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Zachary Brown

RELP Cohort: 2013
Environmental Earth System Science

I grew up in southeast Alaska in the small coastal town of Gustavus.  My parents were both employed by the National Park Service, so I spent countless days romping in the wilderness of nearby Glacier Bay National Park.  Because our town’s school is so small, many adolescents leave home for high school, seeking out larger towns where they can play on sports teams, take more classes, and generally be exposed to the outside world.  I was no exception, attending high school in Ashland, Oregon, where I graduated as valedictorian.  I moved on to Pomona College in southern California, where I studied chemistry and biology, graduating with my BA in 2007.  Having little idea what to pursue after college, I was awarded a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to remain at Pomona for a 5th year as a research assistant for my mentor, Dr. Nina Karnovsky.  As part of that research, I traveled with Nina to the high Arctic archipelago of Spitsbergen to study a small seabird known as the little auk (Alle alle).  We stayed in a tiny Polish research outpost on a remote fjord, hiking long distances each day to the seabird colony, getting covered in guano and toting rifles to protect against polar bears.  From then on, I was simply hooked on polar research.  I joined Kevin Arrigo’s polar oceanography lab at Stanford University in 2008, giving me the wonderful opportunity to travel from the Arctic to the Antarctic and back, following the sun in a glorious endless summer.  In 2011 I was awarded NASA’s Earth and Space Science Fellowhip (NESSF) which now funds my research.  My career goal is to establish a field school at a remote location in southeast Alaska, using the pristine wilderness of my homeland to educate and inspire rising environmental leaders.