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Expeditions


Field notes from the far reaches of exploration
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    Ever wonder what it's really like to be working in Antarctica or collecting core samples from the middle of the Pacific Ocean? Get a first-hand feel for scientific exploration by following the blog posts of researchers out in the field.
  • Call of the Orangutan: How to Follow an Orangutan

    Siboy

    In my previous post, I wrote about the first task in studying orangutan behavior: finding the animals. In this one I’ll explain the second major task: following them. First things first, not to spoil anyone’s ideas about the glamor of being an orangutan researcher, but in my honest opinion the majority of “follows” are awful! [...]

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    Call of the Orangutan: How to Find an Orangutan

    Field assistant Ben searches for an orangutan at location A425 on the Sikundur grid.

    While many animal researchers use fancy scientific methods to analyze data and samples they’ve collected, the mechanics of virtually every animal behavior study begins with finding an animal or animals and recording its or their behavior at a given interval to produce what’s called an ethogram. So, in this blog I’ll be running through the [...]

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    Call of the Orangutan: An Ape Named James

    Siboy

    It has been an exceptionally exciting and productive first month for me at the Sikundur research station. I couldn’t have asked for much more in terms of data, and it’s been so hectic that sitting here in Medan, the capital city of North Sumatra, it seems like far longer than a month since I started! [...]

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    Call of the Orangutan: Welcome to Camp

    The research camp centers around a cabin built by Leuser International Foundation that was renovated in 2013

    It’s taken a bit longer than I’d initially anticipated, but I’m finally at my first field site, Sikundur in North Sumatra, which will be my home for the next eight months. The research and monitoring station is located in the east of the spectacular Gunung Leuser National Park, a UNESCO world heritage site, which is [...]

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    Climbing Mount Everest: Black Soot on White Snow

    Smog in the air, even at 17,000 feet, near Mount Everest base camp.

    Editor’s Note: This is the fifth and final post in a series by geologist Ulyana Horodyskyj. She climbed several peaks in the Himalaya Mountains to try to determine how airborne particles such as dust and soot that settle on massive glaciers alter how snow and ice melt, which could affect climate change as well as [...]

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    Climbing Mount Everest: Risking Life and Limb for Science

    The author and Jake St. Pierre on the Himlung icefall. Steep slopes and warming snow make climbing slow and dangerous.

    Editor’s Note: This is the fourth post in a series by Ulyana Horodyskyj, a geologist who is trying to determine how airborne particles such as soot that settle on massive glaciers affect how fast the ice melts. In mid-April she and her team of scientists, volunteers and Sherpas were nearly at base camp on Mount [...]

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    Call of the Orangutan: Conservation Success Stories

    Two infants in front of the "baby house" in quarantine learn how to climb a tree.

    Having made it to Sumatra, the first location for my field research, I’ve endured another frustrating few weeks waiting for yet more permits to come through. However, this delay has given me a good opportunity to get some work done at the charming office the environmental group Yayasan Ekosistem Lestari (YEL) in Medan, and to [...]

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    To Hades and Back: Here Be (No) Dragons

    A super-giant amphipod recovered from 7,000 meters in the Kermadec Trench. (Photo by Ken Kostel, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)

    ABOARD THE R/V THOMAS G. THOMPSON—Everything is out of the water and on deck. The bio lab is quiet and the cold room is empty, save for the samples that have to remain at hadal temperatures for our transit to port. For the next 900 miles and four days, we steam north-northeast to Apia, Samoa, [...]

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    To Hades and Back: Nereus Lost

    The hybrid remotely operated vehicle (HROV) Nereus during a dip test in Auckland Harbor in April prior to departure. (Photo by Ken Kostel, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)

    ABOARD THE R/V THOMAS G. THOMPSON—In the early morning hours of Saturday, May 10, we were on the seafloor in the deepest part of the Kermadec Trench when all of the video screens in the Nereus control room went dark. That wasn’t unusual, but it did signal a premature end to our 7-hour dive to [...]

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    To Hades and Back: Snailfish Surprise in the Kermadec Trench

    ABOARD THE R/V THOMAS G. THOMPSON—On the scale of the Pacific Ocean, the Kermadec Trench looks like a thin line snaking down from southwest to northeast just off the northeastern tip of New Zealand’s North Island. But when you zoom in and look even at the coarse detail that the ship’s multi-beam sonar can reveal, [...]

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