What Are They Doing?

A C-OPS instrument (Compact-Optical Profiling System)
A C-OPS instrument (Compact-Optical Profiling System) is used by Dr. Rose Cory's lab to measure wavelengths of sunlight. Photo by Regina Brinker.
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?

The tundra landscape at Toolik Field Station, Alaska. Photo by Nell Kemp.
The tundra landscape at Toolik Field Station, Alaska. Photo by Nell Kemp.
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

Toolik Field Station, Alaska
Project Funded Title
Collaborative Research: Coupled Biological and Photochemical Degradation of Dissolved Organic Carbon in the Arctic
David Walker - Educator
LASA High School

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 - Researcher
University of Michigan

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

George Kling - Researcher
University of Michigan

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).

Byron Crump - Researcher
Oregon State University

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.

Latest Journals

Midnight Sun in the Arctic Toolik Field Station, North Slope, AK June 16, 2019 Video of the Day: The summer sun never sets on Toolik Field Station in the Alaskan Arctic. I took the below time-lapse last "night" from 8:31 PM to 7:53 AM, facing south toward Toolik Lake. One of the oddest…
Soap, DOC, and Foamy Streams Toolik Field Station, North Slope, AK June 15, 2019 Video of the Day: Filtering raw leachate (previously coarsely filtered) through a 0.2 micron filter, which served to remove finer particulate matter and microorganisms. As it passed through this filter, the…
Photo-Bio Part 3: Filtering the Permafrost Leachate Toolik Field Station, North Slope, AK June 14, 2019 Photo of the Day: Graduate student Natasha Christman (Oregon State University) uses a 0.2 micron filter to remove finer particulate matter and microorganisms from the raw permafrost leachate…
Covering Greenhouses and Terrestrial LTER Toolik Field Station, North Slope, AK June 12, 2019 Photo of the Day: Nicole Williamson, Jim Laundre, and Ruby An (left to right) stand next to a completed greenhouse. Toolik Field Station, AK. Today was a bit of a change-up, as I was able to tag…
Photo-Bio Part 2: Brewing Permafrost Tea Toolik Field Station, North Slope, AK June 11, 2019 Video of the Day: Thawed permafrost (and its dissolved organic carbon) has quite the unique smell, and I’ve heard this smell described in a wide variety of ways. We’ve been working quite a bit with…
Permafrost First-Hand Toolik Field Station, North Slope, AK June 10, 2019 Photo of the Day: A sample of permafrost, collected from 1 meter depth in wet sedge tundra. North Slope, AK. We’ve been digging into permafrost for the past couple of days, and this has given me a great chance to…

Carbon in the Arctic Resources