Master’s student Sandra Cronauer recounts the thrills and hardships of living in an Arctic research camp
By Charlotte Hsu
To study the history of glaciers, you have to go where the ice is, and for Sandra Cronauer, a UB master’s student in geology, that means the Arctic.
Cronauer spent the past two summers in field camps in Greenland, where she worked with Associate Professor Jason Briner and fellow graduate students to gather fossils, lake mud and other geologic samples in an effort to learn how ancient glaciers reacted to climate change. Their discoveries could help us understand how rising temperatures will impact ice on Earth today.
In a diary covering both trips, Cronauer documented her life in the Arctic—the joys, the hazards, the blisters, the bugs, the moments of loneliness and the absolute wonder at being somewhere so isolated and strange.
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A: Some rocks are for keeps. Cronauer picked this one up as a souvenir.
B: A passport is a must for scientists working abroad. Greenland is an autonomous territory within Denmark.
C: Cronauer’s diary offers up honest reflections about her life in a faraway place.
D: Packaged food is sometimes all there is for sustenance in an Arctic camp, where slow-spoiling onions and potatoes may be the only “fresh” vegetables you eat for weeks.
E: This pink flamingo, which Cronauer brought with her on a whim, became an inside joke as researchers took turns placing it in odd locations around camp.
F: In her field journal, Cronauer scribbled research notes, sketched maps of campsites and compiled to-do lists.
G: A sediment core, a sample of lake-bottom mud, was brought home by the research team for study.
H: Wayfinders, like maps and GPS locators, are vital tools of the geologist’s trade. They guide you to remote research sites—and back to camp.
I: Folding rulers are easy to pack for day hikes. They’re used to measure the height of boulders, the length of sediment cores and other geologic artifacts.
J: Sample bags hold rocks collected for study.