My name is Sarah Bobbe and I am Ocean Conservancy’s Arctic Program Specialist based in Anchorage, Alaska. TIn case you missed it, this week I took over the Ocean Conservancy Instagram account, and wanted to post the images here! I am thrilled that I have the opportunity to share my passion for the Arctic and the conservation of this region with you all.
While studying marine ecology in graduate school, I had the opportunity to live in the Norwegian Arctic on the island of Svalbard, located at 78 degrees north. In Svalbard, I was surrounding by the stark beauty of this region every day, and observed some of the Arctic’s most iconic species in their natural habitat, including polar bears, bearded seals (as shown in this image by my friend Vincent Carrier), polar cod and little auks. I also observed one of the lowest sea ice coverage years ever recorded, and saw for my own eyes how quickly the Arctic is warming. From 1979 to 2012, summer sea ice extent decreased 40 percent. Sea-ice dependent mammals like this bearded seal will face great challenges as sea ice continues to decrease in this region.
While in Svalbard, the changes occurring due to one of the lowest sea-ice years on record were made most apparent to me during our 10 days of fieldwork. Only two days before setting out, the logistics team concluded an abnormal warming cycle would prevent us from taking snowmobiles over sea ice to the site, and instead we needed to travel by boat (photo). Once at the field site, we observed the spring algal bloom had occurred several weeks prior than anticipated.
Indeed, climate change is having a profound impact on the Arctic, which is warming two times faster than the rest of the world. It is projected by 2037; summer sea ice will disappear completely.
I am extremely grateful for the time I spent living in the Norwegian Arctic. I feel privileged that I get to spend my career advocating for the conservation of this region, and to work alongside others so passionate about Arctic marine ecosystems that they must take swims through plankton sampling holes in sea ice.
My hope is that we find a way to communicate how special and how fragile this environment is to those who have not had the opportunity to see the Arctic in-person. As decreasing sea ice opens the region to potential resource extraction, tourism, and increased shipping, we must tread lightly in order to preserve this region for its current residents, and for generations to come.
Thank you for sharing in on my passion for the Arctic by following my Instagram takeover!