Sadly, due to complications with Covid, Jenn is unable to join "Team Vole" in the field for 2022.

What Are They Doing?

Lemming in Utqiaġvik, Alaska
Lemming in Utqiaġvik, Alaska
The team plans to use observations and experiments and models to understand how the fluctuations in the numbers of small mammal herbivores on the tundra, both within and between years, affect tundra ecosystem function (such as the abundance of different types of plants, the quality of plant litter and nutrient cycling) and energy balance. They will determine natural changes in small mammal population sizes in three different Alaskan tundra ecosystems (at Utqiaġvik, Nome and Toolik Lake), and also use experiments in each ecosystem where they control the number of small mammals that have access to small areas of the tundra, to determine how this affects the way the ecosystem works.

Where Are They?

A view of the tundra and the Brooks Range
A view of the tundra and the Brooks Range
The team will fly into Utqiaġvik (formerly Barrow), the northernmost community in Alaska, where they will be stationed while doing field work. Their research will focus on the polygonal tundra ecosystem near Utqiaġvik.

Latest Journals

I have yet to make it to Utqiagvik yet. Covid has put a halt to so many things, this expedition included. That being said, I spent some time a few weeks ago near the Arctic circle in Iceland. I got a taste of the midnight (near) Arctic sun. My two children were fascinated to learn that the sun…
Bring yourself back to your ten-year-old mind. Little you. Look at little you and say this: “Imagine, in your mind’s eye, what a scientist looks like.” Little you will think about this, and likely picture a person in a white lab coat with goggles on. Maybe they’re wearing gloves and holding a…
Hey All, Our Team Vole meeting just concluded. While the majority of us are burned out with Zoom, I have to say I am grateful it exists. Without it, I couldn't have sat in on a meeting with people from all over country- from Texas to Alaska to Maine. There are so many moving pieces to organizing…
Weather Weather: Sunny Temp: 33 F Wind Speed: 5 MPH Wind Chill: 27 F Location Location: Oxford, Maine, United States of America Coordinates: 44.1317, 70.4932 Yes, There is Hope. Here's Why. The very first class of a brand-new elective I am teaching met today via Zoom. I can't stand Zoom. It's…
Utqiaġvik, Alaska
Project Funded Title
Collaborative Research: Adding animals to the equation: linking observational, experimental and modeling approaches to assess herbivore impacts on carbon cycling in northern Alaska
Jennifer Johnson - Educator
Oxford Hill Comprehensive High School

Jennifer is a sheep farmer and archaeologist-turned high school teacher who is laser-focused on climate education and solutions-based inquiry for her students. She took a non-traditional route to teaching, beginning with her undergraduate degree in Geography and Anthropology. She learned how to be an archaeological field technician on remote islands off the coast of Maine while simultaneously living out of her 1994 Jeep Cherokee. Her first-hand experiences in STEM fields have enabled her to effectively bridge the gap between hard science and history for her students.

From guiding at-risk teenagers to the summit of the tallest mountain in the Northeast to snorkeling in the Great Barrier Reef with marine biologists with her students, she is dedicated to leading global youth-centered expeditions that have a serious focus on environmentalism, sustainability, and history. She is dynamic, energetic, a bit quirky, and is proud of her advocacy for students who are seen as less-than-traditional. Jennifer is deeply committed to ensuring that her students- many of whom represent refugee, immigrant, and low-socio-economic populations- get a first-class education in solutions-based inquiry. Teaching her students critical thinking and inquiry skills is her ultimate goal, doing so with a skill set which is best-described as “out of the box.”

When not teaching or hiking and traveling with students, she can be found climbing at her local rock gym, hanging out with her favorite sheep, Charlie, having dance parties in her kitchen with her two sons, Cedar and William, or curled up reading a book in her very rare free time.

Jennie McLaren - Researcher
University of Texas at El Paso

Dr. McLaren is a faculty member in the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Texas in El Paso. Her research group focuses on the changes in plant community composition that result from environmental change (such as warming or nitrogen deposition), changing herbivore populations, shifts in species ranges and changing land management populations. We examine both how plant communities may change, but also what the effect of that change will be on the functioning of ecosystems, such as their ability to cycle nutrients, decompose plant litter and store carbon. We conduct our research in northern ecosystems, including alpine tundra and boreal forest in Northern Canada (Kluane Lake Research Area, Yukon Territory) and arctic tundra in Alaska (Utqiagvik and Toolik Research Station in Alaska), and also in the deserts of the Southwestern USA. You can read more about our research themes and team at www.jenniemclaren.com.

Austin Roy - Researcher
University of Texas at El Paso

Austin Roy holds a PhD in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from the University of Texas at El Paso. His research focuses on wildlife-ecosystem interactions, wildlife conservation, and vector-borne diseases. In particular he is interested in how species shape their environments and how changes in wildlife populations and communities affect ecosystem function. He conducts his work in various ecosystems including tundra, deserts, forests, wetlands, and periurban environments. For this project, Austin acts as field lead for our Utqiaġvik site and collects and analyzes data to examine how small mammal herbivores influence soils, plant communities, and carbon cycling in the arctic tundra of Northern Alaska. You can learn more about his research at https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Austin-Roy.

Effects of Lemmings on the Arctic Tundra Ecosystem Resources

Jennifer Heidrich of the Warming and Removals in Mountains of Northern Canada expedition and Erin Towns of the Greenland Subglacial Tremor Project, have teamed up to create a podcast. Both educators teach at Edward Little High School in Auburn, Maine.

Web Link
All Aged

Sun Journal article coverage of two Edward Little High School teachers's, Jenn Heidrich and Erin Towns, both selected for PolarTREC expeditions. Jenn Heidrich was selected to go on an expedition in Yukon, Canada, and Erin Towns was selected to go on an expedition to Ilulissat, Greenland.

All Aged
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