Lee Cooper, a researcher at the University of Maryland, has been exploring Northern Alaska and the Arctic Ocean for more than thirty years.

COOPER: “You go to someplace like Barrow, which is the most northern community in Alaska and just a few years ago, you could always expect to see sea ice on the horizon even in the summer. Nowadays sometimes it’s hundreds of miles beyond the horizon where the sea ice is. We just got off a Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker, and the interesting thing was we had a hard time finding sea ice.”

Cooper says the disappearing ice is changing the ecology of the Arctic Ocean.

COOPER: “We are finding that organisms are moving north further than we’ve seen them before. There’s a potential for fish to move north into what used to be waters too cold for them to reproduce, and so the whole ecosystem could change as the sea ice disappears.”

Cooper is tracking the impact of disappearing sea ice on marine life — from plankton to bearded seals and walrus. It’s part of an international scientific effort to learn how the Arctic Ocean ecosystem is changing as the sea ice disappears.

Reporting credit: ChavoBart Digital Media.
Photo source: NASA.

More Resources
Biologists lead international team to track Arctic response to climate change
Chesapeake Biological Laboratory, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science

Lisa Palmer

Lisa Palmer is a freelance journalist and a fellow at the National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center, SESYNC, in Annapolis, Md. Her writing covers the environment, energy, food security, agriculture,...