Expeditions by Year

Welcome to the Virtual Base Camp, the starting point for your exploration of the polar regions with PolarTREC teachers and researchers!

PolarTREC expeditions to the Arctic and Antarctica can be found here starting in 2007 to present. You can also access archived expeditions to the Arctic that took place through TREC in 2004-2006. Journals, photos, ask the team forums, and information about each expedition can be found by following the links to all the expeditions. Use the Expedition Search feature to narrow your choices or find a particular expedition or region. Use the Members feature to find teachers and researchers involved with PolarTREC expeditions.

Another interesting perspective for viewing expeditions are Projects. Projects are expeditions that had teachers for more than one year. You can learn more about the science and see all the teachers and researchers involved in the research project over two or more years. You can also access all the related project resources (presentations, lessons, PolarConnect events, etc.) related to the projects.

2019 Expedition Timeline


2019 Expeditions

David Walker
Educator

Organization
LASA High School
Austin, TX
United States
Dates:
2 June 2019 to 29 June 2019
Location:
Toolik Field Station, Alaska
What Are They Doing?
Understanding how microbes and sunlight interact is particularly important in the Arctic where thawing permafrost soils will release large amounts of carbon from land to water. Advancing our understanding of loss of this carbon to the atmosphere is critical to understanding the global carbon cycle. This project takes advantage of recent advances in microbial genomics and carbon chemistry to improve understanding of carbon cycling in Arctic freshwaters. The research team will be looking to answer three questions: 1) How is microbial metabolism controlled by dissolved organic carbon (DOC) chemistry? 2) How does DOC exposure to sunlight change how microbes convert DOC to carbon dioxide (CO2) 3) How does the longer-term adaptation of microbial communities affect the rate of DOC conversion to carbon dioxide?
Alejandra Martinez
Educator

Organization
Memorial Junior High
Eagle Pass, TX
United States
Dates:
6 June 2019 to 4 July 2019
Location:
Utqiagvik, Toolik Field Station
What Are They Doing?
The goal of this expedition is to understand arctic terrestrial change by monitoring vegetation communities in northern Alaska associated with the International Tundra Experiment Arctic Observatory Network (ITEX-AON). The team will study environmental variability and increased temperature on tundra plant phenology, growth, species composition and ecosystem function. The ITEX network works collaboratively to study changes in tundra plant and ecosystem responses to experimental warming. The network monitoring sites are located across many major ecosystems of the Arctic. This project will provide urgently needed data critical to understanding the impact of multi-scale vegetation change on ecosystem function, namely land-atmosphere carbon and water fluxes and energy balance.
Amanda Ruland
Educator

Organization
Saratoga Elementary School
Saratoga, WY
United States
Dates:
14 June 2019 to 14 July 2019
Location:
Cherskii and Yakutsk, Russia
What Are They Doing?
Climate change is impacting Arctic regions at twice the rate as the rest of the globe and as a result, ecosystems in these regions are seeing an increase in frequency, intensity and severity of fires in many boreal forests. The primary objective of this research is to delineate the causes of varying post-fire tree regrowth within larch forests of eastern Siberia and determine consequences for climate feedbacks through changes in Carbon storage and albedo (light radiation). The team will be using a combination of field-based measurements, dendrochronological analysis, remotely-sensed data, and statistical modelling. The research will increase the understanding of how larch forests in the Arctic of Siberia respond to a changing fire regime and particularly identify the mechanisms of response.
Monica Nunez
Educator

Organization
Santa Teresa High School
Santa Teresa, NM
United States
Dates:
13 July 2019 to 17 August 2019
Location:
Utqiagvik, Alaska
What Are They Doing?
The research team will maintain 6+ federally funded projects working across the Barrow Peninsula (NSF, NASA, NOAA, DHS). Collectively, these projects are helping to advance our knowledge of terrestrial, aquatic, coastal and marine ecosystem structure and function and how these systems are responding to arctic change. They will use observational, experimental, retrospective (i.e. resampling of historic sites), low- and high- tech approaches for our research. A typical day in the field is highly seasonally and weather dependent. On good weather days, we try and get out on the boat to work our coastal sites, on most days we visit our terrestrial and aquatic sites, and on bad weather days we catch up on equipment maintenance and data, cleaning, etc. in the lab.
Kate Steeper
Educator

Organization
Lennox Academy
Inglewood, CA
United States
Dates:
15 July 2019 to 11 August 2019
Location:
Toolik Field Station, Alaska
What Are They Doing?
Ecosystems develop and change through interactions between living things and their physical environment. A shift in vegetation is one of the most important changes an ecosystem can experience, because it can alter exchanges of energy (originating from sunlight), water, and elements such as carbon (C) and nitrogen (N) between air, plants, and soil. In the Arctic, a widespread shift from tundra to deciduous shrub-dominated vegetation appears to be occurring. This project will assess contributions of different shrub feedbacks to carbon and nitrogen cycling, and improve predictions of the consequences of shrub expansion in the Arctic for regional and global climate.
Piper Bartlett-Browne
Educator

Organization
St. Thomas Aquinas High School
Dover, NH
United States
Dates:
30 July 2019 to 23 August 2019
Location:
Ship-based, northern Bering and Chukchi Seas
What Are They Doing?
This is an observational research program evaluating changes in the Pacific Arctic ecosystem in response to sea ice declines and other climate related processes. The approach is to undertake repeat sampling of specific locations that are biologically diverse or rich in production to detect change, and also to use the capabilities aboard the USCGC Healy to undertake process oriented experiments that address specific issues such as ocean acidification, changes in biological productivity and other areas of sampling that can be addressed by shipboard sampling and experimentation.
Katie Gavenus
Program Director

Organization
Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies
Homer, AK
United States
Dates:
18 September 2019 to 24 October 2019
Location:
Ship-based, Arctic Ocean
What Are They Doing?
MOSAiC observations will be specifically designed to characterize the important processes within the atmosphere-ice-ocean system that impact the sea-ice mass and energy budgets. These include heat, moisture, and momentum fluxes in the atmosphere and ocean, water vapor, clouds and aerosols, biogeochemical cycles in the ocean and ice, and many others.
Bridget Ward
Educator

Organization
Springfield Central High School
United States
Dates:
1 October 2019 to 28 October 2019
Location:
McMurdo Station
What Are They Doing?
Weddell seals are one of the best studied seals and a classic example of adaptation to the extreme Antarctic environment. A large body size and thick blubber layer help them to stay warm both on and under the ice. Their streamlined shape, body oxygen stores, and collapsible lungs allow them to reach dive depths of 600 meters (almost 2,000 feet!) and remain under water for over an hour. However, they do not begin life with these advantages. Weddell seal pups are born on the sea ice with a small body size and almost no blubber. The question is: What does it take for a Weddell seal to survive and successfully make the transition between two extreme environments – above and below the Antarctic sea ice – in only a matter of weeks? To answer this, Cal Poly scientists and a marine mammal veterinarian will venture to Antarctica to study the development of thermoregulation and diving in Weddell seals.
Amy Osborne
Educator

Organization
NatureBridge
Sausalito, CA
United States
Dates:
1 October 2019 to 5 November 2019
Location:
McMurdo Field Station, Antarctica
What Are They Doing?
Cold-blooded animals in the Antarctic ocean have survived in near-constant, extreme cold conditions for millions of years and are very sensitive to even small changes in water temperature. However, the consequences of this extreme thermal sensitivity for the energetics, development, and survival of developing embryos is not well understood. This award will investigate the effect of temperature on the metabolism, growth rate, developmental rate, and developmental energetics of embryos and larvae of Antarctic marine ectotherms. The project will also measure annual variation in temperature and oxygen at different sites in McMurdo Sound, and compare embryonic and larval metabolism in winter and summer to determine the extent to which these life stages can acclimate to seasonal shifts. This research will provide insight into the ability of polar marine animals and ecosystems to withstand warming polar ocean conditions.
Denise Hardoy
Educator

Organization
San Antonio Elementary School
Lockwood, CA
United States
Dates:
1 October 2019 to 1 November 2019
Location:
McMurdo Field Station, Antarctica
What Are They Doing?
In the Southern Ocean surrounding Antarctica there is an extraordinary diversity of marine life. Much of our understanding of the biology of these animals comes from studies of the adaptations of these animals to sub-zero ocean conditions. Research to date on Antarctic fishes has focused on adult life stages with much less research on early life stages that likely prioritize growth and development and not physiological mechanisms of stress tolerance. This project addresses the mechanisms that early life stages (embryos, larvae and juveniles) of Antarctic fishes use to respond to changes in ocean conditions. Specifically, the project will examine energetic trade-offs between key developmental processes in the context of environmental change.
Michelle Hall
Educator

Organization
Science Education Solutions
Los Alamos, NM
United States
Dates:
1 December 2019 to 30 December 2019
Location:
South Pole Station, Antarctica
What Are They Doing?
IceCube is located at the South Pole and records the interactions of a nearly massless sub-atomic messenger particle called the neutrino. IceCube searches for neutrinos from the most violent astrophysical sources: events like exploding stars, gamma ray bursts, and cataclysmic phenomena involving black holes and neutron stars. The IceCube Neutrino Observatory is a powerful tool to search for dark matter, and could reveal the new physical processes associated with the enigmatic origin of the highest energy particles in nature. In addition, IceCube studies the neutrinos themselves using the 100,000 neutrinos detected per year produced by cosmic rays in the atmosphere. Their energies far exceed those from accelerator beams. IceCube encompasses a cubic kilometer of instrumented ice, and is the largest detector by volume ever built. The fully built ARA project, also located at the South Pole, will have an effective volume 100 times bigger than IceCube. The trade off is that it is...
Sarah Slack
Educator

Organization
JHS 223 - The Montauk School
Brooklyn, NY
United States
Dates:
15 January 2020 to 15 March 2020
Location:
Ship-based, Amundsen Sea
What Are They Doing?
Satellite observations show that Thwaites Glacier, West Antarctica, has been thinning rapidly and its flow speed has been increasing. At the same time, its grounding line, the point at which the glacier starts to float over the sea, has retreated. Oceanographic studies show that the main driver of these changes is incursion of warm water in the deep ocean beneath the floating ice shelf that extends seaward from the glacier. An important factor affecting the flow of warm water towards the glacier and the stability of the ice shelf is the topography of the seafloor in the area, which is poorly known. The seafloor offshore from Thwaites Glacier and the records of glacial and ocean change contained in the sediments on it are the focus of the THOR project.