Nitrogen in the Arctic Ocean Ecosystem
Meet the Team
Teacher - Lollie Garay
Lollie Garay teaches Integrated Earth/Space Science at the Redd school in Houston, Texas. Her educational mission is to get students, teachers, and the general public excited about learning by modeling a "can-do" attitude!
In 2007 Mrs. Garay spent 7 weeks in the Antarctic Seas conducting oceanographic studies with Dr. Tish Yager and an international research team through PolarTREC. Since then, she and Dr. Yager have teamed up on a joint global oceans study that will translate Dr. Yager’s carbon sequestration research into classroom activities and educational outreach.
She feels that her previous PolarTREC experience transformed her way of thinking and has opened up a whole new world of experiences for her students! By immersing students in real-life research and project-based learning, Mrs. Garay strives to inspire interest in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) related careers, especially among under-represented groups. When she isn’t working on multiple projects, she and her husband Rey enjoy traveling, reading, and sharing new adventures!
Researcher - Tish Yager
Dr. Patricia (Tish) Yager is an associate professor in marine sciences at the University of Georgia. Her expertise includes biological and chemical oceanography, marine microbial ecology and biogeochemistry. Her research focuses on the feedbacks between climate change and marine ecosystems. Her field research combines microbial ecology and community structure with inorganic carbon chemistry. She has spent several seasons working in Antarctica, and also studies microbial communities in the Amazon River. For the project in Barrow, Alaska, Tish will be the lead-PI responsible for project oversight, coordination, and synthesis. To learn more about Dr. Yager, please visit her faculty biography page.
Professor - Marc Frischer
Research in Dr. Marc Frischer's laboratory focuses on the role of microbial diversity in marine environments, the development and application of the tools of molecular biology in plankton ecology, and the discovery and ecology of parasite and pathogens in marine organisms. The impact and consequences of climate change on living marine systems focuses much of the ongoing research in the Frischer research group. A large emphasis is placed on the development and evaluation of new methods, particularly those that can be used in situ. In addition, a focus of the Frischer laboratory is the adaptation of molecular biological tools to a wide variety of questions in applied marine sciences, biotechnology, bioremediation, and invasive species issues.
Professor - Deborah Bronk
The Bronk group is focusing on defining the competition between phytoplankton and bacteria for available nitrogen. As part of our study, we are doing experiments with humics, which are the tea colored compounds that run off the land when permafrost melts. These humics can decrease the amount of light in the water, which phytoplankton need, while providing a source of carbon, which bacteria require. As the permafrost melts, we hypothesize that bacteria will be able to outcompete phytoplankton for nitrogen more often.
Where are They?
The research team will be stationed at the Barrow Arctic Science Consortium also known as BASC. They will travel to sampling sites on the sea ice by snowmobile during the dark Arctic day. Weather conditions are predicted to be "challenging" as they travel to the ice edge of the Arctic Ocean.
Barrow is located on Alaska’s North Slope near the shoreline of the Arctic Ocean. Barrow is a small community of approximately 4,500 people. The climate is arctic, with the daily minimum temperature dropping below freezing 300 days a year and 24 hours of darkness during the winter months. The community is primarily inhabited by Inupiat Eskimos, and is not accessible by road.
What are they Doing?
The research team will be sampling the coastal waters of the Arctic Ocean to investigate how microbial creatures affect the productivity of a coastal Arctic ecosystem. They will travel to the field site via snowmobile and sample the seawater through a hole drilled in the sea ice. The seawater collected will be used to look at competition between autotrophs, organisms that make their own food, and heterotrophs, organisms that cannot make their own food, for nitrogen (N) in the waters near Barrow, Alaska.
The field work will take place over the course of three seasons (two years) to give researchers the opportunity to investigate the coastal water ecosystems in different seasons, winter and summer and with different amounts of daylight. The sources of nitrogen vary when there is no daylight in the winter from the summer where there is nearly 24 hours of daylight.
In ocean ecosystems, microbes dominate many of the processes and the major producers and consumers of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases. Understanding the role of microbial communities in the Arctic ecosystem is and essential part of predicting the impact of climate change on Arctic food webs and other natural cycles.
Read more about Arctic Nitro on the project webpagehere!