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.

2012 Expeditions

Chantelle Rose
Teacher

Organization
Graham High School
St.Paris, OH
United States
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 change on the oceans.
Alex Eilers
Teacher

Organization
Pink Palace Museum
Memphis, TN
United States
Dates:
5 January 2012 to 21 February 2012
Location:
McMurdo Station
What Are They Doing?
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 forage for food during the winter, when days are shorter and there is more sea ice cover. They were also interested in collecting oceanographic data, such as water temperature and salinity. The research team collected this information by traveling to places where Weddell seals were hauled out on the sea ice, and briefly capturing them. Once they captured a seal, they conducted an exam in order to determine its health and condition. The researchers also put a satellite-linked dive recorder on each seal that they captured. These devices...
Nell Herrmann
Teacher

Organization
Blue Hill Consolidated School
Blue Hill, ME
United States
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, snails, sea urchins, and more use the naturally occurring calcium (Ca) and carbonate (CO3) in seawater to construct their shells or skeletons. As seawater becomes more acidic, carbonate becomes less available, which makes it more difficult for these organisms to form their skeletal material. This negatively affects the health of the animal in many different ways. In Antarctica, it is predicted that water temperatures will increase and the calcium carbonate needed by these organisms will...
Amber Lancaster
Teacher

Organization
June Jordan School for Equity
San Francisco, CA
United States
Dates:
2 March 2012 to 18 April 2012
Location:
North-West Weddell Sea, Antarctica
What Are They Doing?
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 of energy between organisms, and to be causing a rapid change in the ecosystem beneath the ice shelf. For instance, the previously dark waters of the Larsen B embayment now support a thriving phototrophic community, with production rates and phytoplankton composition similar to other productive areas of the Weddell Sea. The overarching goal of the LARISSA (LARsen Ice Shelf System, Antarctica) project was to describe and understand the basic physical, geological, and biological processes active in the Larsen embayment that contributed to the...
Tim Spuck
Teacher

Organization
Oil City Area High School
Oil City, PA
United States
Dates:
11 April 2012 to 26 April 2012
Location:
Greenland
What Are They Doing?
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 gap in data collection after NASA's ICESat-1 satellite stopped functioning and when the ICESat-2 satellite becomes operational in 2016, making IceBridge critical for ensuring a continuous series of observations in the Arctic. IceBridge flies over these regions to map Arctic areas once a year. By comparing the year-to-year readings of ice thickness and movement both on land and on the sea, scientists can take a yearly look at the behavior of the rapidly changing features of the Greenland ice and learn more about the trends...
Melissa Barker
Teacher

Organization
Alexander Dawson School
Lafayette, CO
United States
Dates:
6 May 2012 to 9 June 2012
Location:
Toolik Field Station, Alaska
What Are They Doing?
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 effects because flowing water connects land to downstream aquatic ecosystems. Since the flowpaths connecting terrestrial ecosystems to stream networks remain poorly understood, the group focused on transport and reaction of water and solutes within water tracks, which are linear regions of surface and subsurface flow that connect hillslopes to streams and account for up to 35% of watershed area in arctic tundra. The research increased our understanding of the role of hillslopes in connecting terrestrial ecosystems to stream...
Susan Steiner
Teacher

Organization
Murphy High School
Franklin, NC
United States
Dates:
22 May 2012 to 1 July 2012
Location:
Toolik Field Station
What Are They Doing?
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 on. Since nutrient cycling on the tundra changes throughout the season, the research team worked to understand how seasonal changes in tundra plants and soil dynamics are affected by changes in the timing of snow melt and warming. By experimentally manipulating factors such the timing of spring thaw and fall freeze directly on the tundra, the team could study how this affects the ecosystem directly. The team was engaged in a mixture of outdoor field sampling, experimentation, and laboratory work. Through this...
Nick LaFave
Teacher

Organization
Clover High School
Clover, SC
United States
Dates:
4 June 2012 to 1 August 2012
Location:
Toolik Field Station, Alaska
What Are They Doing?
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 Alaskan Arctic, wolf spiders are the largest and most abundant invertebrate predators. A shift in their ecological role could therefore have an important impact on the entire food web. Evidence from Arctic Greenland shows that wolf spider body sizes are becoming larger in response to longer growing seasons. These increases in body size will likely lead to larger spider populations, which could imply an increase in predation on the rest of the community. This project explored the role of wolf spiders...
Shelly Hynes
Einstein Fellow

Organization
Louisiana School for Math, Science and the Arts
Natchitoches, LA
United States
Dates:
25 June 2012 to 27 July 2012
Location:
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, 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. The 2012 expedition's work built on past 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. The program had two components. Kangerlussuaq Science Field School: 29 June - 12 July 2012 US Science Education Week: 12- 22 July 2012
Mark Paricio
Teacher

Organization
Smoky Hill High School
Aurora, CO
United States
Dates:
26 June 2012 to 26 July 2012
Location:
Cherskiy, Siberia
What Are They Doing?
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 Arctic. During the Polaris Project field course, students and faculty work together to study the Arctic as a system. Instead of focusing on a single question in a single ecosystem type, the group considers a range of questions across multiple components of the Arctic System including forests, tundra, lakes, rivers, estuaries, and the coastal Arctic Ocean. The unifying scientific theme is the transport and transformations of carbon and nutrients as they move with water from terrestrial uplands to the Arctic Ocean. They...
Cristina Solis
Teacher

Organization
LA Academy
Los Angeles, CA
United States
Dates:
3 July 2012 to 8 August 2012
Location:
Barrow, Alaska
What Are They Doing?
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 that of carbon dioxide, and increased microbial activity in thawing permafrost areas could lead to changes in the atmosphere due to the increased release of methane. This research was important to better understand the factors controlling competing microbial processes in carbon-rich tundra soils and how microbial activities interact with biogeochemical cycles (the way specific chemicals move through living and non-living processes on Earth). This information was used to help understand the impacts that changes in climate have...
John Wood
Teacher

Organization
Talbert Middle School
Huntington Beach, CA
United States
Dates:
5 July 2012 to 20 July 2012
Location:
Approximately 8 miles off the Parks highway, near Healy, Alaska
What Are They Doing?
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 and dryer. As a result, the trapped carbon leaves the soil as carbon dioxide and goes into the atmosphere. The research team studied changes to the carbon cycle in northern forests by setting up experiments that simulate a warmer and dryer tundra. When they arrived at the field site they first removed snow from the research sites and then set up an automated carbon dioxide measurement system and warming chambers. After the set-up, the team took field measurements of carbon dioxide exchange between the soil and atmosphere,...
Wendy Gorton
Teacher

Organization
The Equity Project Charter School
Dates:
5 July 2012 to 16 July 2012
Location:
Raven Bluff Base, Alaska
What Are They Doing?
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 the Raven Bluff site ate; how they obtained, processed and stored their food; and how they manufactured their tools, clothing, and housing. The site also contains fluted projectile points – a type of stone spear tip that is associated with many of the earliest archaeological sites in the continental United States. Fluted projectile points have been found throughout the Americas, but have never been reliably dated in Alaska. Because people migrated from north-to-south after entering the Americas from Asia across the Bering Land Bridge, fluted...
Dan Frost
Teacher

Organization
Carrabassett Valley Academy
Carrabassett Valley, ME
United States
Dates:
5 July 2012 to 15 August 2012
Location:
Svalbard, Norway
What Are They Doing?
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 and fjords respond to changing climate conditions. The Svalbard region has been marked by the retreat of glaciers, reductions in sea ice, and measurable warming during the past 12,000 years, and more specifically during the last 90 years. Svalbard's high latitude location, its location at the end of the Gulf Stream, combined with its relatively easy access, makes it an ideal location for this study. Svalbard has an arctic climate and is home to many large glaciers, including alpine glaciers in the mountains, and tidewater glaciers that...
Deanna Wheeler
Teacher

Organization
J. C. Parks Elementary School
Indian Head, MD
United States
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?
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 oil and gas exploration and development, the team planned a multi-disciplinary investigation to examine the biological, chemical, and physical properties that define this ecosystem. Previous work in the area has profiled the biogeochemistry of the northern Chuckhi Sea, but this study focused more particularly on the Hanna Shoal region, looking at phytoplankton and zooplankton in the open ocean as well as the physical oceanography through direct measurement of circulation, density fields, and ice conditions.
Lisa Seff
Teacher

Organization
Springs School
East Hampton, NY
United States
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?
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 physical and biological marine environment in the region over the period 2005-2011 and observed significant inter-annual variability. Long-term studies of the ocean conditions in the Arctic are needed in order to understand how these environments vary inter-annually. The research team will continue to document conditions in the biological-physical ocean ecosystem, through annual boat-based surveys, in order to predict and understand potential impacts of climate change on the Arctic ecosystem. ##¿Quienes son? Titulo...
Betty Carvellas
Teacher

Organization
Teacher Advisory Council – The National Academies
Essex Junction, VT
United States
Dates:
26 August 2012 to 16 September 2012
Location:
Bering Strait and Chukchi Sea
What Are They Doing?
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 rich and are thought to be particularly sensitive to global climate change because they are in areas where steep thermohaline and nutrient gradients in the ocean coincide with steep thermal gradients in the atmosphere. The Bering Strait acts as the only Pacific gateway into and out of the Arctic Ocean and as such is critical for the flux of heat between the Arctic and the rest of the world. One of the overall goals of the entire project was to monitor the flux of fresh and salt water in the region and to establish benchmark...
Brian DuBay
Teacher

Organization
Grissom Middle School
Warren, MI
United States
Dates:
4 November 2012 to 27 December 2012
Location:
McMurdo and Mario Zuchelli Station, Antarctica
What Are They Doing?
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 covered by large ice sheets, direct geologic observations cannot be made; therefore, “remote sensing” methods like seismology must be used to determine details about the earth structure. The goal of this project, funded by the National Science Foundation, was to broaden our knowledge of the geology in this region with a new seismic project; the Transantarctic Mountains Northern Network (TAMNNET), a 15-station array across the northern TAMs and the WSB that will fill a major gap in seismic coverage. Data from TAMNNET was...
Tim Spuck
Teacher

Organization
Oil City Area High School
Oil City, PA
United States
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?
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 become almost perpendicular to the Earth. To do this, scientists created Automatic Geophysical Observatories (AGOs) that are active at five locations established across the Antarctic Plateau that house nearly identical instruments measuring atmospheric weather conditions. During their stay, the team made sure all of the different instruments were working properly and collecting reliable data. Supporting these observatories is crucial to the study of interactions between the magnetic fields of the Sun and of the Earth. Learning more can...
Jacquelyn Hams
Associate Professor

Organization
Los Angeles Valley College
Valley Glen, CA
United States
Dates:
15 November 2012 to 20 December 2012
Location:
Beacon Valley, Quartermain Mountains and McMurdo 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 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 conditions. Each ice core enabled the research team to gain access to a reliable record of atmospheric and climatic change extending back for many millions of years, making it by far the oldest ice yet known on this planet. In addition to drilling for ancient ice, the team worked in the Dry Valleys to seek a better understanding of surface processes that play a critical role in maintaining and/or modifying buried glacier ice. Despite their age and potential to register long-term climate change, there has been surprisingly little research on the...
Liz Ratliff
Teacher

Organization
Gaston Day School
Gastonia, NC
United States
Dates:
1 December 2012 to 28 December 2012
Location:
Amundson-Scott South Pole Station
What Are They Doing?
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 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. IceCube is...