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.

2014 Expeditions

Glenn Clark
Teacher

Organization
Parishville-Hopkinton Central School
Parishville, NY
United States
Dates:
20 January 2014 to 18 March 2014
Location:
Totten Glacier and Moscow University Ice Shelf, East Antarctica aboard the R/V Palmer
What Are They Doing?
This project investigated the marine system of the Totten Glacier and Moscow University Ice Shelf, East Antarctica which has shown a recent increase in ice loss. This system is of critical importance because it drains one-eighth of the East Antarctic Ice Sheet and contains a volume equivalent to nearly 7 meters of potential sea level rise, greater than the entire West Antarctic Ice Sheet. This rarely explored region is the single largest, least understood, and potentially unstable marine glacial system in the world. Despite intense scrutiny of marine-based systems in the West Antarctic Ice Sheet, little is known about the Totten Glacier system. This project conducted a ship-based marine geologic and geophysical survey of the region, combined with a physical oceanographic study. The results have added to our understanding of the oceanographic and glacial system and its potentially sensitive response to environmental change. This endeavor complemented studies of other Antarctic ice...
Juan Botella
Teacher

Organization
Monona Grove High School
Monona, WI
United States
Dates:
13 February 2014 to 1 March 2014
Location:
Professor Julio Escudero base, King George Island, Antarctica
What Are They Doing?
The students and teachers will spend five days on King George Island, learning about the scientific research conducted in and around Escudero base. The program could include visits to Elefanteras Beach to study seals and penguins, Collins Glacier where mosses, grasses, and algae may be found in the ice, and Bellingshausen Dome to discuss glaciological studies. There will also be the opportunity to stop at other Chilean stations as well as other countries stations located on King George Island. ## ¿Qué están haciendo? Los estudiantes y maestros pasarán cinco días en la Isla Rey Jorge aprendiendo sobre los proyectos de investigación científica que se llevan a cabo cerca de la base Escudero. El programa podría incluir visitas a la Playa Elefanteras para estudiar elefantes marinos y pingüinos; al Galciar Collins donde crecen musgos, pastos y algas en el hielo; o al domo Bellingshausen para aprender sobre estudios en glaciología. También tendrán la oportunidad de visitar otras...
Russell Hood
Teacher

Organization
East High School
Anchorage, AK
United States
Dates:
5 April 2014 to 24 April 2014
Location:
Kangerlussuaq, Greenland
What Are They Doing?
Operation IceBridge, a six-year NASA mission, is the largest airborne survey of Earth's polar ice ever conducted. IceBridge uses a highly specialized fleet of research aircraft and the most sophisticated science instruments ever assembled to characterize yearly changes in thickness of sea ice, glaciers, and ice sheets in the Arctic and Antarctic. The research team experiences first-hand the excitement of flying a large research aircraft over the Greenland Ice Sheet. While in the air they record data on the thickness, depth and movement of ice features, resulting in an unprecedented three-dimensional view of ice sheets, ice shelves, and sea ice. Operation IceBridge began in 2009 to bridge the gap in data collection after NASA's ICESat satellite stopped functioning and when the ICESat-2 satellite becomes operational in 2016, making IceBridge critical for ensuring a continuous series of observations of polar ice. IceBridge flies over the Arctic and Antarctic every year—in the Arctic...
Andre Wille
Teacher

Organization
Aspen High School
Aspen, CO
United States
Dates:
26 May 2014 to 19 June 2014
Location:
Toolik Field Station, Alaska
What Are They Doing?
In the Arctic, bright summers and dark winters are a fact of life and can lead humans to rely on clocks and routines to tell them when to eat or sleep, but how do animals function under these conditions? Circadian rhythms refer to the "internal body clock" that regulates the approximately 24-hour cycle of biological processes in animals and plants. Rhythms in body temperature, brain wave activity, hormone production, and other biological activities are linked to this 24-hour cycle. The Earth's light-dark cycle provides the strongest influence on circadian rhythms and is thought to be the primary driver for the emergence and evolution of internal clocks. In the Polar Regions, however, photoperiod exhibits extreme annual variation because of near 24 hour sunlight in the summer and 24 hour darkness in the winter. In the absence of a well-defined light-dark cycle, some arctic residents lose their daily organization of behavior and physiology, and it is thought that the molecular clockwork...
Emily Dodson
Teacher

Organization
Crawford Middle School
Lexington, KY
United States
Dates:
9 June 2014 to 30 June 2014
Location:
Kangerlussuaq, Greenland
What Are They Doing?
The research focuses on the interactions between plants and their pollinators, which are animals that aid in plant reproduction through transporting pollen. The aim is to understand how changes in temperature and precipitation may influence plant-pollinator interactions and plant reproduction. Temperature and water availability may alter the timing of flowering and floral traits that attract pollinators, such as nectar volume and flower size. In addition, temperature may alter what pollinator species visit flowers and how often they visit. The combination of these effects on plants and pollinators may influence plant reproduction, measured as the number of fruits and seeds a plant produces. The researchers hope to relate changes in the abiotic environment to floral attractive traits, pollinator visitation, and ultimately the reproductive success of plants. Three focal plant species, blueberry, harebell, and dwarf fireweed are used because they are common in the area and flower at...
Lauren Watel
Teacher

Organization
St. Mary's Academy High School
Englewood, CO
United States
Dates:
15 June 2014 to 3 July 2014
Location:
Toolik Field Station, Alaska
What Are They Doing?
Microbial diversity has recently been found to show a pattern of organization at various scales. The research team attempts to answer three basic questions about microbial diversity and dispersal, focused on the long-term aspects of dispersal events and climate change: 1) How does environment influence microbial community composition and rate of function? For example, how quickly they convert organic material to carbon dioxide. 2) How are distribution patterns of microbial communities in lakes, streams, and soils influenced by the dispersal from local water flow? 3) How are the shifts in microbial community composition related to shifts in environmental conditions over time such as those caused by climate change? To date, the researchers have found that microbial communities in lakes and rivers change dramatically through the seasons but reassemble on an annual basis. They have also found that community composition in soil and surface waters shifts within days in response to...
Regina Brinker
Teacher

Organization
Livermore Schools
Livermore, AZ
United States
Dates:
15 June 2014 to 6 July 2014
Location:
Toolik Field Station, Alaska
What Are They Doing?
Tremendous stores of organic carbon frozen in permafrost soils have the potential to greatly increase the amount of carbon in the atmosphere. Permafrost soils may thaw sporadically and melting ground ice can cause land-surface sinking called "thermokarst failures". These failures change the rate and amount of carbon released with the unanticipated outcome being that soil carbon can be mixed-up from a depth and exposed to sunlight as the land surface is altered. Sunlight can photo-degrade or break-down organic carbon and alter the carbon's ability to support bacterial respiration to produce carbon dioxide. Whether sunlight and UV exposure will enhance or retard the conversion of newly exposed carbon to carbon dioxide is currently unknown—this study is providing the first evidence that this alteration will be amplified by photochemical processes and their effects on microbes. The research team is trying to understand exactly how sunlight and bacteria degrade dissolved organic...
Lynn Reed
Einstein Educator Fellow

Organization
Division of Polar Programs, National Science Foundation
Chester, VA
United States
Dates:
27 June 2014 to 18 July 2014
Location:
Kangerlussauq and Summit Station, 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. 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 past expeditions and is 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 has two components** Kangerlussuaq Science Field School and Science Education Week
Sian Proctor
Teacher

Organization
South Mountain Community College
Phoenix, AZ
United States
Dates:
14 July 2014 to 9 August 2014
Location:
Barrow, AK
What Are They Doing?
Applied Research in Environmental Sciences Nonprofit, Inc., ARIES, the Barrow Arctic Science Consortium, BASC, the North Slope Borough of Risk Management, and Cooperative Extension of Ilisgavik College are collaborating to plan, develop and implement a historical ecology model for the North Slope Coastal Region of Alaska. Historical ecology is an applied research program that focuses on interactions of people and their environments. Research applications involve studying and understanding this relationship in both time and space to gain a full picture of all of its accumulated effects. The research program can be applied to understanding changes among community landscapes that can assist strategies for the future. For this proposal the emphases align with the ARIES mission of research, education and community engagement, the Inupiaq Learning Framework of the North Slope School District, and the eco-heritage indicator of the CRIOS model (Cumulative Regional Integrated Operability...
Peggy McNeal
Teacher

Organization
Los Coches Creek Middle School
El Cajon, CA
United States
Dates:
21 July 2014 to 20 August 2014
Location:
Ny Alesund, Svalbard, Norway
What Are They Doing?
The Svalbard Archipelago has an arctic climate and is home to several large bodies of ice— alpine glaciers in the mountains, and tidewater glaciers that descend into the sea. For the past 10,000 years the glaciers of this region have been receding and more recently researchers have noted a regional reduction in sea ice. The research team, which includes undergraduate geoscience students participating in the Research Experiences Undergraduates ([REU](http://www.mtholyoke.edu/proj/svalbard/)) Program, traveled to Svalbard to research how high latitude glaciers, melt-water streams, and sedimentation in the fjords reflect climate. The Svalbard region is ideal for the study of past climate because several different types of measurements on and around glaciers can be conducted there. Working out of small boats in the fiord and hiking to sites on land, the team collected data to determine what relationships exist between current sedimentation, glaciers, oceans, and climate. Using the...
Lisa Seff
Teacher

Organization
Springs School
East Hampton, NY
United States
Dates:
1 August 2014 to 1 September 2014
Location:
Barrow, AK
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, and 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...
Tina Ciarametaro
Teacher

Organization
Ipswich Middle School
Ipswich, MA
United States
Dates:
2 August 2014 to 22 August 2014
Location:
Greenland
What Are They Doing?
The retreat of glaciers is one of the most profound visual signs of global warming. Identifying the current magnitude of glacier retreat and its significance in the longer-term context of glacier history encourages a deeper understanding of what it means for society. The goal of this project was to provide a longer-term context for current climate warming and to better define the nature of abrupt climate changes over the past 5000 years in the Arctic. The research team applied complimentary techniques to both the preserved plants and rocks exposed at the foot of retreating glaciers in West Greenland. Radiocarbon-dating techniques were applied to the plants and the isotopic signature of recently exposed rock surfaces were determined, allowing researchers to determine the duration of ice-covered and ice-free conditions throughout the Holocene (the past 11,700 years since the end of the last major ice age). Combined, these two datasets explicitly date when the region was last as...
Jillian Worssam
Teacher

Organization
Sinagua Middle School
Flagstaff, AZ
United States
Dates:
18 September 2014 to 25 October 2014
Location:
Research Vessel Nathaniel B. Palmer
What Are They Doing?
If the Antarctic ice sheet were to collapse or melt substantially it would impact all of humankind. This research attempts to reconstruct the paleogeography of parts of Antarctica while trying to determine the physical conditions that led to formation of the Antarctic ice sheet. The past opening of deep Southern Ocean gateways between Antarctica and South America and between Antarctica and Australia permitted the complete circulation of the Antarctic Circumpolar Current (ACC). This opening may have been critical in the transition from a warm Earth in the past, to the subsequently much cooler conditions that persist to the present day. The opening of Drake Passage and the West Scotia Sea probably broke the final barrier formed by the Andes of Tierra del Fuego and the 'Antarctandes' of the Antarctic Peninsula. It is thought that once this deep gateway, usually referred to simply as the Drake Passage gateway (DPG), was created, the strong and persistent mid-latitude winds likely...
Lucy Coleman
Teacher

Organization
Natomas Charter School
Sacramento, CA
United States
Dates:
10 October 2014 to 17 December 2014
Location:
Dry Valleys, Antarctica
What Are They Doing?
The oldest fossil life on Earth consists of stromatolites, which are the remains of complicated communities of bacteria captured in rock. On modern Earth, similar communities still grow in places that are too harsh for worms, snails, and other grazing animals to live and eat them. Lakes in Antarctica with liquid water below a few meters of ice almost always support these communities. Thus, they provide the opportunity to study the ecology of microbial communities like those on early Earth billions of years ago. The research team studied the communities in Lake Joyce, Antarctica in several different ways. They took images of the stromatolites in Lake Joyce and reconstructed the 3D morphology of microbial mats in the lake. They also characterized the environment that the stromatolites are growing in and studied how the morphology of the stromatolites varies mud deposition and calcite mineral formation. They also directly sampled the stromatolites to study the distribution of...
Brian DuBay
Teacher

Organization
Grissom Middle School
Warren, MI
United States
Dates:
3 November 2014 to 19 December 2014
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 these areas. The research team is attempting 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, is to broaden our knowledge of the geology in this region with a new seismic array; the Transantarctic Mountains Northern Network (TAMNNET), a 15-station array across the northern TAMs and the WSB that helps fill a major gap in seismic coverage. Data from TAMNNET...
Alex Eilers
Teacher

Organization
Pink Palace Museum
Memphis, TN
United States
Dates:
6 November 2014 to 19 December 2014
Location:
McMurdo Station, Antarctica
What Are They Doing?
The team traveled daily to Weddell seal haul out sites on the sea ice near McMurdo Station. While on location, the team found female seals, gently sedated them, and took a variety of biological samples – weight, size (length and girth), took blood samples, and collected tissue samples. They also took thermal images of the seals to see how much heat the seal was losing to the environment. A time-depth recorder also was placed on the seals hind flipper to record the seals' dive behaviors. The team will return the next season in an attempt to relocate the seals, take biological data, collect the tags, and determine if the seals have pupped. This data was collected and analyzed in an attempt to learn more about what drives the timing of a seal's critical life history events – such as breeding and molting – and how disruptions in that natural cycle by changes in climate and environment might affect the world's southernmost mammal.
Yamini Bala
Teacher
Chicago, IL
United States
Dates:
30 November 2014 to 24 January 2015
Location:
West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) Divide
What Are They Doing?
The research team studied the microstructure of ice crystals on the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS). As the research title of their project implies, "**VeLveT Ice**", the team is researching what happens at the small scale of individual ice crystals that ultimately affect the large flow patterns in an ice sheet. The group is therefore studying the link between crystal properties, ice flow, and climate history because the crystal structure retains a memory of past climate which is recorded differently than "normal" ice core analyses. Ice crystals grow, rotate, and recrystallize with time and flow in an ice sheet. The rate at which each of these processes occurs depends on the temperature, state of stress, and impurity (e.g. dust, ash or salt) content of the ice. The orientation, texture, size and shape of the crystals in a given block of ice evolves through time, but also "remembers" past temperature and flow. Many scientists have observed that these microstructural properties vary...
Armando Caussade
Teacher

Organization
G Works Inc. for the Puerto Rico Department of Education
San Juan
Puerto Rico
Dates:
2 January 2015 to 23 January 2015
Location:
South Pole, Antarctica
What Are They Doing?
How do you find something that isn't directly visible? That's the challenge faced by the team who developed the IceCube neutrino detector under the ice at the South Pole. Just as X-rays allow us to see bone fractures, and MRIs help doctors find damage to soft tissue, neutrinos will reveal new information about the universe that can't be seen directly. The in-ice particle detector at the South Pole records the interactions of neutrinos which are nearly massless sub-atomic messenger particles. Neutrinos are incredibly common (about 100 trillion 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 in the sun and other stars. Neutrinos rarely react with other particles; 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...