Person holding a bird and wearing a coatName: Peter Lu Detwiler

Graduation Year:  December 2013 (class of 2014)

Education: B.A. Conservation Ecology and Self-Design: Natural History

Current Hometown: Utqiagvik, Alaska

Employment: Technician with NOAA Barrow Baseline Atmospheric Observatory

Other interests: On hiatus from the world of seasonal ecological positions (my real interest), I still try to contribute as much as possible with research efforts in the Arctic. Either volunteering or working with Wildlife Conservation Society and USFWS, or North Slope Borough Department of Wildlife, with things such as shorebird tagging, bowhead whale sampling, and even rescuing a baby walrus.

Building in the snow with the sun shiningCan you tell us about your current work? 

At the observatory here, we are collecting baseline atmospheric data from the air that is coming off the Arctic Ocean due to our location at the northernmost tip of Alaska. My job as the technician is to make sure all the instruments are running properly and gathering the best possible data, as well as take flask samples, data measurements, and building maintenance. Read about the effect climate change is having on this part of Alaska in this Washington Post article from April 2019, featuring a picture of Peter at work.

How did Sterling influence your current career path?

Ultimately my education and experiences at Sterling eventually led me to the Arctic. Jeff Parson’s James Bay Global Field Study course was a very inspirational moment for me as it was one of my first experiences in sub-Arctic communities and helped shape the path that I’m on. I took all the courses and field courses offered at the time that were related to the North or alpine environments. But as much as the course work helped me, life at Sterling, along with my Work Program jobs: Farm Hand, Carpentry Crew, and the Green Bike mechanic, assisted in giving me the problem-solving skills that landed me where I am today. And I am thankful for that. Thanks all.

Two men standing near the shore

Peter and fellow Sterling alum Keith Doerfler ’09 in Barrow, AK this past summer

What is your most memorable “out in the field” story? 

One of my most memorable field trips was in Jeff Parson’s Winter Ecology class. We took the lift to the top of Jay Peak. It was negative temperatures, windy, and snowy. We spent the whole day snowshoeing down the mountain, talking about snow, botany, wildlife, etc. And at the bottom of the mountain, we all peered into the heated water park, people lounging around in bathing suits, juxtaposed to us, who enjoying ourselves despite being encrusted in snow and ice. I remember thinking, “This is why I appreciate Sterling.” Outside, whatever the conditions are, learning and having a good time.

Any words of wisdom for current Sterling students?

 I’d say take as many courses as you can in all different disciplines offered, take advantage of the work program jobs and take it seriously, there is a lot to be gained whether in work ethic and skills. Spend as much time as possible outside, Sterling’s woods and the Northeast Kingdom in general are a special place, and you’ll miss it when you leave.

Research buildings in the snow
Filed Under: Alumni Blog