Field Notes: The Polar Field Services Newsletter

Happy Birthday, Polar Field Services!

A decade ago, the magnificent seven—Jill Ferris along with Robin Abbot, Mark Begnaud, Jay Burnside, Diana Garcia-Lavigne, Tom Quinn, and Kristin Scott—(with VECO International, now CH2M HILL, and SRI) made a successful bid to provide logistics support to the National Science Foundation’s arctic research program.  

O.G. Kristin Scott Nolan, left, and Susan Zager celebrate...something. Photo: Diana Garcia-Lavigne

Led by Jill Ferris, our fearless (but for public speaking) and unstoppable leader (and owner of PFS), the team set out from the US Antarctic Program in December, 1999, entering the relative frontier of arctic polar logistics. In our first year, PFS supported about 50 programs. We have tripled that number in 10 years.    

Early days: Merle Bowser, Tom Quinn, Robin Abbott, Jay Burnside, Marin Kuizenga, Susan Zager, Mark Begnaud, and Jill Ferris.

We’ve lost two of the original seven: Kristin Scott Nolan made a permanent home in Alaska, marrying researcher Matt Nolan (UAF) and starting a family.  Turner is an apple-cheeked boy of around 5 who has more wilderness experience than most people gain in a lifetime; since earning her pilot’s license, Kristin now flies in the Alaskan bush.  Mark Begnaud retired in August after another great year of helming the logistics operation in Kangerlussuaq, having come to a point in his life where he can choose to work if he wants to. Lucky for us, he has agreed to come out of retirement (like Michael Jordan) to help us with turnover—perhaps this is the first of many command performances to come.   

Kangeroos: Tom Quinn, Ed Stockard (usually behind the camera), Robin Abbott, and Diana Garcia-Lavigne celebrate the end of season in Kangerlussuaaq, circa 2001.

Of course, we’ve gained a few people: Susan Zager, Marin Kuizenga, Angela Pagenkopp and Jason Buenning entered the fray in the early years. A huge turning point came when the elegant and ever-calm Sandy Starkweather joined the team to manage Summit Station projects five or so years ago.  Another personal favorite in PFS staffing decisions: the hiring of the so-young and fresh-faced Kyli “The Pup” Olson three years ago, who has demonstrated time and again that she’s really an unflappable superwoman behind that Kansas girl exterior.     

Kyli Olson holds up the Kangerlussuaq International Science Support building. Photo: Ed Stockard

We had no children and few grey hairs when we started out; we’ve got oodles of both now.    

Siggy Zager, Ella Kramer (rear) and Brooke Burnside enjoy a PFS BBQ on Jill's deck.

Julianna Rohn celebrated her 10th birthday this year, too.

 We think back to the early days and realize we’ve gained a lot of friends along with the experience over the years. At times it’s been hard, but it’s mostly been fun.     

So finally, when all is said and done, after pondering life’s meaning and consulting our thesaurus for exactly the right words, we come to this one absolutely true thing about Polar Field Services, the little company that could:     

We’ve always had dogs and we always will.    

Sammy Buenning, the wonder hound.

Even as a baby, Cooper Score-Robbins was a stand-out boy.