors joined physic and geology students to build a classroom at the top of the world.

Erica Martin, a senior education major and student teacher from Afton, Va., has used Skype to visit classrooms across the United States.

“We begin by introducing who we are and what we're doing," Martin told WDBJ7 in a video interview from Barrow.  "And we ask them what the time is there. What the temperature is there.  And then we tell them what it is here and then their minds are blown."

Temperatures in the ice-covered Barrow landscape have dropped as low as 40 below zero. In a special WDBJ7 web feature, Physics Professor and Team Leader Rhett Herman showed viewers what that felt like.

“Since I don’t have a coat on I won’t be able to say outside for more than a minute or so,” Herman said, standing in the cold and dark, just a few hundard yards from the frozen ocean.  “There are people about a thousand years ago who settled here permanently on purpose. This is their life. It’s an endangered way of life. Maybe [our reseach] will lead to being able to preserve some of that.”

The Barrow team is continuing an eleven-year project to find a correlation between polar sea ice surface temperature and ice depth. If successful, the team will then be closer to answering a key question about the ice cap covering the North Pole: "How big, in terms of volume, is it?"

 The team will continue their work in Alaska through March 15. A shift change takes place midway through the trip, bringing a fresh group of student researchers north.

For more information about the Arctic team's mission, visit their website.

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Mar 9, 2014