Jennifer Baldacci - Hand-Picked for Squirrel Catching in the Arctic Circle
Posted 04/04/2017 15:19

Hand-Picked for Squirrel Catching in the Arctic Circle

A Journey Three Years in the Making

ISB Science Teacher, Ms. Jennifer Baldacci, is about to embark on a journey to the arctic circle more than three years in the making. Her mission? To discover the genetic secret of Arctic ground squirrels that allows them to wake, eat, sleep, and even hibernate, like clockwork, despite the extended periods of darkness and light that defines life in the polar region.

PolarTREC Teacher-Researchers

Ms. Baldacci’s experience is part of the acclaimed PolarTREC Programme, which stands for Teachers and Researchers Exploring and Collaborating. This programme provides fully-funded opportunities for science teachers to collaborate with their field research counterparts and participate in important, ongoing studies, with the potential for great global impact.

Persistence Pays Off

To her credit, Ms. Baldacci applied to be a part of this program not once or twice, but three times before finally being accepted. Each year over 200 applicants apply for only 10 research positions, and as they say, persistence pays off. Following a one-week orientation and training in Fairbanks, Ms. Baldacci will be stationed at the Toolik Field Station, 8 hours north of Fairbanks, Alaska, from 13 April to 3 May 2017.

Getting Back to the Field

This trip represents Ms. Baldacci’s first trip back to the field since coming to ISBasel in 2009, and she could not be more excited. Although this will be her first time working with arctic ground squirrels, her previous field experience with small mammals includes studies in Costa Rica, Brazil, and even Boston, as a former zookeeper.

Keeping a Connection

The best thing about this particular trip, she says, is that she will be able to stay connected to her ISB students and colleagues through her online journal and a live PolarConnect event. While she is certainly very excited to be back in the field, she is even more excited to inspire young future scientists through the stories and lessons that she will bring back with her.

Gearing Up for a Great Adventure

As an Award Leader for ISB of the Duke of Edinburgh's International Award Programme, Ms. Baldacci is always up for a good adventure. She has already traveled to more than 100 countries! As a native of Florida in the USA, however, she is more than a little concerned about cold temperatures, wet conditions, and bringing the right gear for the study. After all, the nearest store is almost 200 km away...and notoriously overpriced!

Part of a Hard-Working Team

As previously mentioned, Ms. Baldacci was hand-picked to be a part of a high-performing group of scientists, eager to get their hands dirty in the frozen tundra of the Arctic Circle. There they will be trapping, placing sensors, monitoring, and releasing arctic ground squirrels in order to gather as much data as possible. Weather permitting, there will be no days off, and no time for any leisurely cross country skiing.

The Most Important Thing

The most important thing Ms. Baldacci hopes to accomplish with this trip is to help shake-up the idea of old, stuffy scientists in labs. She hopes to demonstrate to her students that science is alive, ever-changing, and that we don’t know everything yet. Most of all, she wants everyone to know that it’s a great time to be a scientist! She encourages all those who would like to follow her on this project to visit the Arctic Ground Squirrel Studies 2017 website and ask questions and leave comments.

For more information about PolarTrec visit their website.