Welcome to the Virtual Base Camp!

This is 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.

2022 PolarTREC Expedition Update

It's 2022 and a new year! We are excited to announce that we will be supporting PolarTREC expeditions. COVID-19 continues to impact us all and that includes polar research. We will continue to monitor the situation and respond accordingly. Our priority is for the safety of the teams and the communities in which they would visit. We hope you will join us virtually, reading journals, posting comments, and learning more about the Polar Regions! Join the Polar Education List to learn about new resources, lesson plans (including virtual lessons), and the latest news on our program.

2022 Expedition Timeline

Expeditions

International Arctic Buoy Program

International Arctic Buoy Program
Dates
-
Location
Utqiaġvik, Alaska & Thule, Greenland

What Are They Doing?

Land-fast sea ice is fastened along the shoreline in Utqiaġvik, Alaska.
Land-fast sea ice is fastened along the shoreline in Utqiaġvik, Alaska. Photo by John Wood.
The participants of the International Arctic Buoy Program (IABP) work together to maintain a network of drifting buoys in the Arctic Ocean to provide meteorological and oceanographic data for real-time operational requirements and research purposes including support to the World Climate Research Programme (WCRP) and the World Weather Watch (WWW) Programme. Data from the IABP have many uses. For example: 1. Research in Arctic climate and climate change, 2. Forecasting weather and ice conditions, 3. Validation of satellites, 4. Forcing, validation and assimilation into numerical climate models, and 5. Tracking the source and fate of samples taken from the ice. Over 1000 publications have benefited from observations from the IABP.

Sarah and the team will be headed out for a second deployment to Thule, Greenland in June-July 2022.

Sarah Johnson
Educator
Wild Rose Education

Carbondale, CO
United States

Expedition Map

Greenland Subglacial Tremor Project

Greenland Subglacial Tremor Project
Dates
-
Location
Ilulissat, Greenland and West Greenland Ice Sheet

What Are They Doing?

The Greenland Ice Sheet near Kangerslussuaq, Greenland.
The Greenland Ice Sheet near Kangerslussuaq, Greenland. Photo by Tina Ciarametaro.
Estimates of the Greenland ice sheet's contribution to sea level rise over the next century range from a few centimeters to over one meter. Differences of a few millimeters per year may be significant in lowlying, populous coastal areas where planning with such a large range of uncertainty has high economic and social costs for governments, communities, and businesses. This study will improve our understanding of how increases in surface runoff will influence ice flow and subsequent loss of water mass from the Greenland ice sheet to the oceans.

Erin Towns
Educator
Edward Little High School

Auburn, ME
United States

Expedition Map

Investigating Ecosystem Carbon Response in Boreal Forests

Investigating Ecosystem Carbon Response in Boreal Forests
Dates
-
Location
Caribou-Poker Creek, Alaska

What Are They Doing?

Measuring the CO2 flux between the soil and atmosphere
Measuring the CO2 flux between the soil and atmosphere
This study focuses on a leaf-to-watershed analysis at the Caribou-Poker Creek (BONA) Watershed in Alaska. The team will work closely with NEON (National Ecological Observatory Network). Specifically, they are looking to answer “What are the environmental and biological controls of photosynthetic phenology in permafrost-affected boreal forests?”. They will use an approach that incorporates high-frequency observations of solar-induced chlorophyll fluorescence (SIF) as an indicator of vegetation gross primary productivity (GPP), and L-band microwave backscattering intensity as an indicator of canopy water content. These measurements will be complemented by a suite of observations including leaf and ecosystem gas exchange, and environmental measurements (e.g., soil temperature, soil moisture, water flow velocity) along a soil-to-vegetation continuum.

Eric Filardi
Educator
Nenana City School

Nenana, AK
United States

Expedition Map

Effects of Lemmings on the Arctic Tundra Ecosystem

Effects of Lemmings on the Arctic Tundra Ecosystem
Dates
-
Location
Utqiaġvik, Alaska

What Are They Doing?

Lemming in Utqiaġvik, Alaska
Lemming in Utqiaġvik, Alaska
The team plans to use observations and experiments and models to understand how the fluctuations in the numbers of small mammal herbivores on the tundra, both within and between years, affect tundra ecosystem function (such as the abundance of different types of plants, the quality of plant litter and nutrient cycling) and energy balance. They will determine natural changes in small mammal population sizes in three different Alaskan tundra ecosystems (at Utqiagvik, Nome and Toolik Lake), and also use experiments in each ecosystem where they control the number of small mammals that have access to small areas of the tundra, to determine how this affects the way the ecosystem works.

Jennifer Heidrich
Educator
Oxford Hill Comprehensive High School

Norway, ME
United States

Expedition Map

Harmful Algal Blooms in Arctic Waters

Harmful Algal Blooms in Arctic Waters
Dates
-
Location
Ship-based in the Bering, Chukchi, and Beaufort Seas

What Are They Doing?

Ice algae in the northern Chukchi Sea.
Ice algae in the northern Chukchi Sea. Photo by Sandra Thornton.
As ocean temperatures warm, in particular the shallow Chukchi Sea, many organisms may spread into Arctic waters. Some of these present significant threats to human and ecosystem health, such as harmful algal bloom (HAB) species (commonly called red tides). The potent neurotoxins that these species produce can affect marine mammals, seabirds, and other resources critical to subsistence harvesters.

At the same time, little is known about the present and future risk from toxic algae to humans in the Pacific Arctic region. This study will be the first to document the current distribution of highly toxic HAB species over large spatial scales within the Alaskan Arctic and will provide estimates of areas at high risk of toxicity now and in a warming future. The hypothesis underlying this project is that HABs in Alaskan Arctic waters are not only transported from the south through Bering Strait but are now originating locally on the Chukchi shelf due to warming temperatures, circulation dynamics, and water mass structure. These factors influence bloom magnitude, duration, toxicity, and recurrence. This will be addressed through a joint physical-biological field and laboratory program to study the relationship between HAB species distribution/dynamics and the physical environment of the Chukchi Sea region.

The distribution of HAB species on the Chukchi shelf will be mapped in relation to hydrography and circulation, including a comprehensive survey of the Alaskan Coastal Current which transports the warmest water in the Chukchi Sea. A range of molecular and physiological tools will be used to investigate the origin, connectivity, and fate of HAB populations in the region. Sediment profiling will establish a historical record of blooms along the major transport pathways to the western Arctic. This information will be used to generate conceptual models of the origin, transport, and fate of HABs in the Chukchi Sea region.

Rebecca Siegel
Educator
Brevig Mission School

Brevig Mission, AK
United States

Expedition Map

Antarctic Automatic Weather Stations 2021

Antarctic Automatic Weather Stations 2021
Dates
-
Location
McMurdo Station, Antarctica

What Are They Doing?

The team raises meteorological instrument equipment onto the Sabrina Automatic Weather Station (AWS), Antarctica.
The team raises meteorological instrument equipment onto the Sabrina Automatic Weather Station (AWS), Antarctica. Photo by David Mikolajczyk, Courtesy of Michael Penn.
The Antarctic Automatic Weather Station (AWS) network has been making meteorological observations since the early 1980s. This continent-wide network is positioned to observe significant meteorological events and increase our understanding of the climate of the Antarctic surface. Researchers utilize the AWS network to observe and learn about the Antarctic in a warming world. Given the duration of the AWS program and maintaining AWS sites for many years, numerous studies have been conducted on the surface climatology of regions of the continent, such as the Ross Ice Shelf. This climatology also aids in other studies, like winter warming events.

The Antarctic Automatic Weather Station network provides a greater understanding of the surface meteorology and climatology throughout the continent of Antarctica. The AWS network spans the Ross Ice Shelf, Ross Island, West Antarctica, East Antarctica, and the South Pole. Since some of the AWS have been working for over 30 years, we can begin to understand the climate over many regions of Antarctica.

Cassie Kautzer
Educator
Hellstern Middle School

Springdale, AR
United States

Expedition Map

IceCube and The Askaryan Radio Array 2022

IceCube and The Askaryan Radio Array 2022
Dates
-
Location
South Pole Station, Antarctica

What Are They Doing?

A Digital Optical Module (DOM) hanging in the IceCube Lab at the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station, Antarctica.
A Digital Optical Module (DOM) hanging in the IceCube Lab at the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station, Antarctica. Photo by Kate Miller.
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 only capable of observing radio waves from extremely high energy neutrinos, a million times more energetic than the neutrinos produced by cosmic rays in the atmosphere. This neutrinos are extremely rare, which is why such a large detector is needed to increase the chance of seeing one.

Elaine Krebs
Educator
California Science Center

Los Angeles, CA
United States

Expedition Map

Dry Valleys Ecosystem Study 2022

Dry Valleys Ecosystem Study 2022
Dates
-
Location
McMurdo Station and Dry Valleys, Antarctica

What Are They Doing?

Dr. Thomas Powers and Natasha Griffin collect soil samples at the F6 site in the McMurdo Dry Valleys, Antarctica.
Dr. Thomas Powers and Natasha Griffin collect soil samples at the F6 site in the McMurdo Dry Valleys, Antarctica. Photo by Kevin Dickerson.
The McMurdo Dry Valleys Long-Term Ecological Research (MCM LTER) Program is an interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary study of the aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems in an ice-free region of Antarctica. MCM joined the National Science Foundation's LTER Network in 1993 and is funded through the Office of Polar Programs in six year funding periods.

The McMurdo Dry Valleys (77°30'S 163°00'E) on the shore of McMurdo Sound, 2,200 miles (3,500 km) due south of New Zealand, form the largest relatively ice-free area (approximately 4,800 sq km) on the Antarctic continent. These ice-free areas of Antarctica display a sharp contrast to most other ecosystems in the world, which exist under far more moderate environmental conditions. The perennially ice-covered lakes, ephemeral streams and extensive areas of exposed soil within the McMurdo Dry Valleys are subject to low temperatures, limited precipitation and salt accumulation. The dry valleys represent a region where life approaches its environmental limits, and is an end-member in the spectrum of environments included in the LTER Network.

The overarching goal of MCM LTER research is to document and understand how ecosystems respond to environmental changes.

Bill Henske
Educator
Maplewood-Richmond Heights Middle School

St. Louis, MO
United States

Expedition Map