The Mendenhall Glacier Visitor Center’s free Fireside Lecture this evening will be presented by Arctic oceanographer Zach Brown, who recently received his PhD from Stanford University. Through photos and stories, Brown will bring the audience on a journey to the Arctic Ocean, where declining sea ice threatens coastal communities and marine ecosystems, while stimulating industrial expansion.
Brown’s research focuses on phytoplankton, the first link of the marine food chain. Although microscopic, phytoplankton ultimately feed all the large animals of the Arctic Ocean, from polar bears to bowhead whales. Because they take in carbon dioxide as they grow, they are also profoundly important to Earth’s climate.
Living for months aboard the USCGC Healy, Brown and his fellow scientists ventured deep into the pack ice of the Chukchi and Beaufort seas, observing how changes in sea ice affect the phytoplankton — and therefore, the rest of the ecosystem.
“Sea ice affects both light and nutrients — the two things that phytoplankton need to grow,” says Brown, “so when sea ice changes, phytoplankton react in ways that are hard to predict.”
Brown and his team worked by deploying instruments from the ship, as well as sampling in-person on the sea ice.
“Those are some of my favorite moments of my research,” Brown added. “Walking on the shifting pack ice as it stretched out to the horizon in every direction. We drill ice cores to look at the sea ice from its surface to the water interface, and observe how it interacts with the biology.”
Brown will also speak about the recent increases of industrial activity in the Arctic Ocean.
The first lecture begins this evening at 6:30 p.m.; it will repeat at 8 p.m. Fireside Lectures are free and open to the public. Doors open at 6 p.m. Call 907-789-0097 for more information.