Good Morning From the Top of the World!

Hello Everyone! I have had a couple of days to unpack and get settled in so I thought I would share what I have been up to the past 2 days. First of all, there is still a lot of snow on the ground-I have never seen this much snow for this time of the year. It looks like it should be April, not June. Here is a photo of my lodging accommodations-I love my little home. It is referred to as the Beijing Hotel. Why you may ask-because in the past there was a Chinese researcher who spent a lot of time living there-he lovingly referred to his humble home as “The Beijing”.

The North Slope Borough Wildlife Committee held a 2 day meeting on Wednesday and Thursday.  It was good for me to attend and listen to village representatives from each of the villages that make up the North Slope voice their concerns about offshore exploration and drilling, new state/federal regulations that will impact their subsistence practices and the health of the subsistence resources that feed and clothe their families.  Yesterday I gave a brief presentation to them about some of my baseline histology findings-I was very happy to report to them at present there is no evidence whatsoever that the health of the seal/walrus populations is in jeopardy.  Unfortunately, many scientists from the “outside” play on the fears of the people, publishing research that says that people are jeopardizing their health by eating marine mammals.  I am very fortunate to be training with Dr. Terry Spraker, whose 35+ years experience in marine mammal pathology has helped me to learn to be more skeptical of existing literature.

A village representative from Point Lay brought the carcass of a White-Fronted Goose with him to the meeting.  One of the village elders was concerned about the health of the bird because she found 3 masses on one of the limbs of the bird-something she had never seen in her lifetime.   Ducks are a very important part of the native diet-duck soup is very common.  Once I removed the limb musculature, I was able to appreciate an old fracture.  I also noted what appeared to be lead shot in the musculature.  The 3 masses were in fact 3 granulomas encased in fibrous connective tissue capsules.  On cut surface, the granulomas contained inspissated material.  The bird’s immune system was efficient in containing the inciting injury-there was no gross evidence of dissemination to visceral organs.  The bird was in excellent body condition and had abundant pectoral musculature-ill birds often will exhibit
“hatchet breast”.

I have a lot of work ahead of me-today I will be trimming formalin-fixed tissues for histopathology from Arctic Fox, Beluga and Bowhead Whales,  and Ringed Seals.  Here is a photo of all of the jars of tissues that are awaiting my attention……

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    • Aimee Oke
    • June 7th, 2010

    Blizzards in June! absolutely wild- sounds like you are very very busy up there!

    • mipers
    • June 7th, 2010

    Your experiences in Alaska are very interesting! It is nice to hear the local people’s pereceptions and thoughts. What an incredible journey, thanks for sharing!

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