Would-be Arctic explorers of all ages can stoke their imaginations – and meet their real-life counterparts – Thursday through Sunday (Feb. 28-March 3) at the 8th annual Polar Science Weekend organized jointly by the UW Applied Physics Laboratory and Pacific Science Center.
Visitors will have a chance to peek inside tents used in polar research camps, don a cold-weather survival suit, learn about ice cores and participate in an ice-smashing demonstration. A new exhibit this year is “Sea Ice Thickness: Making Sense of the Chaos.” Returning favorites include “Narwhal Mysteries,” “Salinity Taste Test” and “Glacier Flow.”
In addition to the Applied Physics Laboratory, other UW units including oceanography, atmospheric sciences, Earth and space sciences and biology all will be represented, as will agencies such as the U.S. Coast Guard and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. This is the fourth year NASA has funded Polar Science Weekend, which is included with regular museum admission.
A “Passport to the Poles” encourages kids to collect a stamp from each station. Visitors of all ages can attend presentations on polar bears, penguins and Arctic climate, and take part in hands-on activities such as building an igloo or operating an infrared camera that is used to explore the surface of Mars and other planets.
While the focus is on science, there is also an arts component. Local photographer Chris Linder, who accompanies scientific expeditions, will be giving a slide show and autographing copies of his book Science on Ice: Four Polar Expeditions. Local artist Maria Coryell-Martin, who depicts polar landscapes and wildlife, will present her work at the event just before setting off for Greenland on a research expedition with Kristin Laidre, a biologist with the Applied Physics Laboratory.
To help UW student and faculty presenters prepare for the event, Pacific Science Center staff held two 2-hour workshops that introduced basic concepts and techniques of science communication, and provided practice in engaging audiences of all ages and backgrounds.
“Science communication is an increasingly important skill for scientists to have, so this event is good training for students,” said lead organizer Harry Stern, senior mathematician with the Applied Physics Laboratory.
UW museology graduate students will collect data about visitors’ experiences, and for the first time UW Photography Club members will be taking photos.
A returning exhibit, “Investigating Arctic Ice Melt,” based on the work of Applied Physics Laboratory researchers Axel Schweiger, Bonnie Light, Ignatius Rigor and Mike Steele will be on display through August in the “Portal to Current Research” area.
Pacific Science Center was among five institutions recognized in November with the Institute of Museum and Library Services’ highest honor for community service and outreach. The citation noted the Seattle museum’s ability to connect scientists with the general public, a direction that Dennis Schatz, vice president for strategic programs, said began in 2006 with the first successful polar-science collaboration.