What Are They Doing?

The tundra landscape at Toolik Field Station, Alaska. Photo by Nell Kemp.The tundra landscape at Toolik Field Station, Alaska. Photo by Nell Kemp. Understanding how microbes and sunlight interact is particularly important in the Arctic where thawing permafrost soils will release large amounts of carbon from land to water. Advancing our understanding of loss of this carbon to the atmosphere is critical to understanding the global carbon cycle. This project takes advantage of recent advances in microbial genomics and carbon chemistry to improve understanding of carbon cycling in Arctic freshwaters. The research team will be looking to answer three questions: 1) How is microbial metabolism controlled by dissolved organic carbon (DOC) chemistry? 2) How does DOC exposure to sunlight change how microbes convert DOC to carbon dioxide (CO2) 3) How does the longer-term adaptation of microbial communities affect the rate of DOC conversion to carbon dioxide?

Where Are They?

Lauren Watel adds enzymes to the filters that contain microbes collected in the field, to start the process of DNA extraction. Toolik Field Station, Alaska. Photo by Regina BrinkerLauren Watel adds enzymes to the filters that contain microbes collected in the field, to start the process of DNA extraction. Toolik Field Station, Alaska. Photo by Regina Brinker The research team will be based out of Toolik Field Station located in the northern foothills of the Brooks Range in northern Alaska. Toolik Field Station is operated by the Institute of Arctic Biology at the University of Alaska Fairbanks and has hosted hundreds of researchers and students every year since 1975. Research sites will be accessed by hiking, vehicle and helicopter.

Expedition Map

Project Information

Dates: 5 June 2019 to 29 June 2019
Location: Toolik Field Station, Alaska
Project Funded Title: Collaborative Research: Coupled Biological and Photochemical Degradation of Dissolved Organic Carbon in the Arctic

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Meet the Team

David Walker's picture
LASA High School
Austin, TX
United States

David Walker teaches innovative courses in Earth Science and Organic Chemistry at LASA High School, a public magnet school in Austin, Texas. His favorite thing about teaching is having the opportunity to make the natural world more interesting for his students every day. This opportunity is his passion point, and it constantly motivates him to improve. An avid backpacker, fly fisherman, and birder, he loves to bring his experiences, personal knowledge, and insights to life in engaging, meaningful learning activities for his students.

David advocates a project- and place-based teaching model and encourages his students to investigate nature through unique field trips and research projects in Austin-area laboratories, parks, and preserves. He also coaches the LASA Science Olympiad team, through which he has helped inspire students to study science beyond classroom requirements and expose students to many scientific fields and disciplines not typically encountered in high school.

David plans to directly integrate his research experience in the Arctic into his classroom. In doing so, he hopes to enrich his curriculum with a wealth of relatable personal experiences, enhance the project-based field research components of his courses, expose his students to unique careers and fields in science, and inspire his students to seek out additional learning opportunities outside of the classroom.

Rose Cory's picture
University of Michigan
Ann Arbour, MI
United States

Dr. Rose Cory works in the Arctic where climate warming is thawing frozen soil which may release tremendous stores of dissolved organic carbon to the Earth's surface. After having been trapped for millennia in the frozen soils this new carbon then becomes part of the modern carbon cycle. Dr. Cory finds that exposure to sunlight accelerates the return of this dissolved organic carbon to the atmosphere as carbon dioxide, which may further increase the rate of global warming. Because climate change is influencing our planet's evolution, understanding the fate of newly released carbon will help predict our future as a planet and society. Read more about Dr. Cory and her research here

Byron Crump's picture
Oregon State University
Corvallis, OR
United States

Dr. Byron Crump has worked in the Arctic for over a decade exploring the biodiversity and ecology of bacteria and other microbes in lakes, streams and soils. Microbial communities are essential components of every ecosystem on the planet, and in recent years we have learned that the most abundant organisms in natural microbial communities are unrelated to the cultured organisms studied in the lab for the last 100 years. Microbial communities contain an extremely deep diversity and an immense genomic potential of novel functional genes. Dr. Crump is currently conducting a multi-year study of microbial community composition and growth rate in arctic lakes and streams on the North Slope of Alaska to measure how diversity and growth vary over time and are affected by global change. You can read more about Dr. Crump's research here.

George Kling's picture
University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI
United States

George W. Kling is a professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Michigan. He primarily studies aquatic ecology and biogeochemistry, and his research has focused on carbon and nutrient cycling, on using stable isotopes to understand trophic interactions, and on the integration of lakes and streams in a landscape context. His recent research has examined the role of microbial diversity in ecosystem function. He has worked internationally on arctic lakes and streams for approximately 25 years, and on tropical lakes in Africa.

Kling's scientific outreach to the public through interviews about his research on climate change and on the killer lakes of Cameroon includes articles in magazines and newspapers (e.g., National Geographic, Smithsonian), T.V. and radio broadcasts (e.g., CNN, BBC), and television films (e.g., BBC, Discovery). He has met regularly with U.S. Congress members to discuss issues of climate change and scientific integrity, and was lead author of the Union of Concerned Scientists – Ecological Society of America publication 'Confronting Climate Change in the Great Lakes Region' (2003). Kling is an associate editor for Limnology and Oceanography (2001-), an elected Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (1997-), and received a National Academy of Science Young Investigator Award (1993), a NSF Presidential Faculty Fellowship (1995), the United Nations Sasakawa Award (Certificate for Disaster Reduction, 2001), and the ASLO Ruth Patrick Award (2007).

Latest Comments

Excited to read more adventures in June. That common redpoll looks great.
Great photos, Dave! Looking forward to more photos of birds this summer.
Looking forward to reading more about your upcoming adventures!
Thanks, Ale! Yes, I hope to post many photos of plants and animals. Analyzing photos helps me learn to identify things more readily in the field -- my attempt at simplifying the overwhelming!
Thanks, Dr. Cory! I can't wait to join your team at Toolik in June.