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Polar Radar for Ice Sheet Measurements

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  David A. Zastrow

David, who works for Raytheon Polar Services as a Field Camp Supervisor is the go-to person at WAIS camp. If you need something done, you go to him to get it done. He supervises all the support staff (e.g., 2 operators, 2 medical technicians, cooks, construction workers, etc). Because WAIS is very large for a field camp, there is also an Assistant Supervisor. A big part of his job is cargo - determining what needs to go out and come in and setting up schedules that will keep things running smoothly. Coordination of schedules, housing needs, and equipment needs keeps him in touch with all the different science groups who come to WAIS. Before any scientists come to the camp, however, Dave is the one who ensures that the shelters are built, gets the plumbers in so we can take an occasional bath, etc. For example, this year he determined where to make the ice runway, had it constructed and keeps it groomed for the flights that come in about once a week. He also deals with waste management and ensuring that the Antarctic Treaty is upheld.

He has come to work in Antarctica since 1994 and has had this job since 1999. Though the past two years, he has come every other season, he says this is a wonderful job and he would never want to work anywhere except in the deep field. "This job is full of variety - you get to do a little of everything and best of all, I get to work directly with scientists. If you do a similar job in McMurdo, you don't really get to know the scientists." Being part of cutting edge science is really exciting to him.

Now that doesn't necessarily mean that he loved his science classes when he was in junior high and high school. He always knew he wanted to work outdoors since he was a young child and school kind of locked him away from the outdoor environment. As a very visual learner, he learns best when he can see and feel things. He got so frustrated with school that he started skipping classes in high school, but he had a great counselor who got him into a forestry program at a local junior college. These classes counted toward his high school degree and gained him college credits. . He then had a very inspiring forestry teacher, who had his classes spend a lot of time in a local forest. From that experience, he knew that he wanted to get into some type of environmental work, so he went on to get a Bachelor's Degree in forestry. He worked for the forestry service in Alaska for about 20 years, making and maintaining trails. He and his wife and in-laws then decided to run a vineyard, but he quickly found that farming did not appeal to him. A couple of friends who worked in Antarctica shared their photos and experiences making him decide to try it. The environment was the appeal, rather than the specific job. Since he loves wide open, cold places that are environmentally challenging, he has found this to be a really great job. His wife accompanies him into the field.

His advice to students who love the outdoors and find school confining is to spend time doing things that prepare them for living and working outdoors. Scouting was big in Dave's life, teaching him much survival and camping skills. He then spent all the time he could camping, climbing, kayaking, rowing, hiking and backpacking. Every chance he had to gain outdoor skills, he took. "Volunteer work such as trail breaking and cabin projects with the forestry service are also great ways to get experience." You have to have experience to have choices in outdoor careers. So the more experience you have, the more choices you will have.

When hiring, here and at home in Alaska, he looks for people who have a positive attitude and who are project oriented. "If you are constantly watching the clock and hate it when you are asked to work extra time," he says, "then you are not in a job you love and you should find something that satisfies you more." He also notes that deep-field jobs require people with good social skills - rather outgoing types. Everything is shared and if you need a lot of private time, you probably won't do well in remote environments.

Dave and his wife now work in Antarctica every other season, alternating with work in Cordova, Alaska. He works hard to recruit young people as volunteers or paid workers to work with him. One of his favorite projects is the Volunteers for Peace program.

Here in camp, our science team talks with Dave every day. He helps us get the equipment we need shipped in and out and ensures that any needed repairs are made. He also schedules and coordinates our flights (along with those of other scientists) into and out of WAIS. His ever-helpful demeanor and experience make him one of our best friends out here.

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