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.

2009 Expeditions

Deanna Wheeler
Teacher

Organization
J. C. Parks Elementary School
Indian Head, MD
United States
Dates:
8 March 2009 to 31 March 2009
Location:
USCGC Healy, Bering Sea
What Are They Doing?
A diverse team of researchers participated in the first of three research cruises in the 2009 season 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, studied the biological communities found in sea ice, monitored the early spring plankton bloom, and investigated light penetration through open water and ice cover. Additionally, researchers examined the benthic communities living on the seafloor and observed an important benthic predator, the walrus. The region of the Bering Sea where the team worked 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 the Bering Sea's waters warm.
Betsy Wilkening
Teacher

Organization
Wilson K-8 School
Tucson, AZ
United States
Dates:
15 March 2009 to 3 April 2009
Location:
Barrow, Alaska
What Are They Doing?
Team researchers investigated air-surface chemical interactions in the Arctic, and how these might evolve in future climates. Their efforts were part of the Ocean, Atmosphere, Sea Ice, Snowpack (OASIS) program – an international program that involves scientists from the United States, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, and the UK. To gather data, the team used state-of-the-art chemical and biological sensors, micrometeorological instrumentation, Lidars, and tethered balloons to measure chemical and biological exchanges between the atmosphere and ice, ocean, and snow surfaces. The study focused on the impacts of these chemical reservoirs on tropospheric chemistry, climate, and their feedbacks in the Arctic. By seeking the answer to key questions about the nature of these surfaces, including how, where, and which chemical substances and aerosols are processed and activated in snow surfaces, the team pursued big-picture climate issues and contributed to predictions about climate change...
Tim Martin
Teacher

Organization
Greensboro Day School
Greensboro, NC
United States
Dates:
21 March 2009 to 22 April 2009
Location:
Crater Lake El’gygytgyn, Russia
What Are They Doing?
An international team of researchers from the United States, Germany, Russia, and Austria traveled to northeast Russia to conduct a large-scale scientific drilling project in Lake El'gygytgyn (pronounced el'geegitgin), a crater lake created 3.6 million years ago by the impact of a meteorite measuring about 18 km in diameter. The team worked on the lake ice throughout the winter, using a customized light-weight drill rig to obtain drill cores of layered muds from two sites in the lake. Lake El'gygytgyn possesses a unique record of prehistoric climate change in the arctic. Because this basin was never glaciated, an uninterrupted sediment sequence of nearly 400 m (1312 feet) has accumulated at the bottom of the lake. Sediment cores collected during this expedition were used to gather information about the history of the basin and were compared with similar paleoclimate records from other parts of the world, helping researchers to better understand the arctic's role in global climate...
Simone Welch
Teacher

Organization
Oyster Bilingual ES
Washington, DC
United States
Dates:
31 March 2009 to 12 May 2009
Location:
USCGC Healy, Bering Sea
What Are They Doing?
A diverse research team aboard the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter (USCGC) 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, and 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. A major focus of this cruise was characterizing the phytoplankton bloom associated with the edge of the melting sea ice. These measurements helped give scientists an indication of the status of the Bering Sea ecosystem and an indication of any changes that could affect the use of its resources, and the economic, social, and cultural...
Michael Wing
Teacher

Organization
Sir Francis Drake High School
San Anselmo, CA
United States
Dates:
6 May 2009 to 31 May 2009
Location:
Yli-Ii, Finland
What Are They Doing?
For this project, the research team collected and analyzed archaeological and paleoenvironmental data from three widely separated but environmentally comparable sites within the northern circumpolar region, the Yli-li area of Northern Finland, the Wemindji area of James Bay, Canada, and in the Kamchatka Peninsula region of Russia. The circumpolar North is widely seen as an observatory for changing relations between human societies and their environments. The goal of the research team was to learn about the prehistoric society and economy of these areas in order to better understand human adaptation to significant environmental changes that took place between 6,000 and 4,000 years ago. Data gathered from this project helped enable more effective collaboration between social, natural and medical sciences. This project was part of a the first circumpolar humanities research initiative called Histories From the North: Environments, Movements, Narratives (BOREAS), which involved...
Cheri Hamilton
K-12 Science Coordinator

Organization
Center for Remote Sensing of Ice Sheets (CReSIS)
Lawrence, KS
United States
Dates:
22 May 2009 to 8 June 2009
Location:
NEEM Camp, Greenland
What Are They Doing?
Much of our knowledge of past climate comes from ice cores drilled from the Greenland ice sheet. These records stretch back more than 100,000 years, but existing ice cores do not include clear records from the Eemian stage, the second-to-latest interglacial period, which occurred about 130,000 years ago. During this period, evidence indicates that temperatures were about 3-5 ˚C warmer than present, so more information would help us understand and predict how our climate is likely to evolve in the warming future. Under the North Greenland Eemian (NEEM) ice drilling project, an international team of researchers worked to obtain complete and undisturbed layers of ice from the Eemian by drilling a new core in northwest Greenland. Choosing the right spot to drill was critically important to the project’s success. NEEM scientists collaborated with researchers from the Center for the Remote Sensing of Ice Sheets (CReSIS) at the University of Kansas. The CReSIS team provided Radar Echo...
Mark McKay
Teacher

Organization
Venture Academy/Delta VISTA
Stockton, CA
United States
Dates:
14 June 2009 to 15 July 2009
Location:
R/V Knorr, 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. Researchers measured the temperature, salinity, and nutrient content of the sea water 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 helped give 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 2009 cruise in support of the Bering Sea Ecosystem Study (BEST) and the Bering Sea Integrated Ecosystem...
Jennifer Thompson
NSF Einstein Fellow
Washington, DC
United States
Dates:
5 July 2009 to 21 July 2009
Location:
Various Locations, Greenland
What Are They Doing?
The expedition members visited several research sites in Greenland as part of an initiative to foster enhanced international scientific cooperation between the countries of the United States, Greenland, and Denmark. The expedition members spent several days learning about the research conducted in Greenland, the logistics involved in supporting the research, and they gained first-hand experience conducting experiments and developing inquiry-based educational activities. The 2009 expedition built on the 2008 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.
Mike Rhinard
Teacher

Organization
Riverglen Junior High School
Boise, ID
United States
Dates:
10 July 2009 to 15 August 2009
Location:
Svalbard, Norway
What Are They Doing?
The research team, which included undergraduate geoscience students participating in the Research Experiences for Undergraduates Program, traveled to Svalbard, Norway, to investigate how climate change affects sediment transport and deposition associated with the tidewater glaciers, icebergs, meltwater streams, and marine currents. Tidewater glaciers are among the fastest changing systems in the Arctic, offering the team the opportunity to monitor rapidly changing and dynamic systems. The research team sampled glacier and iceberg ice for debris concentrations and performed CTD casts to define where the sediment from the glacier was being transported and deposited. Glacial sediments deposited on the bottom of the fiord were collected to identify the structures forming on the fjord floor and their relation to observed glacial processes. Bathymetric maps of the seafloor were obtained by using a small sub-bottom profiler and established baseline data allowing researchers to determine...
Thomas Harten
Teacher

Organization
CHESPAX, Calvert County Public Schools
Prince Frederick, MD
United States
Dates:
15 July 2009 to 15 August 2009
Location:
Pribilof Islands, Alaska
What Are They Doing?
The research team studied the foraging behavior of seabirds nesting in the Pribilof Islands. Specifically, they were interested in two piscivorous seabirds – the Thick-billed Murres and Black-legged Kittiwakes – on St. George and St. Paul Islands. The team conducted this research to determine how climate warming and sea ice retreat from the southern portions of the Bering Sea will impact seabird nesting success and population growth rates on these islands. To help gather data, team researchers used Global Positioning System (GPS) technology to track breeding seabirds when they foraged at sea. They also employed time-depth recorders (TDRs) to determine the amount of time the birds spent on the water surface, as well as how deep and often they dived. The information they gathered using this equipment and their direct observation helped to confirm where birds from each island find food and how sea ice extent affects the feeding locations and trip length. They also got a better...
Barney Peterson
Teacher

Organization
James Monroe Elementary School
Everett, WA
United States
Dates:
21 July 2009 to 13 August 2009
Location:
Southcentral and Southwest Alaska
What Are They Doing?
The goal of this project was to reconstruct the behavior of atmospheric circulation, specifically the Aleutian Low pressure system, over the past 10,000 years and to assess how its variability relates to past shifts in climate. In the summer of 2009, the research team recovered sediment cores and conducted monitoring at nine lake sites in southern Alaska. They used the physical and chemical characteristics of the samples they collected to reconstruct a record of past climate in this area. The data was compared with records across the Arctic and sub-Arctic to better understand climate variation overall. Information gathered as part of this project helped researchers better understand modern climate warming in the context of the long-term climate changes that took place in the region. Additionally, the research team discovered that two of the lakes visited contain unique sediment layers called varves, which provide a lot of information about past climate changes. These are among only...
Cristina Galvan
Teacher

Organization
Impact Academy of Arts and Technology
Menlo Park, CA
United States
Dates:
23 September 2009 to 1 November 2009
Location:
Coast Guard Ship, Beaufort Sea
What Are They Doing?
Polar bears, Ursus maritimus, spend most of their time on the sea ice – where they travel, hunt, and sometimes even give birth. However, during the summer the sea ice retreats northward and leaves some polar bears on shore for several months. These bears may not be able hunt and may face warmer temperatures than they do on the ice. The research team investigated how the polar bears cope with these difficult conditions on shore, and attempted to determine if they possess adaptations similar to bears that hibernate in the winter. A research team made up of scientists from the University of Wyoming, United States Geological Survey (USGS), and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) used the U.S. Coast Guard icebreaker Polar Sea and on-board helicopters to approach polar bears on the sea ice and collect measurements and samples to determine the overall physical condition of the animals. The research team recaptured bears that were originally tested in May 2009, to compare...
Lindsay Knippenberg
Teacher

Organization
South Lake High School
St. Clair Shores, MI
United States
Dates:
5 October 2009 to 3 December 2009
Location:
McMurdo Dry Valleys, Antarctica
What Are They Doing?
Are microorganisms metabolically active in glacier ice? To address this exciting question, the research team traveled to the McMurdo Dry Valleys – one of the harshest environments on Earth – to study the biology, geology, and chemistry of basal ice – the dynamic layer of ice closest to the bedrock at the base of a glacier. The team used a tunnel cut into the side of Taylor Glacier to reach the basal ice layer. Data collected from field measurements and laboratory experiments helped researchers understand the connections between available nutrients, geochemical properties, and gas composition. This information helped determine if evidence for metabolism of microorganisms living in the ice could be found, and to link this to the types of cells present. In addition, the research team investigated the similarities and differences among microorganisms in different types of ice within the basal ice zone. Some layers in the basal ice zone are clear and have little sediment. Other layers...
Michele Cross
Teacher

Organization
Corning East High School
Corning, NY
United States
Dates:
29 October 2009 to 18 December 2009
Location:
McMurdo Station, Antarctica
What Are They Doing?
The research team continued to explore remote regions of the seafloor around McMurdo Station, Antarctica with a remotely operated vehicle (ROV) for underwater research. The ROV was deployed through a small (15 cm) hole in the sea ice, enabling access to regions beyond scuba diving depths (at 40-170 m) and allowing the research team to survey very large areas of overlapping seafloor. The research team used the ROV to locate historical experimental structures on the sea floor around McMurdo Station and to investigate the colonization of these structures by species of sessile invertebrates. The ROV was able to take videos and photographs of these ecological communities, which permitted the team to identify size, type, and species of organisms living on the structures. 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...
Heidi Roop
Researcher

Organization
University of New Hampshire/ Desert Research Institute
Seattle, WA
United States
Dates:
9 November 2009 to 1 February 2010
Location:
West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) Divide, Antarctica
What Are They Doing?
Using a large hollow drill, the WAIS Divide Ice Core Drilling team collected a 3,500-meter-long ice core, or sample of ice, from the West Antarctic Ice Sheet. Because of the weight of the overlying snowpack, snow that falls and accumulates on ice sheets re-crystallizes and forms annual layers over time. The ice core recovered during the project had annual resolution, or distinct yearly markings, for the past 40,000 years! In ice sheets, the compression of snow traps small bubbles of air in the layers of ice. By measuring concentrations of greenhouse gasses and non-greenhouse gasses and their isotopes trapped within bubbles in the ice, the team developed climate records dating back to 100,000 years before present. This ice core provided the first Southern Hemisphere climate and greenhouse gas records of comparable time, resolution, and duration to ice cores previously recovered in Greenland. The ice core enabled scientists to make detailed comparisons of greenhouse gas...
Casey O’Hara
Teacher

Organization
Carlmont High School
Belmont, CA
United States
Dates:
16 November 2009 to 1 January 2010
Location:
South Pole Station, Antarctica
What Are They Doing?
A large international team of scientists and drilling technicians worked throughout the austral summer to continue to assemble and test the world's largest scientific instrument, the in-ice IceCube Neutrino Detector. Neutrinos are incredibly common (about 10 million pass through your body as you read this) subatomic particles that have no electric charge and almost no mass. They are created by radioactive decay and nuclear reactions, such as those on the sun and other stars. Neutrinos rarely react with other particles or forces; in fact, most of them pass through objects (like you, or the entire earth) without any interaction. This makes them ideal for carrying information from distant parts of the universe, but it also makes them very hard to detect. All neutrino detectors rely on observing the extremely rare instances when a neutrino does collide with a proton. This collision transforms the neutrino into a muon, a charged particle that can travel for 5-10 miles and generate...
Sarah Diers
Teacher
Langley, WA
United States
Dates:
17 November 2009 to 13 January 2010
Location:
Cotton Glacier, Antarctica
What Are They Doing?
An interdisciplinary research team collected water and ice cores to study the microbial communities found in the Transantarctic Mountains and the McMurdo Dry Valleys in Antarctica. Once believed to be devoid of life, closer observations of glacial ice have revealed microhabitats teeming with life. In these extreme conditions, microorganisms live in the liquid water phases of ice, and they depend upon dissolved organic matter (DOM) in the water for food and nutrients. Although DOM is found in every environment and is an important component of the global carbon cycle, we still need more basic information about it, such as how DOM forms and changes over time. The research team compared the microbes and DOM in two different types of Antarctic streams: normal streams that flow out of a lake and a supraglacial stream that forms on top of a glacier each summer. Because the supraglacial stream forms each year from a relatively clean surface, the investigators had a unique chance to study...
Gary Wesche
Teacher

Organization
St. John Francis Regis School
Kansas City, MO
United States
Dates:
23 November 2009 to 10 January 2010
Location:
West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) Divide, Antarctica
What Are They Doing?
Initially, the CReSIS team worked at McMurdo Station preparing and outfitting a Twin Otter airplane with equipment that was used to conduct aerial radar surveys of glaciers at remote field camps. Since it was used as a platform for conducting the experiments, the airplane was mounted with instruments that measured ice thickness, mapped ice layers, and conducted SAR-imaging – a form of radar that produces high-resolution maps of the ice surface. In early December 2009, after aircraft preparations were completed, the team traveled to Byrd Camp, a remote camp on the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, to conduct the aerial surveys. Each day (when weather permitted), the team took off, flew over area glaciers, and came back to camp. When they arrived back at camp, the team downloaded and processed the data that was collected by the instruments. Although many of the areas that were surveyed were previously largely undiscovered, the survey work included flights over Thwaites Glacier (75.5°S 106...