The Scientist and the Ecosystem by Julia Reihs and Zolboo LiLi Bayarmagnai

Multimedia journalists Julia Reihs and Zolboo LiLi Bayarmagnai spent much of the 2014 expedition following Notre Dame University researcher Carmella Vizza as she studied pond ecosystems on the Copper River Delta. She gathers information annually about how the ponds transform in the face of climate changes on the Delta. In six lessons, the stories of pond ecosystems show the life of a researcher.

Prologue: The Researcher

Her first summer in Cordova, Alaska, Carmella Vizza fell in love with the Copper River Delta as a place with endless possibilities for her research about pond ecosystems. The ponds are the foundations of the food chain on the Delta, providing a home for small organisms, insects and birds that affect everything from the salmon cycle to predatory bears. A graduate student researcher from Notre Dame University, Vizza works each summer to gather information about how ponds transform in the face of climate change, and the repercussions this may have on the entire ecosystem.

Lesson One: Pond Types

Temperature differences between the East and West delta, and why that matters.


Researcher Carmella Vizza explains the two types of ecosystems present in ponds near the Copper River Delta and how scientists can use these areas to monitor alterations caused by climate change.

Lesson Two: Methane Gas

Pond production of greenhouse gases.

Lesson Three: Nutrients and Biofilm

A smelly mix of algae and bacteria.

Lesson Four: Insects

Measuring bug density.

Lesson Five: Stable Isotopes

You are what you eat.

Lesson Six: Desynchronization
LiLi Bayarmagnai and Julia Reihs working behind the camera in the field alongside the researchers.