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.

2010 Expeditions

Claude Larson
Teacher

Organization
Jefferson Township Middle School
Oak Ridge, NJ
United States
Dates:
2 July 2010 to 3 August 2010
Location:
Kamchatka Peninsula, Russia
What Are They Doing?
During this multi-year, multi-location 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 the Kamchatka Peninsula region of Russia. Working on the Kamchatka Peninsula, the research team examined prehistoric human responses, or adaptations, to changes in climate and the environment that took place between 6,000 and 4,000 years ago. Due to its extreme climatic conditions, the circumpolar North can be a challenging place for human survival. By studying the lifestyles of these prehistoric humans, the research team can better understand how the prehistoric humans were able to survive and adapt to changes in the harsh arctic environment. Data gathered from this project enabled more effective collaboration between social, natural, and medical sciences. The...
Cheryl Forster
Teacher

Organization
West High School
Salt Lake City, UT
United States
Dates:
5 July 2010 to 17 August 2010
Location:
Isfjord Radio, Svalbard Archipelago, 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, which makes it an ideal location for this study. In addition to two lead researchers, the research team was made up of approximately 10 undergraduate students participating in the Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) program. Students’ defined their research questions and testable hypotheses throughout the program. The students’ research was aimed at understanding how climate influences glacial, stream, and lake systems in order to better interpret the sediment record of climate change.
Karl Horeis
Teacher

Organization
Foothills Academy
Wheat Reidge, CO
United States
Dates:
13 July 2010 to 5 August 2010
Location:
Raven Bluff Site near Kivalina, Alaska
What Are They Doing?
Fluted projectile points are small stone tools created from rock that were used by early humans as knives, arrowheads, or both. Finding, interpreting, and dating fluted projectile points can help archaeologists learn more about the earliest humans to inhabit the Americas. On this project, the team looked for fluted projectile points at the Raven Bluff Site in northwest Alaska to learn more about the early inhabitants of Alaska and the arctic. Fossil plants also at the site helped the researchers determine the age of these artifacts, which were estimated to be from the late Pleistocene age or about 10,000 years old. This research helped lead to important discoveries about the timing and settlement of humans in the New World. In addition, it helped build knowledge about how people used these tools, hunted, and survived during this period of time.
Keri Rodgers
Teacher

Organization
The Gateway School of Environmental Research and Technology
Bronx, NY
United States
Dates:
16 July 2010 to 23 August 2010
Location:
Barrow Alaska
What Are They Doing?
The International Tundra Experiment (ITEX) is a network of science experiments set up to study the impact of climate change on plants that live in tundra and alpine ecosystems. Plants at each site are exposed to simulated warmer temperatures using an open top chamber, which acts like a mini greenhouse, trapping heat close to the plants. Research teams at more than two dozen circumpolar sites carry out similar experiments, allowing scientists to compare the plants responses to warmer climate conditions. The research team visited two ITEX sites in Alaska, Barrow and Atqasuk, to collect data on the plant’s lifecycle and growth. They also observed the makeup of the plant community and other parts of the ecosystem. The knowledge gained by the network helps to increase the understanding of changes that may take place in tundra plant communities. The information also helped scientists better understand the exchange of carbon and water across the land and atmosphere in a changing arctic...
Marti Canipe
Teacher

Organization
National Science Foundation
Arlington, VA
United States
Dates:
19 July 2010 to 26 July 2010
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 United States, Denmark, and Greenland. The expedition members spent several days learning about the research conducted in Greenland, the logistics involved in supporting the research, and gained first-hand experience conducting experiments and developing inquiry-based educational activities. This year's work builds on the 2007, 2008, and 2009 expeditions 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.
Bill Schmoker
Teacher

Organization
Centennial Middle School
Boulder, CO
United States
Dates:
31 July 2010 to 6 September 2010
Location:
USCGC Healy in the Bering, Beaufort, and Chukchi Seas
What Are They Doing?
This joint U.S.-Canada research cruise used two icebreakers to collect data to identify the edge of the continental shelf in the Arctic Ocean. As needed, the Healy broke sea ice for the Louis S. St-Laurent, while it collected data to map the geology of the sub-seabed. Scientists aboard the Healy also measured seafloor bathymetry, collected high-resolution sub-seafloor data, made ice observations, collected water samples, and monitored marine mammals and ocean noise through high frequency audio recording.Under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, the continental shelf is defined as the stretch of the seabed adjacent to the shores of a particular country. Information from the cruise helped each country determine where they have rights over the natural resources of the seafloor, which include mineral resources, petroleum resources such as oil and gas, and animals like clams and crabs.To learn more about the science of the expedition, please visit the Extended Continental...
Joshua Dugat
Teacher

Organization
Success at Schwarz Academy
New Orleans, LA
United States
Dates:
3 August 2010 to 22 August 2010
Location:
Deadhorse, Alaska
What Are They Doing?
Permafrost is any part of the ground (soil, rock, ice, humus) that remains at or below freezing for more than one year. The research team studied the active layer of the permafrost, the layer of the ground between the surface and the permafrost that freezes each winter and thaws each summer. They visited numerous research sites, and at each site, they collected data on the soil and air temperature, soil moisture content, and active layer depth and changes. Observational data from each site included noting changes in landscape and vegetation.The research sites they visited are part of the Circumpolar Active Layer Monitoring Network (CALM) – a network of 168 sites to observe and measure changes in permafrost. CALM was established in the early 1990’s and strives to collect a long-term record of permafrost data, which can be used to show how changes in arctic climate are affecting frozen ground and assist in climate models.Warming temperatures in the polar regions could lead to a thicker...
James Pottinger
Teacher

Organization
Gateway High School
Monroeville, PA
United States
Dates:
12 August 2010 to 22 August 2010
Location:
Summit, Greenland
What Are They Doing?
Solar radiation is the major energy source that drives our climate and supports life on earth. In this project, the research team gained a better understanding of the solar radiation reflected back into space and absorbed by our planet, also known as the Earth’s heat balance. The team collected data related to this balance using weather observing instruments and a specially equipped aircraft that could detect wind speed and directions and electromagnetic radiation. The measurements were part of an international effort to record radiation called the Baseline Surface Radiation Network project. The data collected was used to further study the Greenland Ice Sheet and it’s processes, such as melting and gas exchange with the atmosphere. Studying heat balance is an important concept in climatology because light surfaces, like snow, reflect more radiation back into space while dark surfaces, like water, absorb more radiation. When you have snow cover, about 90% of the solar energy...
Bettina Sander
Teacher

Organization
Cabrillo College
Aptos, CA
United States
Dates:
22 September 2010 to 30 December 2010
Location:
McMurdo Station, Antarctica
What Are They Doing?
By utilizing a Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) and by SCUBA diving below the sea ice, the research team collected data related to the benthic, or seafloor-dwelling, animals living in McMurdo Sound. The seafloor of McMurdo Sound is one of the few areas in the polar regions where benthic animals have been studied for over 40 years. By comparing historical data to data from the present, the team helped to understand changes in the benthic ecosystem. In addition, they studied how benthic species colonize the seafloor and how long it takes for them to become established. This work added to the knowledge of benthic communities, how they develop over time, and how they respond to changes in the environment. The team also worked on establishing a single database with information on the benthic communities of the McMurdo area.
Katey Shirey
Teacher

Organization
Washington-Lee High School
Arlington, VA
United States
Dates:
13 November 2010 to 10 December 2010
Location:
Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station, Antarctica
What Are They Doing?
A large international team of scientists and drilling technicians worked throughout the austral summer to continue assembling and testing 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 the 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 detectable light....
Heidi Roop
Researcher

Organization
University of New Hampshire/ Desert Research Institute
Seattle, WA
United States
Dates:
15 November 2010 to 15 February 2011
Location:
West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) Divide, Antarctica
What Are They Doing?
Using a large hollow drill, the WAIS Divide Ice Core Drilling team aimed to collect 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 aimed to develop 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...
Lesley Urasky
Teacher

Organization
Rawlins High School
Rawlins, WY
United States
Dates:
29 November 2010 to 16 January 2011
Location:
Beardmore Glacier Remote Camps, Antarctica
What Are They Doing?
During this project, the team worked at various sites on the Beardmore Glacier and looked for glacially transported rocks, also known as glacial erratics. Erratics are rocks carried by the glacier as the ice moves. Erratics on the Beardmore Glacier are important because they can serve as an indicator of when and how fast the Antarctic Ice Sheet receded after the last ice age 10,000-20,000 years ago. The research team used a method called surface exposure dating to estimate the length of time that a rock has been exposed to the Earth's atmosphere. A rock on the surface of the earth is constantly bombarded by cosmic rays, energetic particles originating in outer space. When one of these particles strikes an atom in the rock, it can dislodge one or more protons or neutrons from that atom, producing a different element or a different isotope of the original element. These new elements and isotopes are called cosmogenic nuclides, and allow scientists to estimate how long the sample has...
Anne Marie Wotkyns
Teacher

Organization
J.B.Monlux Magnet Elem. School
North Hollywood, CA
United States
Dates:
4 December 2010 to 20 January 2011
Location:
Swedish Icebreaker Oden in the Southern Seas
What Are They Doing?
As the Oden and the Palmer traveled towards McMurdo Station from Chile, international teams of researchers on board both ships investigated the summer sea ice, biology, oceanography, and biogeochemistry of the Amundsen Sea Polynya. Polynyas are areas of open water surrounded by sea ice and are very productive parts of the polar oceans where nutrients are rapidly exchanged between the atmosphere, ocean surface, and the deep sea. The research team looked closely at the processes that control the production and destruction of greenhouse gases, and also on the role of sea ice microorganisms in this process. These studies added to the limited knowledge of these remote corners of the Antarctic Seas and lead to a better understanding of the interactions between the climate and the marine biosphere. Polynyas may be the key to understanding the future of polar regions since their area is expected to increase with warming in the polar regions.
Brandon Gillette
Teacher

Organization
University of Kansas and the Center for Remote Sensing of Ice Sheets (CReSIS)
Lawrence, KS
United States
Dates:
29 January 2011 to 14 February 2011
Location:
McMurdo Station
What Are They Doing?
Glaciers are like moving rivers of ice, and their rate of movement can vary depending on many factors including friction, the slope of underlying bedrock, and climate. Byrd Glacier is unique because it goes through large changes in its speed in response to two subglacial lakes, lakes that remain unfrozen underneath the glacier, which drain periodically. This project was designed to study the changes in glacier behavior on timescales from minutes to years by closely monitoring Byrd Glacier for the following 2.5 years. To do this, the research team installed about 30 GPS units on Byrd Glacier. Some of the sensors remained on the glacier during just the 2010-2011-research season (November – February) and some stayed out there and took recordings all year long. The data collected from different parts of the glacier provided a continuous record of horizontal and vertical motions over a 26-month time period. The results of the study were used in conjunction with a longer record of...