Doctoral Candidate Explores Kamchatka

It wasn’t until Jeffrey Hazboun was an 18-year-old freshman at Syracuse University in New York that he began to explore all that mother nature had to offer him.

“I was 18 and ready to try new things,” he said.

These included rock climbing, ice climbing, and his favorite, kayaking.

“I got into the Syracuse University Outing Club,” said Hazboun. “It’s the second oldest club in the history of the school.”

In the 12 years since, Hazboun’s love for kayaking has taken him all over the world, to Ecuador, Costa Rica, British Columbia and most recently on a National Geographic-funded trip to the Kamchatka Peninsula in Russia.

Now a graduate student in the physics department at Utah State, Hazboun described the Kamchatka project as years in the making.

“It was about two years of planning,” he said. Planning included acquiring grants and sponsorships from major companies such as National Geographic, Costa and even Starbucks.

Because of his background in kayaking, his undergraduate degree in environmental and forest biology and his master’s in physics,  Hazboun was asked to take part in the adventure as a science coordinator.

“I helped with communication between the other scientists,” he said. “Mostly it was just me talking to scientists and seeing what research could be done there.”

With a core team of six people, the Kamchatka Project started their journey June 30.
Hazboun’s favorite memory from the trip was soon after they arrived at the ocean, after paddling from further inland instead of taking a $3,000 per hour helicopter ride.

“We were there early. We got to spent a day on the beach.” he said. “There are these glass balls on the beach that the Japanese use as fishing buoys. You’re lucky to find one or two, but we found 30.”

The main point of the trip, was scientific research.

“We went to rivers no scientists have ever been to,” he said.

While kayaking, Hazboun had the responsibility of probing the water.

“About every half mile I would send a probe that checked the temperature, conductivity, and the health of the river,” he said. “We also took some flow measurements, which is the volume going down the rivers. We were just trying to see what was interesting.”

According to Hazboun, The water samples will be sent to a hydrologist who will study the behavior of the rivers on the peninsula.

Wildlife on the Kamchatka Peninsula is diverse, and nearly untouched by non-native humans.

“On the beach all you saw were bear and wolf prints. There were no people on that side of the coast,” Hazboun said.

According to Kamchatka’s website, the peninsula is home to the most dense population of brown bears on earth.

“There was just a huge density of bears,” he said. “They fish for the salmon in the lakes. The rivers stay between you and the bears. Once a really big bear walked within five to seven feet of us.”

With multiple professional cameramen in the group, the footage taken in photography and video formats didn’t go to waste.

“We helped National Geographic film an episode of Monster Fish,” Hazboun said.

Although students may find it hard to find funding and resources to travel, Hazboun says there are many programs that provide resources for students.

“There are a lot of opportunities to do this stuff through the Outdoor Recreation Center,” he said. “They’re willing to help. Those folks are glad to have students interested. They love to get people outdoors.”

Another resource, Hazboun said, is USU’s kayaking club, which is open to the community and provides support for both beginning and more advanced kayakers.

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