Alicia Gillean (TAS 2012) Heads to Alaska to Study Arctic Ground Squirrels

Alicia Gillean (TAS 2012) was one of over 200 applicants to be selected by PolarTREC (Teachers and Researchers Exploring and Collaborating) in November 2012. Mrs. Gillean is going to Northern Alaska from May 30, 2013 – June 27, 2013, to participate in a PolarTREC research expedition at Toolik Research Station in conjunction with the University of Alaska. She will work with a team of five scientists to monitor the daily habits of arctic ground squirrels.

While in San Antonio, Texas in April 2013 for a TAS Alumni Meeting, Mrs. Gillean met fellow alumna, Cat Fox. Mrs. Fox sailed aboard the Oscar Dyson in 2011, resulting in her Adventures in a Blue World cartoon series that highlights her TAS experience. Mrs. Gillean told the TAS Alumni during the meeting that she would soon be travelling to Northern Alaska to study arctic ground squirrels, so Mrs. Fox drew a cartoon arctic ground squirrel that resulted in the “Inter-Species Exchange Program”.

In this Inter-Species Exchange Program, Mrs. Gillean travels from Oklahoma to the Arctic and Mrs. Fox’s cartoon arctic ground squirrel heads to Oklahoma and anywhere else it decides to travel. Learn more about the Inter-Species Exchange program here.  

Mrs. Gillean attributes her selection of PolarTREC largely to her Teacher at Sea experience. She said, “They (PolarTREC) were interested in my science background and what I could bring to the team, and they liked that I had experience working with a team of scientists.” Mrs. Gillean used her TAS experience in the classroom to teach her students about the scientific process. “They were seeing what they could observe, what they were thinking about, thinking like a scientist. Just really seeing what science is really like out there, and that it’s not a boring subject in school,” said Gillean. 

Learn more about Alicia’s PolarTREC work in this video. 

DeMoss, Nick. “Arctic Trek to Help Jenks Teacher Inspire Students.” South County Leader, 31 January 2013. Print. 

A woman on the left and a drawing of a squirrel on the right.
Alicia Gillean (Photo Credit:Nick DeMoss/South County Leader) and Cat Fox's Arctic Ground Squirrel Cartoon