For the group, that spelled the end of their day on the ice. After they reported the incident to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the agency’s personnel surveyed the area and discovered the bear’s den and cubs that were just a few months old. The researchers had inadvertently disturbed their habitat. They would have to find a different work site.
Gardner has been visiting the Arctic since she joined the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory in 1993, when she first began oceanographic work, studying the ocean character and sea floor character to improve navigation safety. Since 2011, she has been using data collected by satellites and aircraft to monitor the thickness and changing character of sea ice.
This year, she was again in the Arctic, this time tagging along with the Canadian military. During March, when the ice there is the thickest, they were working at an icy location outside of the town of Tuktoyaktuk in the Northwest Territories of Canada.
As a Royal Canadian Air Force plane flew overhead, collecting data with radar, Gardner and her team were on the floating ice below, determining the ice’s thickness and hardness and measuring the depth of the snow. They were “ground-truthing” for the ICESat-2 Satellite, a NASA satellite that launched in 2018 on a mission to use laser pulses to measure elevation of ice sheets, glaciers and sea ice.