Many folks go to great lengths to find a balance between the demands of raising a family and pursuing a career. But few people go as far as these families do...
Matt and Kristin Nolan and their six-year-old son Turner spend their summers living in a tent on top of a remote glacier in the Alaskan wilderness. They measure the glacier as it melts, drill out ice cores, and then head south to Fairbanks for the winter.
click image for video sample
click image for video sample
Megan Parker brings her Husband, seven-year old Son and the family dog all the way from Montana to live in a tented camp in Botswana’s Kalahari Desert for two months (where the “winter” temperatures can reach 100°f) just to count piles of “cat poop”.
These are just two of the families we will follow in the new series -
Even among the most passionate scientists, it takes a special kind of dedication to continue pursuing a career in field research. After graduate school, many researchers begin to face the mounting realities of marriage and family – circumstances which encourage most young scientists to seek academic positions with stable schedules and little travel.
Not so for these scientists...
Matt & Kristen have spent nearly a decade doing research on a remote glacier in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
Rather than (as some scientists might do) just deploy a few remote telemetry devices across the ice and race back to the warmth of the lab, the Nolans have pledged to do their research the “old fashioned” way.
That means living on the ice for weeks or months at a time to collect as much detailed data as possible.
Megan Parker never wanted to be a scientist with a “desk job”.
She founded the non-profit organization “Working Dogs for Conservation” as a way to combine her skills as an expert dog handler with her training as a conservation biologist.
From African deserts and Asian jungles to the Rocky Mountains, their dogs are employed around the world helping gather data on some of the world’s most threatened and endangered species.
With a sense of smell thirty five times more sensitive than a human nose, these dogs can find and identify the droppings of individual lions or cheetahs though the most impassable underbrush.
Balancing Science and Family
In addition to the demands of actually conducting research, there’s the added complications of transplanting the entire family into the field.
For the Nolans that means cooking and vacuum-sealing hundreds of individual meals weeks in advance, and then airlifting tons of supplies to the remote North.
Just getting the Nolan family and the rest of the science team out to the ice to start the research season is a major logistical accomplishment in itself!
Under the Kalahari’s scorching heat, camp life for Megan Parker’s family can be just as complicated.
Fieldwork starts before dawn, and ends when the blazing mid-day sun drives them to seek shade and water for themselves and their dog.
Every few weeks the tiny, self contained community pulls up stakes and moves their tented camp to the next isolated site.
They live like a nomadic tribe – tuned to the rhythms of the day, ruled by the heat and sun.
Both of these families have built their lives around
a a career that compels them to "go wild"...
...and they wouldn't have it any other way!
Click on the images below to see video samples of each of the families.
Matt & Kristen Nolan
Megan Parker & Mark Johnstad
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