SPACE CENTER --
A marine science professor from The University of Southern Mississippi
is taking one of his students on the ride of a lifetime to the Alaskan
wilderness to apply his knowledge as a geochemist on the front lines
of environmental research.
Dr. Alan Shiller,
professor of marine science specializing in geochemistry, is taking
graduate student Peter van Erp on a research expedition Aug. 21
to the Yukon River to sample water along the pristine river and
its tributaries with the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). Begun in
October 2000, the USGS project has sampled water flowing through
and from the Yukon several times each year to determine the effects
of global warming on the sensitive arctic environment.
a remote area about which little is known," Shiller said. This
five-year project conducted by the USGS will help answer a number
of questions. Will global warming affect the water quality of the
Yukon River and the adjacent Bering Sea? How does this change the
carbon cycle, and how does that feed back into global warming?
forward to seeing Alaska," van Erp said. "I've never been
there, though I've heard a lot about it." Van Erp's interactions
with the USGS team on this expedition will give him hands-on experience
and provide important contacts for the future.
at it as a possible networking opportunity," van Erp said,
adding that he was looking forward to meeting Robert Hirsch, chief
hydrologist of the USGS, who will be along for this excursion. In
the meantime, he's busy making preparations that include looking
up background information on the Yukon River basin, getting his
wife and four children settled for his absence, gathering his gear
and reviewing the trip itinerary with Shiller.
list for a trip to the Yukon includes such items as suitable clothing
for temperatures ranging from below freezing to the mid-80s, rain
gear, waders, a personal floatation device, a good knife, bug spray
and bear pepper spray.
A veteran of
several trips to the Yukon, Shiller is also a proponent of face
netting in addition to insect repellant for the long boat ride in
have covered the Alaskan section of the Yukon from the Canadian
border to "the bridge," where the Alaskan oil pipeline
crosses the river.
year, we're going from the bridge to St. Mary's," Shiller said,
covering roughly 932 miles over 11 days.
and van Erp will begin their fieldwork before reaching the Yukon.
On Aug. 22, they will sample water coming off a glacier about three
hours south of Fairbanks. When the three aluminum-frame USGS boats
set out from the bridge on Aug. 24, Shiller will be in the open
boat and van Erp will be working in a lab in Fairbanks processing
water samples shipped back from each stop along the river. On Aug.
28, Shiller and van Erp will trade places, with van Erp flying to
meet the boats in Galena, Alaska, and Shiller flying back to Fairbanks.
to give Peter experience in the field," Shiller said. "He'll
be working with the USGS professionals and will find out what's
involved on major field projects."
As for Shiller's
part in the research, he plans to present a paper in December offering
preliminary results of his observations on the Yukon.
Miss Department of Marine Science is strategically located at Stennis
Space Center in Hancock County, home to the world's largest population
of oceanographers and hydrographers. The department offers both
master's and doctoral degrees in marine science and a master's degree
in hydrographic science.