Virtual Base Camp

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 2015. 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.

A new feature to the Virtual Base Camp 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.

Current Expeditions

Melissa Lau
Educator

Organization
Piedmont Intermediate
Oklahoma City, OK
United States
Dates:
6 June 2018 to 7 July 2018
Location:
Toolik Field Station, Alaska
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.
Joanna Chierici
Educator

Organization
Melvin H. Kreps Middle School
Roebling, NJ
United States
Dates:
24 June 2018 to 4 July 2018
Location:
Ship-based, Eastern Bering Sea
What Are They Doing?
Eastern Bering Sea (EBS) jellyfish populations have fluctuated dramatically during the past three decades. When jellyfish populations are high, they likely have major impacts on the Bering Sea food web. This project will estimate the age structure and age-specific abundances of the predominant jellyfish in the Bering Sea, Chrysaora melanaster, in order to understand how their population size changes with time. The ultimate goal is to estimate the reproductive capacity and success of this jellyfish in relation to climate variability and to investigate the potential for jellyfish population increases to become a recurring pattern in the Bering Sea under future climate scenarios. This will in turn enable forecasting of jellyfish abundance and their predatory impacts in the Bering Sea ecosystem.

2008 Expeditions

Ann Linsley
Teacher

Organization
Bellaire High School
Bellaire, TX
United States
Dates:
12 November 2007 to 20 December 2007
Location:
McMurdo Station, Antarctica
What Are They Doing?
Antarctica represents one of the most strictly-monitored habitats on Earth. In addition to the desire to protect the flora, fauna, and atmosphere of a relatively pristine environment, Antarctica serves as a baseline barometer of global pollution. McMurdo Station is the largest human community on the Antarctic continent and as part of its obligations under the Antarctic Treaty's Protocol on Environmental Protection the U.S. is developing a long-term monitoring program designed to describe the environmental conditions in and around the station and to scrutinize any anthropogenic impacts that can be foreseen or detected. Ms. Linsley and the research team conducted environmental monitoring and sampling of chemical, physical, and biological variables in and around McMurdo Station from both marine and terrestrial habitats as measures of human impact and used GIS techniques to track them over time. The results of this research helped document and minimize the impacts of future science and...
Brandon Gillette
Teacher

Organization
University of Kansas and the Center for Remote Sensing of Ice Sheets (CReSIS)
Lawrence, KS
United States
Dates:
26 November 2007 to 1 January 2008
Location:
West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS), Antarctica
What Are They Doing?
Mr. Gillette and a team of researchers and technicians from the Center for Remote Sensing of Ice Sheets (CReSIS) spent two months documenting conditions at the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) divide using a variety of techniques, including weather observations, GPS, ice coring, radar, and seismic sensing. The team characterized the base of the ice sheet by determining, for example, the amount of water and sediments under the ice, which were used to help interpret ice core data. Similar measurements over time contributed to an improved understanding of, and ability to predict, the impact of changes in polar ice sheets on sea level and climate. Additional information about this project can be found at the project website.
Elke Bergholz
Teacher

Organization
United Nations International School
New York, NY
United States
Dates:
4 December 2007 to 16 January 2008
Location:
South Pole Station
What Are They Doing?
Ms. Bergholz traveled to Antarctica in 1999 as a TEA teacher to collect data on atmospheric ozone. Since then, ozone depletion and global warming have become even more urgent international concerns. Late 2007, Ms. Bergholz joined Dr. Hofmann once again at the NOAA Clean Air Facility at the South Pole Station to collect new data on atmospheric ozone, to compare with the data they collected in 1999. Ms. Bergholz and Dr. Hofmann measured the positive influences of the Montreal Protocol on substances that deplete the ozone layer. The group collected information on atmospheric ozone (surface ozone, total ozone, and ozone profiles), carbon dioxide, and aerosols. Comparisons were made to atmospheric data in other parts of the world in order to predict the influence that the Kyoto Protocol and other clean air policies might have.
Kirk Beckendorf
Teacher

Organization
NOAA Office of Education
Blanco, TX
United States
Dates:
21 December 2007 to 29 January 2008
Location:
Antarctica
What Are They Doing?
Mr. Beckendorf and the team worked on the Antarctic Automatic Weather Stations Project deploying, supporting, and maintaining a network of instruments that take automated weather measurements throughout the year. The data are transmitted via satellite in real-time and the sites themselves require relatively little upkeep. Since the beginning of the project in 1980, there have been approximately 100 weather stations deployed across Antarctica, largely powered through solar energy. The Antarctic Automatic Weather Stations are a very important part of many scientific projects taking place in Antarctica, as these stations provide the only weather measurements available on most parts of the continent.
Craig Kasemodel
Teacher

Organization
Central Middle School of Science
Anchorage, AK
United States
Dates:
11 March 2008 to 28 March 2008
Location:
Bering Sea
What Are They Doing?
A diverse team of researchers participated in the first of three research cruises in the spring and summer of 2008, aboard the USCGC Healy in support of the Bering Sea Ecosystem Study (BEST) and the Bering Sea Integrated Ecosystem Research Program (BSIERP). Scientists on board the ship documented late winter ocean conditions, studying the biological communities found in sea ice, examining the early spring plankton bloom, and investigating light penetration through open water and ice cover. Additionally, researchers examined the benthic communities living on the seafloor as well as observed an important benthic predator, the walrus. The region of the Bering Sea where the team was working is biologically rich and supports highly productive ecological communities of bivalves, gastropods, and polychaetes. These benthic communities have been changing over the past several decades, perhaps as a result of competing fish species moving north as waters warm.
Emily Davenport
Graduate Student

Organization
Western Washington University
Dates:
27 March 2008 to 6 May 2008
Location:
Bering Sea
What Are They Doing?
A diverse research team aboard the icebreaker, U.S. Coast Guard Cutter (USCGC) Healy conducted sampling along a series of transects over the eastern Bering Sea. Research on the ship is multidisciplinary, and was part of the Bering Ecosystem Study. The scientists on board used a variety of techniques to measure the productivity of the Bering Sea ecosystem. Measurements included temperature, salinity, nutrient content of the sea water, changes in sea ice cover, and the concentration of nutrients used and released by phytoplankton. They also conducted surveys of zooplankton, fish, seabirds, and marine mammals such as walrus and seal, to assess the health of these populations. These measurements helped give scientists an indication of the status of the Bering Sea ecosystem and any potential changes occurring in the marine environment that might change the continued use of its resources, and the economic, social and cultural sustainability of the people who depend on it.
Katie Pena
Teacher

Organization
Zilker Elementary School
Austin, TX
United States
Dates:
12 April 2008 to 27 May 2008
Location:
Drake Passage
What Are They Doing?
This project studied the opening of the Drake Passage between South America and Antarctica through a combined marine geophysical survey and geochemical study of dredged ocean floor basalts. Dating the passage's opening is key to understanding the formation of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current, which plays a major role in worldwide ocean circulation, and whose formation is connected with the growth of the Antarctic ice sheet. The samples that were collected were used in various geochemical studies to determine their age and constrained mantle flow beneath the region. The research team included graduate students, as well as undergraduate students, and a K-12 teacher. The cruise also involved international collaboration with the United Kingdom and is part of International Polar Year project, Plates and Gates, which aims to reconstruct the geologic history of polar ocean basins and gateways for computer simulations of climate change. Click here to learn more about the international...
Craig Beals
Teacher

Organization
Billings Senior High
Billings, MT
United States
Dates:
1 June 2008 to 12 July 2008
Location:
Summit, Greenland
What Are They Doing?
As snow falls, it carries whatever is in the air with it into the snowpack. Over the past decade, scientists have learned that the chemicals that accumulate in the snow over the long, dark arctic winter react rapidly when they are exposed to the sun in the spring. These sunlight-driven reactions (photochemistry) in snow release a number of pollutants to the lower atmosphere. A team of scientists worked at Summit, Greenland to find out how snow photochemistry affects the composition of the snow and the atmosphere above it by sampling and analyzing reactive chemicals in the snow and in the air, measuring the sunlight in the snowpack, and determining physical properties of the snow.
Elizabeth Eubanks
Teacher

Organization
St. Mark Catholic School
Boynton Beach, FL
United States
Dates:
10 June 2008 to 18 July 2008
Location:
Barrow, Alaska
What Are They Doing?
The team continued their work from 2007, investigating the role of carbon in arctic tundra ecosystems. Approximately one quarter of the world's soil organic carbon is stored at high northern latitudes in permafrost and soils. As the arctic environment warms, this carbon may be released to the atmosphere in the form of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4). The goal of this project was to understand how changes in a warming and drying arctic environment may affect the balance and stability of the arctic soil carbon. The team measured soil moisture, permafrost depth, carbon dioxide and methane gas in the soil and atmosphere, and surveyed plant composition, function, and primary productivity. They also used remote sensing as part of a larger project to investigate patterns of change across the tundra at various scales, from small local changes to landscape level changes.
Catherine Campbell
Teacher

Organization
Scarlett Middle School
Ann Arbor, MI
United States
Dates:
24 June 2008 to 26 July 2008
Location:
Toolik Field Station, Alaska
What Are They Doing?
Ms. Campbell worked with Donie Bret-Harte and a team of researchers who measured carbon, water, and energy fluxes at Toolik Field Station, Alaska. Their results were compared to findings from other arctic sites in Russia, Sweden, Greenland, and Canada to form a coordinated network of long-term observatories. Laura Gough and John Moore investigated how climate warming affects arctic plant and soil communities both above and below ground. For example, as the Arctic continues to warm, soil nutrient availability will increase because the microbes are better able to decompose the organic matter present in the soil, releasing nutrients in the process. The team measured and compared a variety of factors in experimental and control plots in two different kinds of tundra. These data are crucial to understanding the long-term responses of these two communities and to predicting future changes.
Jillian Worssam
Teacher

Organization
Sinagua Middle School
Flagstaff, AZ
United States
Dates:
30 June 2008 to 2 August 2008
Location:
Bering Sea
What Are They Doing?
A diverse research team aboard the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter (USCGS) Healy conducted sampling along a series of transects over the eastern Bering Sea. Research on the ship was multidisciplinary, with scientists using a variety of techniques to document ocean conditions and the productivity of the Bering Sea ecosystem. Research teams measured the temperature, salinity, nutrient content of the sea water, changes in sea ice cover, and the concentration of nutrients used and released by phytoplankton. They also conducted surveys of zooplankton, fish, seabirds, and marine mammals such as walruses and seals, to assess the health of these populations. These measurements gave scientists an indication of the status of the Bering Sea ecosystem and any changes that might affect the use of its resources, and the economic, social and cultural sustainability of the people who depend on it. This was the third cruise in 2008 supported by the National Science Foundation’s Bering Ecosystem Study (BEST),...
Dates:
6 July 2008 to 12 July 2008
Location:
Greenland
What Are They Doing?
The expedition members spent five days learning about the research conducted in Greenland, the logistics involved in supporting the research, and had first-hand experience conducting experiments and developing inquiry-based educational activities. The 2008 work built on the 2007 expedition and was supported by the National Science Foundation. The project was developed through cooperation with the U.S.-Denmark-Greenland Joint Committee which was established in 2004 to broaden and deepen cooperation among the United States, the Kingdom of Denmark, and Greenland. The group arrived in the coastal town of Kangerlussuaq, Greenland on July 7th, where they toured the research infrastructure that supports Danish, U.S., and other international research projects. On Tuesday, June 8th the group flew to Summit Camp at the top of the Greenland Ice Sheet to learn about the research conducted at the Greenland Environmental Observatory at Summit (GEOSummit). The teachers and students...
Missy Holzer
Teacher

Organization
Chatham High School
Chatham, NJ
United States
Dates:
8 July 2008 to 16 August 2008
Location:
Svalbard, Norway
What Are They Doing?
The team traveled to Svalbard, Norway, located in the High Arctic, to investigate how high latitude glaciers, melt-water streams, and sedimentation in lakes and fjords respond to climate change. The Svalbard region has been marked by the retreat of glaciers, reductions in sea ice, and measurable warming throughout the Holocene period, and more specifically during the last 90 years. The Svalbard archipelago has preserved geologic records of climate change since the last ice age and into the 20th century, which made it an ideal location for this study.
Misty Nikula
Teacher

Organization
Whatcom Day Academy
Bellingham, WA
United States
Dates:
9 July 2008 to 1 September 2008
Location:
Kuril Islands, Russia
What Are They Doing?
An international team of American, Japanese, and Russian researchers and students examined the 5,000-year history of human-environmental interactions in the Kuril Island chain of Russia. The team combined studies of archaeology, geology, paleoecology, oceanography, and climatology to investigate the records of human settlement and abandonment on the Islands. They also surveyed the geologic evidence of volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, tsunamis, past vegetation, marine conditions, and climatological evidence of past temperature, sea ice, and storminess. The research team traveled by boat to a number of islands to dig archaeological pits, sample soils, and searched for buried artifacts and clues to past activity on the islands. The objectives of the project included understanding the environmental conditions of the past and estimating the degree of human vulnerability and resilience to both sudden and gradual environmental changes. For more information about the Kuril Biocomplexity...
Frank Kelley
Teacher

Organization
Chester-Andover Elementary School
Chester, VT
United States
Dates:
9 July 2008 to 16 August 2008
Location:
Barrow, Alaska
What Are They Doing?
As part of an ongoing project to document ancestral burials near Barrow, Alaska, an interdisciplinary team of archaeologists, physical anthropologists, geomorphologists, and community members worked together to excavate the Nuvuk cemetery and village at Point Barrow. The cemetery dates back at least 1200 years, contains several hundred shallow burials, and is rapidly eroding into the Arctic Ocean. The remains are likely to add significantly to our understanding of the ancient inhabitants of the Arctic, the evolution of their cultures, and their relationships to contemporary populations. Local high school students served as field and laboratory staff members on the project.
Gerty Ward
Teacher

Organization
Durham Academy
Durham, NC
United States
Dates:
16 July 2008 to 21 August 2008
Location:
Beaufort Sea
What Are They Doing?
Most of the time, prevailing winds cause a huge area of the Beaufort Sea to circulate in a clockwise (anticyclonic) direction; this circulation is know as the Beaufort Gyre. The Beaufort Gyre contains the major reservoir of fresh water stored in the Arctic Ocean, and learning more about how the Beaufort Gyre accumulates and releases fresh water as conditions change will improve understanding of ocean circulation in the Arctic Ocean. The Beaufort Gyre team measured ice thickness, ocean temperature, salinity, and bottom pressure by deploying and retrieving bottom-tethered moorings. Other moorings, known as ice-tethered profilers, were attached to the sea ice to observe and broadcast ocean properties in real time. The Beaufort Gyre Expedition was part of the Joint Ocean Ice Study being conducted on a Canadian Coast Guard Icebreaker in collaboration with scientists from the Institute of Ocean Sciences in Canada and JAMSTEC in Japan. The research team has worked in this area on annual...
Robin Ellwood
Teacher

Organization
Rye Junior High
Rye, NH
United States
Dates:
13 October 2008 to 25 November 2008
Location:
Dry Valleys, Antarctica
What Are They Doing?
The McMurdo Dry Valleys Long-term Ecological Research (LTER) project is an interdisciplinary study of the aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems in a cold desert region of Antarctica. The McMurdo LTER project is one of 21 sites comprising the National Science Foundation’s LTER Network, where scientists conduct long-term ecological research in a broad array of ecosystems. Dr. Doran studies the lakes of the Dry Valleys. His team collects long-term data on the physical and chemical conditions within the lakes and relates them to biological diversity and processes. Ms. Ellwood was part of a SCUBA diving crew working under the lake ice to collect information about the conditions on the bottom of the lake (benthos).
Jacquelyn Hams
Associate Professor

Organization
Los Angeles Valley College
Valley Glen, CA
United States
Dates:
4 November 2008 to 15 December 2008
Location:
Dry Valleys, Antarctica
What Are They Doing?
A small team of earth scientists and engineers used a specialized drill to reach buried ice deposits in Beacon Valley – a part of the Dry Valleys region of Antarctica. Buried ice deposits represent a new and potentially far-reaching archive of Earth’s atmosphere and climate. The drill operations retrieved ice cores, which enabled the research team to gain access to a record of atmospheric and climatic change extending back for many millions of years. The ice that was drilled was estimated to be over several million years in age, making it by far the oldest ice yet known on this planet. Simultaneously, the team worked in the Dry Valleys to seek a better understanding of surface processes above buried ice on Earth, for insight into Martian history and the potential for life on Mars. The cold-polar desert of the Dry Valleys is one of the most Mars-like climatic environments and landscapes on Earth. Additionally, the team continued to investigate the timing of tundra extinction in...
Cameo Slaybaugh
Teacher

Organization
Suffolk SECEP School
Suffolk, VA
United States
Dates:
4 November 2008 to 19 December 2008
Location:
McMurdo Station, Antarctica
What Are They Doing?
The research team continued exploration of remote regions of the seafloor around McMurdo Station, Antarctica with a specially designed remotely operated vehicle (ROV) for underwater research. The ROV could be deployed through a small (15 cm) hole in the sea ice, enabling access to regions beyond scuba diving depths (at 40-170 m). The researchers located historical experimental structures on the sea floor around McMurdo Station and investigated the colonization of these structures by species of sessile invertebrates. This provided an unprecedented opportunity to explore and document the rates and patterns of ecological succession from one of the most extreme habitats in the world. The team also tested protocols for conducting sonar mapping with the new ROV as a first step towards creating high-resolution, bathymetric maps of the entire seafloor around McMurdo Station.
John Wood
Teacher

Organization
Talbert Middle School
Huntington Beach, CA
United States
Dates:
21 November 2008 to 10 January 2009
Location:
Mount Erebus, Antarctica
What Are They Doing?
Erebus is the southernmost active volcano on Earth and the most active in Antarctica. The team from NM Tech worked at the summit of the volcano for over four weeks during the austral summer of 2008-09. Most of the team members undertook a major seismic experiment which imaged the conduit (pipe) which feeds molten magma to the permanent lake of lava in the crater of Erebus volcano. A second seismic experiment looked at the deeper crustal structure under the volcano to understand where the magma is generated. The team installed 100 seismometers to supplement 32 already installed on the volcano. Then they set off explosion at 14 sites on and around the volcano using dynamite and other materials to create seismic waves that were recorded by the seismometers. This allowed the team to cat-scan the inside of the volcano. They continued monitoring emissions of gases and aerosols and maintained instruments to monitor the weather and deformation of the volcano.
Jeff Peneston
Teacher

Organization
Liverpool High School
Liverpool, NY
United States
Dates:
25 November 2008 to 12 January 2009
Location:
Southern Oceans, Antarctica
What Are They Doing?
The scientific objectives of the cruise aboard the Swedish icebreaker Oden included collecting a range of data in rarely traveled areas of the Antarctic seas and coastline, including the Amundsen and eastern Ross Seas. An international research team studied the oceanography and biogeochemistry of the region while in transit to Antarctica, with a particular emphasis on the processes that control the production and destruction of greenhouse gases and on the role of sea ice microorganisms in this process. These studies added to our limited knowledge of these remote corners of the Antarctic Seas and allowed future researchers to expand their monitoring efforts in these regions.
Katie Pena
Teacher

Organization
Zilker Elementary School
Austin, TX
United States
Dates:
10 December 2008 to 10 January 2009
Location:
McMurdo and Casey Stations
What Are They Doing?
An international team of scientists from the United States, United Kingdom, and Australia traveled to McMurdo and Casey Stations in Antarctica to finish installing equipment on an airplane which was used later in the field season to conduct airborne surveys over the Aurora Subglacial Basin, a geologic formation under the East Antarctic Ice Sheet. The area is one that was considered stable until recently, but could now represent the weak underbelly of the East Antarctic Ice Sheet, the largest remaining body of ice on Earth. The research aimed to learn how Earth's climate changed in the past and how future climate change could affect global sea levels. The team flew an upgraded World War II-era DC-3 aircraft using multiple airborne geophysical instruments to map the thickness of the ice sheet and measure the texture, composition, density, and topography of rocks below the ice. Data from the project helped model East Antarctic ice stability and helped forecast how ice might react...