JP teacher travels to Arctic

June 24, 2011
By

WEB EXCLUSIVE

Mark Goldner will be getting plenty of sun on his summer vacation. He’ll spend six weeks at 78 degrees latitude—well above the Arctic Circle—studying glaciers.

That means that Goldner will be subjected to 24 hours a day of sunlight for his entire stay in Svalbard, a Norwegian archipelago that can have a population as high as 120 people during the summer research season.

“It’s definitely the trip of a lifetime,” Goldner told the Gazette.

Goldner, a JP resident, teaches seventh and eigth grade earth science at the Heath K-8 Elementary School in Brookline. His passion is local geology.

“I became really passionate about geology through teaching Earth science,” Goldner said. “I try to make local Boston geology come alive for students.”

Thousand of years ago, Goldner explained, Boston was covered in glaciers several thousands of feet thick.

“So I wanted to go somewhere covered in glaciers,” Goldner said, “to try and get a picture of what Boston looked like during the ice age.”

Goldner’s team will be studying the sediments left behind by the melting glaciers, mostly on small boats in fjords around the Norwegian coast.

“Our main focus will be to look at how glaciers are responding to climate change. Every time a piece of glacier falls into the ocean, it releases sediment. Hopefully it’ll add to the data set about climate change” and help create more accurate predictions, Goldner said.

His students have already received a visit from one of the researchers on the team and are learning about all the “toys” their teacher will get to play with.

“The kids are so excited. I love my job. [I get] to have these kinds of opportunities, these adventures. Who else gets to this for their job?” Goldner said.

The trip, organized by PolarTREC, an organization that brings K-12 teachers together with field researchers, will be Goldner’s second polar adventure. Goldner made it to the Antarctic—the area around the South Pole—in 2007.

While he’s away, Goldner will keep a blog on PolarTrec’s website, www.polartrec.com/expeditions/high-arctic-change-2011. He will also participate in two hour-long live webchats on August 1 and 3.

The Svalbard archipelago is in the Arctic Ocean, north of mainland Europe, about halfway between Norway and the North Pole. Ny Alesund, the research team’s base, is one of the world’s northernmost settlements and gets approximately 126 days of non-stop sun every summer due to a natural phenomenon called “midnight sun.”