Kayaking Siberia's Lake Baikal to Evaluate the Effect of Climate Change

by Anna Gleizer '14, Stefansson Research Fellowship, Lake Baikal, Russia

During summer 2012, I became the youngest woman to kayak the circumference of Siberia's Lake Baikal. The journey through Russia and into eastern Siberia took two weeks and the circumnavigation itself lasted 45 days, during which I collected hydrology data for an independent research project aimed at evaluating the effect of global climate change and localized anthropomorphic pollution on the quality of Baikal water.

I also made and recorded observations of local flora and fauna as well as human activity and influence and made ethnographic notes. The first half of the trip was completed in partnership with two Americans – professional kayakers from Michigan Technological University, who were working on a personal goal of circumnavigating the world's largest lakes. However, becoming separated from the couple accidently, I finished the trip independently without maps or GPS. I travelled alone through the wilderness of Baikal's northwestern shore and sought the help of locals, stayed with poachers in the woods under Mt. Molokon, and finally befriended a fishing company of men from Irkutsk and completed the last segment of Baikal's shoreline with them.

Science cannot be approached without passion, I learned. It was a counterintuitive conclusion after years of inoculation with the concept of science being neutral, dispassionate, unbiased. However, as I came into contact with more of the people working on Baikal this conviction strengthened.