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Students with the Schools on Board program conduct an experiment beside the Amundsen. Two Inuvik students, Derek Seabrook and Jack Miller, as well as Tuktoyaktuk's Angela Wolki, were aboard the ice-breaker for the inaugural voyage of the program. - photo courtesy of Clint Surry

At school on the Beaufort Sea

Jason Unrau
Northern News Services

Inuvik (Mar 12/04) - Jack Miller's six-day stay on an ice breaker in the Beaufort Sea has opened his eyes.

"It made me think of all the possible careers in science there are," said Miller, a student at Samuel Hearne secondary school.

Miller, along with fellow SHSS student Derek Seabrook and Angela Wolki of Tuktoyaktuk, joined six other Canadian students on an ice breaker turned floating-laboratory last week.

During the six days aboard the Amundsen, students lent their efforts to a variety of field studies being conducted, including sea ice monitoring, water sampling and contaminant analysis.

All of these studies are part of ongoing efforts of scientists from around the world who are trying to better understand the nature of the Arctic and how it affects the climate of the Earth.

For Miller, ice core sampling -- by which scientists compare algae counts under differing thicknesses of ice -- was his favourite.

Out in the field

"Students weren't simply looking over the scientist's shoulders," said Schools on Board project manager Lucette Barber. "They were actually going into the field, taking part and doing some of the work."

Barber says the field trip, the first of its kind that was hatched at a family barbecue, is a program she hopes to continue for years to come.

After taking part in the inaugural Schools on Board voyage, Samuel Hearne secondary school science and mathematics teacher Clint Surry shares Barber's enthusiasm and was as thrilled as the students upon his return.

"When I first heard about it, I pounced on the idea," said the teacher and amateur naturalist who has collected extensive data for marine research off the coast of Vancouver Island. "Because of the field work I'd done, I was very excited to see another aspect of the ocean."

In addition to seeing an interesting part of the world and getting some hands-on experience in the science field, students got to hang out with some renowned researchers.

Grant Ingram, University of British Columbia Professor of Physical Oceanography, is currently conducting a portion of a study to determine the effects of current and sea ice on ocean circulation aboard the Amundsen.

Last Thursday, he travelled to Inuvik with the students to contribute to their presentation about the adventure.

"It's important for the future to have a strong Arctic science component to the climate change research," he said. "And introducing kids to science is part of addressing this. If the trip has influenced just a few students to pursue the sciences, then we've done our job."