West Fork Native Studies In The Arctic

FAYETTEVILLE (KFSM)-- A West Fork native is studying in the Arctic to further the understanding of essential elements in dust and how it can affect life.

Clay Prater has been working on this project since 2008.

He first studied at the University of Arkansas Fort Smith and then the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville.

He has spent time researching in Canada and is now in a coastal region of Greenland.

When asked what he does, his family tells people he studies bugs and water.

While true, his work is much more complicated than that.

Prater explains his research looks at dust left behind when glaciers retreat from an area.

This dust contains elements essential for life.

Wind then picks up that dust and spreads it to lakes in the area promoting life.

“The science that I do looks how those elements flow back and forth between the non-living or abiotic system, that glaciated environment and the biological systems and how the balance goes back and forth between that," Prater said.

Prater grew up in West Fork with the rest of his family.

Some are still in the area and say they are very proud of the work Clay is doing.

They explained when he was young and while growing up, he wanted to be the first man on Mars.

Relatives said when they asked how Greenland looked, his reply was it looked like Mars.

Prater said one of the bigger influences in his research was U of A Professor Michelle Evans-White.

She said it seems like they each influenced each other.

“He was gung-ho and fun to work with and always a team player and definitely I wouldn’t be where I am today if it wasn’t for students like him that really worked hard with me," Evans-White said.

Parater plans to continue working in the area for another two years.

He said the work he is doing is a lot of basic research.

Research that could help scientific community in the long run.

“The scientific method is the best tool for kind of generating knowledge about the universe to talk like some famous talking head on television," Prater said. "But its true. It’s a good way to get in and learn more about the world around you. To me, that’s invaluable information.”

He said the more practical side of their work is looking at how the dust affects the health of living beings.

The team is working with locals to gather this data.