A couple of Beanie Baby bears will help younger elementary students track a team of engineers and scientists from the NSF Center for Remote Sensing of Ice Sheets (CReSIS), based at the University of Kansas, as they work in Antarctica.
K-12 students are being invited to follow the researchers as they take advantage of the Antarctic summer in December and January to conduct research to collect data with advanced radar sensors developed as a part of a large Information Technology Research Project.
The two bears are part of Bears on Ice, a program to appeal to the younger elementary students, said Jennifer Holvoet, assistant research professor with the School of Education. Holvoet is coordinating K-12 educational outreach activities and is a member of one of two CReSIS teams research teams headed to McMurdo Station. Summertime temperatures in this part of Antarctica can be well below freezing.
Outreach efforts will run the gamut, from following the team's efforts to collect data and interpret findings, to exploring what is necessary to live and work on a polar ice sheet. Holvoet will have the two bears on hand to follow the researchers at work. She also will take some instruments to collect data about temperature, carbon dioxide and ozone levels at different sites in Antarctica.
The two bears — Berkley, an American bear, and OzGold, an Australian bear — have made previous trips to Greenland and Antarctica.
"The last time the bears were in Antarctica, they spent most of their time on an Australian icebreaker and worked with Australian researchers. This time they will see Antarctica from the perspective of U.S. researchers and will highlight the difference between working in a remote camp and in a permanent science station," Holvoet said. The bears will accompany the researchers, and provide detailed descriptions of life in Antarctica at McMurdo Station and the West Antarctic Ice Sheet Divide Camp.
Older students and teachers will be able to follow the research team's activities through daily online journals with photos and video, audio conferences, email and the Virtual Dashboard that will show viewers what is happening from the front seat of the robotic rover.
Teachers who would like their classes to take an active role in these activities should contact Holvoet at firstname.lastname@example.org. Schools in Kansas, Florida and Illinois have already signed up to take part.
Engineers and scientists on the CReSIS teams plan to contact the principals of schools they once attended, inviting current students to follow them in their work.
The National Science Foundation established CReSIS on June 1, 2005, with a $19 million grant. It is one of only two Science and Technology Centers established in 2005. The center is led by Prasad Gogineni, Deane E. Ackers distinguished professor of electrical engineering and computer science at KU.
CReSIS is headquartered at KU, and has as core partners Elizabeth City (N.C.) State University, Haskell Indian Nations University, the University of Maine, The Ohio State University and Pennsylvania State University.
Learn more about polar research efforts at www.cresis.ku.edu or http://www.ku-prism.org To learn about the Bears on Ice program visit http://www.ku-prism.org/resources/BearsOnIce/index.html