Mike is in the High Arctic to help folks with NOAA’s National Marine Mammal Laboratory (NMML) with their annual Aerial Surveys of Arctic Marine Mammals (ASAMM) program in the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas off the northern coast of Alaska. Surveys began in the late 1970s. Objectives include:
- describing the annual bowhead whale migration across the Arctic
- documenting abundance and behavior of cetaceans, ice seals, walruses, and polar bears,
- mapping observations for use by other agencies, and
- providing an objective wide-area context for understanding marine mammal ecology in the Alaskan Arctic, to help inform management decisions and interpret results of other small-scale studies.
So what’s Mike actually doing? He wrote, and maintains, the software that records detailed, real-time observations of mammals and their behavior while flying prescribed transects over the ocean. He records in-flight observations called out by biologists, fixes bugs, and edits data.
He’s currently based in Barrow (pop. ~4200), but will move east to Deadhorse for the second half of the survey. He’s staying at the convenient (next to the airport) and cozy King Eider Inn. If the weather clears enough to fly, the team is right there, ready to go.
Here are pictures of what Barrow and the region look like at this time of year.