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.

2012 Expeditions

Organization: 
Graham High School
Occupation: 
Teacher
Carin describing where they are sampling.
Dates:
2 November 2011 to 22 December 2011
Location:
USCGC Healy in the Bering, Chukchi, and Beaufort Seas
What Are They Doing?
During this cruise, the team collected some of the first winter information ever collected on the biology, chemistry, and physical oceanography of the Bering, Chukchi, and Beaufort Seas. In particular, they studied a very small crustacean called a copepod. Copepods make up the base of the ocean food chain. In addition to studying the ecology, scientists on board were looking at chlorophyll, marine mammals, and birds. Data collected during the cruise was used to predict future impacts of climate...
Organization: 
Pink Palace Museum
Occupation: 
Teacher
Weddell seal pup (Photo by Michael League)
Dates:
5 January 2012 to 21 February 2012
Location:
McMurdo Station
What Are They Doing?
Weddell Seal pup (Photo by Michael League) Weddell seals live in the region surrounding Antarctica, and spend their time on sea ice and in the water. They get most of their food from the sea, eating fish, krill, squid, and crustaceans. They are able to stay underwater for about 80 minutes while they look for food, and are known for making very deep dives of up to 700 meters (2300 feet). The research team was interested in learning more about Weddell seals by studying how they dive and...
Organization: 
State College Area High School
Occupation: 
Teacher
Palmer Station
Dates:
7 February 2012 to 12 March 2012
Location:
Palmer Station
What Are They Doing?
This project studied the effects of rising ocean acidification and temperatures on seafloor dwelling animals in the shallow waters of Antarctica. Carbon moves around the earth, between land, atmosphere, and water in the carbon cycle. The ocean absorbs Carbon Dioxide (CO2) from the Earth’s atmosphere. As increasing amounts of Carbon Dioxide are absorbed, the pH of the water is decreasing or becoming more acidic. This is called ocean acidification. Several marine animals, such as mussels,...
Organization: 
June Jordan School for Equity
Occupation: 
Teacher
Larsen Ice Shelf, Antarctica
Dates:
2 March 2012 to 18 April 2012
Location:
North-West Weddell Sea, Antarctica
What Are They Doing?
Trawling for organisms off the Antarctic peninsula This project was an international, interdisciplinary effort to address the rapid environmental changes occurring in the Antarctic Peninsula region as a consequence of the abrupt collapse of the Larsen B Ice Shelf in the fall of 2002. As a result of this collapse, a profound transformation in ecosystem structure and function has been seen in the coastal waters of the western Weddell Sea. This transformation appears to be redistributing the flow...
Organization: 
Oil City Area High School
Occupation: 
Teacher
Flying over the Midgard Glacier in Greenland
Dates:
11 April 2012 to 26 April 2012
Location:
Greenland
What Are They Doing?
The cockpit of a NASA aircraft IceBridge, a six-year NASA mission, is the largest airborne survey of Earth's polar ice ever conducted. The research team experienced first-hand the excitement of flying a large research aircraft over the Greenland Ice Sheet. While in the air they recorded data on the thickness, depth, and movement of ice features, resulting in an unprecedented three-dimensional view of Arctic ice sheets, ice shelves, and sea ice. Operation IceBridge began in 2009 to bridge the...
Organization: 
Alexander Dawson School
Occupation: 
Teacher
Toolik Field Station, Alaska
Dates:
6 May 2012 to 9 June 2012
Location:
Toolik Field Station, Alaska
What Are They Doing?
Stream flowing through arctic tundra The research team evaluated how changes in water and nutrient cycles on land can affect stream networks in the Arctic. Changing climate in the Arctic may contribute to increases in the transport of nutrients to river networks and oceans by causing the release of nutrients from thawing permafrost, altering precipitation patterns, increasing rates of biogeochemical reactions, or expanding storage capacity in thawed soils. These changes may have far-reaching...
Organization: 
Murphy High School
Occupation: 
Teacher
Tundra near Toolik Lake, Alaska
Dates:
22 May 2012 to 1 July 2012
Location:
Toolik Field Station
What Are They Doing?
Tundra plants and antler Arctic soils have large stores of carbon and as the arctic environment warms, this carbon may be released to the atmosphere in the form of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and methane. The current understanding of tundra ecosystems and their responses to climate change is based on the idea that nitrogen limits plant growth, however nitrogen availability is strongly seasonal, with large amounts available early in the growing season but very little available later...
Organization: 
Clover High School
Occupation: 
Teacher
Stream near Toolik Lake, Alaska
Dates:
4 June 2012 to 1 August 2012
Location:
Toolik Field Station, Alaska
What Are They Doing?
Wolf Spider While arctic species are all well adapted to living in extreme environments, it is unclear whether different species will respond similarly or differently to the environmental shifts that accompany climate change (e.g. longer growing seasons and warmer temperatures). Stronger responses by some species within a community, or strong responses by certain species groups, could lead to changes in the structure of the food web and its role in arctic ecosystems. For example, In the...
Organization: 
Louisiana School for Math, Science and the Arts
Occupation: 
Einstein Fellow
View over the Greenland Coast
Dates:
25 June 2012 to 27 July 2012
Location:
Greenland
What Are They Doing?
Glacier outside of Kangerlussuaq, Greenland 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, 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...
Organization: 
Smoky Hill High School
Occupation: 
Teacher
Kolyma River winding through northern Russia
Dates:
26 June 2012 to 26 July 2012
Location:
Cherskiy, Siberia
What Are They Doing?
Sampling river water The Polaris Project is an innovative international collaboration among students, teachers, and scientists. Funded by the National Science Foundation since 2008, the Polaris Project trains future leaders in arctic research and informs the public about the Arctic and global climate change. During the annual month-long field expedition to the Siberian Arctic, undergraduate students conduct cutting-edge investigations that advance scientific understanding of the changing...
Organization: 
LA Academy
Occupation: 
Teacher
Tundra boardwalk outside of Barrow, Alaska
Dates:
3 July 2012 to 8 August 2012
Location:
Barrow, Alaska
What Are They Doing?
Caribou skull on the tundra Underlying the northern arctic coast of Alaska is a thick layer of permafrost. As water melts and pools on top of the permafrost, thaw lakes are formed. Much of the North Slope of Alaska is covered in such thaw lakes. As they decompose organic material, the bacteria and other microorganisms living in thaw lakes produce either carbon dioxide or methane, depending on the conditions. Methane is a highly potent greenhouse gas with a global warming potential 22 times...
Organization: 
Talbert Middle School
Occupation: 
Teacher
Setting up tundra experiments
Dates:
5 July 2012 to 20 July 2012
Location:
Approximately 8 miles off the Parks highway, near Healy, Alaska
What Are They Doing?
Setting up tundra experiments The carbon cycle is the means by which carbon is moved between the world’s soils, oceans, atmosphere, and living organisms. Northern tundra ecosystems play a key role in the carbon cycle because the cold, moist, and frozen soils trap rotting organic material in the soils. This very slowly decaying organic material has caused carbon to build up in the Arctic during the past thousands of years. Now warming in the Arctic is slowly causing the tundra to become warmer...
Organization: 
The Equity Project Charter School
Occupation: 
Teacher
A sample of chert unearthed at Raven Bluff, Alaska
Dates:
5 July 2012 to 16 July 2012
Location:
Raven Bluff Base, Alaska
What Are They Doing?
A piece of chert unearthed at Raven Bluff, Alaska The team excavated portions of the Raven Bluff archaeological site, the remains of a prehistoric camp that date to the very end of the last ice age, about 10,000 years ago. The site in Northwestern Alaska is important because it contains the oldest well-preserved collection of archaeological animal bone in the American Arctic. The goal of this research was to gather information at the site that can teach us about what the people who occupied...
Organization: 
Carrabassett Valley Academy
Occupation: 
Teacher
Taking an ice core of a glacier on Svalbard
Dates:
5 July 2012 to 15 August 2012
Location:
Svalbard, Norway
What Are They Doing?
Taking an ice core of a glacier on Svalbard The research team of undergraduate geoscience students that participated in the Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) Program traveled to Svalbard to conduct independent research projects. Research focused on how climate influences the modern glacial, river, and lake systems in order to better interpret the sediment record of past climate change. The team investigated how high latitude glaciers, melt-water streams, and sedimentation in lakes...
Organization: 
J. C. Parks Elementary School
Occupation: 
Teacher
Raising a Conductivity, Temperature, and Depth (CTD) sensor
Dates:
3 August 2012 to 25 August 2012
Location:
USCGC Healy, Hanna Shoal, northwest of Barrow, Alaska on the Chukchi Sea
What Are They Doing?
Raising a Conductivity, Temperature and Depth (CTD) sensor The northern Chukchi Shelf receives large inputs of organic matter from the highly productive shelf regions of the North Pacific and from local sources of primary production, including algae in the ice and sediment and phytoplankton in the water column. As a result, highly productive biological "hotspots" have been documented in the vicinity of Hanna Shoal. Because of the biological significance of this region and its importance for...
Organization: 
Springs School
Occupation: 
Teacher
Bowhead whales in the Chukchi Sea
Dates:
19 August 2012 to 13 September 2012
Location:
Barrow, Alaska and R/V Ukpik in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas
What Are They Doing?
Bowhead whales in the Chukchi Sea The research team worked out of Barrow, Alaska at the juxtaposition of two Arctic seas; the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas. It is a region frequently traveled by the endangered bowhead whale. This project had its genesis in understanding why the region near Barrow, Alaska is a feeding hotspot for migrating bowhead whales. The whales and their prey will continue to be a focus of the team's interpretations. The research team conducted oceanographic sampling of the...
Organization: 
Teacher Advisory Council – The National Academies
Occupation: 
Teacher
Scientists sampling in the Chukchi Sea
Dates:
26 August 2012 to 16 September 2012
Location:
Bering Strait and Chukchi Sea
What Are They Doing?
Scientists Sampling in the Chukchi Sea The Russian-American Long-term Census of the Arctic (RUSALCA) is a joint NOAA/Russian Academy of Sciences sponsored program whose mission is to document the long-term ecosystem health of the Pacific Arctic Ecosystem. Research cruises through the Bering Strait and Chukchi Sea in both U.S. and Russian waters provide the ability for sampling irrespective of political or exclusive economic zone boundaries. These seas and the life within them are biologically...
Organization: 
Grissom Middle School
Occupation: 
Teacher
Seismic station on the ice
Dates:
4 November 2012 to 27 December 2012
Location:
McMurdo and Mario Zuchelli Station, Antarctica
What Are They Doing?
Seismic station on the ice Antarctica plays a central role in global tectonic evolution. Competing theories have been put forward to explain the formation of the Transantarctic Mountains (TAMs) and the Wilkes Subglacial Basin (WSB), primarily due to a lack of information on the crustal thickness and seismic velocity of the areas. The research team attempts to resolve how the TAMs and WSB originated and how their formation relates to Antarctica’s geologic history. Since most of Antarctica is...
Organization: 
Oil City Area High School
Occupation: 
Teacher
AGO Site in Antarctica
Dates:
12 November 2012 to 22 December 2012
Location:
South Pole Station and remote field sites on the Antarctic Plateau, Antarctica
What Are They Doing?
Automatic Geophysical Observatories (AGOs) The purpose of the project was to monitor "space weather." Space weather encompasses phenomena that take place a few hundred miles above the surface of the Earth. This includes the ionosphere, the magnetic fields of the Earth and Sun, the northern and southern lights, and the solar wind. A high-latitude location (either north or south polar regions) is ideal for such monitoring because in these regions the field lines of the Earth's magnetic field...
Organization: 
Los Angeles Valley College
Occupation: 
Associate Professor
Beacon Valley, Antarctica
Dates:
15 November 2012 to 20 December 2012
Location:
Beacon Valley, Quartermain Mountains and McMurdo Dry Valleys, Antarctica
What Are They Doing?
Setting up a drill site in the Dry Valleys, Antarctica A small team of earth scientists and engineers used a specialized drill to reach buried ice deposits in the Dry Valleys region of Antarctica. Stagnant and/or slow moving debris-covered glaciers may contain ice several million years in age. By comparison, the oldest ice yet cored from the East Antarctic Ice Sheet is approximately 1 million years old. As a result, these buried ice deposits hold an ancient archive of Earth's past atmospheric...
Organization: 
Gaston Day School
Occupation: 
Teacher
View over the South Pole Station
Dates:
1 December 2012 to 28 December 2012
Location:
Amundson-Scott South Pole Station
What Are They Doing?
The building that houses the IceCube project A large international team of scientists and drilling technicians worked throughout the austral summer to continue testing with 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...