On the Record with ... Betty Trummel

Betty Trummel, a teacher at District 47's Husmann Elementary School, is on a sabbatical in Antarctica with the WISSARD Project, which is drilling for water found below glaciers in the southern polar continent.
Betty Trummel, a teacher at District 47's Husmann Elementary School, is on a sabbatical in Antarctica with the WISSARD Project, which is drilling for water found below glaciers in the southern polar continent.

McMURDO STATION, Antarctica – Betty Trummel is spending her winter on the bottom of the world.

The longtime Husmann fourth-grade teacher is using Skype and her blog to keep students and the science community engaged as she embarks on a research trip in Antarctica.

The frozen continent has her spellbound – it’s her third time there. This trip she’s with WISSARD, a project involving many U.S. universities and scientists as well as a few others from around the world. WISSARD stands for Whillans Ice Stream Subglacial Access Research Drilling. Researchers are trying to be the first to cleanly access – with no contamination – a subglacial lake. It is a project for which Trummel says all eyes in science are on them.

Through the drill, the team hopes to learn more about the ice streams that flow under the ice sheets.

The Crystal Lake resident returns Feb. 16 and has been traveling since November.

Trummel recently was interviewed via email by Northwest Herald reporter Chelsea McDougall. All of her emails were signed with “Cheers from the Ice.”

McDougall: What are conditions like down there?

Trummel: Conditions can vary. We had a stretch of beautiful weather for a few weeks in December and early January. Every day was in the 30s above zero and sunny. When the wind blows here, the temperature can drop quickly and conditions can get worse in a matter of minutes.

McDougall: What’s your role on this expedition?

Trummel: My main focus is education and outreach – being the eyes and ears of the scientists to tell their story as the process of science unfolds. I write a blog each day, answer questions and comments, do Skype video chats with students and teachers, and communicate with people around the world about what is happening with WISSARD and other scientists and support personnel here in McMurdo Station. ... A secondary role is to be a research assistant, so I’m actually doing the science alongside the scientists on the project. I will help prep equipment, take samples, prepare chemicals used in analysis, and clean instruments. I’m a bit like the graduate students here for the project.

McDougall: What are you personally getting out of this experience?

Trummel: What I get out of this experience is the chance to learn and do science as it’s happening, real time, and to convey that to everyone I can through my blogs and presentations. ... It’s an incredible opportunity for me to learn and grow as an educator. It makes me a better educator because I can bring the world to my students (and others) and show them the possibilities that are out there for careers in science. That’s pretty cool to me.

McDougall: Anything you miss about Crystal Lake?

Trummel: I miss my husband, my family (many are not in Crystal Lake), and friends. I miss my students and teaching. I miss Kyoto, Krystal Thai and 1776. I enjoy those places and I’ve got to say the food here is getting old. We haven’t had fresh fruits or vegetables for over a month now. Someone brought bananas from New Zealand down with them the other day, and I got to split a banana with my friend Susan. It tasted like heaven. When I get back, I’m going to stand in the produce aisle of the first grocery store I see and just enjoy the smells (we have a severe lack of smells here) and colors. I can’t wait to see more colors.

And, I miss darkness. It’s been 24 hours of daylight the entire time I’ve been here. Although your body adjusts to this over time, I will never adjust to walking out of the lab building after a long day of work (we work seven days a week and long hours each day) and having it be light out. I wear sunglasses continually.

McDougall: Any special message for your students?

Trummel: A message for all students, any age: Never stop setting goals, never stop learning and discovering, take time every day to learn something new. Be creative in some way, teach others something new, share stories and photographs. Take a hike, explore the world through books, documentary movies, or real life travel. Go for it!

The Trummel lowdown

Who is she? Husmann Elementary fourth-grade teacher studying and living in Antarctica.

Age: 56

Family: husband, Chris Trummel; children, Matt (Cassie) Trummel, Scott Trummel,
Patrick Minnaert, Ryan Trummel, Julie Mandolini-Trummel and Linda (Jordan) Abdel-Haq; two grandchildren.

Favorite music: The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Who, Moody Blues, etc. Anything from the 1960s and 1970s.

Read about her Antarctic adventures at scienceroadshow.wordpress.com

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