Update

Learn more about the research directly through the research team and Mark Goldner! Check out one of two PolarConnect events by visiting the PolarConnect Archives..

What Are They Doing?

The Svalbard Archipelago has an arctic climate and is home to several large bodies of ice called glaciers. There are alpine glaciers in the mountains, and also tidewater glaciers that end in long narrow bodies of seawater called fjords. For the past nearly 10,000 years, the glaciers of this region have been receding and most recently there has been a regional reduction in sea ice. The region is ideal for the study of past climate because the arctic is sensitive to changes in climate and several different types of measurements on and around glaciers can be conducted here.

The research team, which included undergraduate geoscience students participating in the Research Experiences for Undergraduates Program, traveled to Svalbard to investigate how climate change affects sediment transport and deposition associated with the tidewater glaciers, icebergs, meltwater streams, and marine currents. Tidewater glaciers are among the fastest changing systems in the Arctic, offering the team the opportunity to monitor rapidly changing and dynamic systems.

To conduct their research, they sampled ice from Svalbard glaciers and icebergs and studied the concentration of rocks and sediments. They also studied the sediments on the glacial fjord sea bed to look at where sediment from the glacier was being transported and deposited in the past. The oceanography of the fjord waters in front of the ice margins were also studied by the students. The team also utilized aerial photographs and GPS mapping to determine the position of the glacier and its rate of retreat. Using this data and more, the team helped determine what relationships exist between current sedimentation, glaciers, oceans, and weather data. Being better able to predict how glacial systems react to climate change helps scientists better understand their contribution to sea level rise.

Where Are They?

The team worked on and around Kongsfjord and its glaciers while working out of Ny Alesund on western Spitsbergen, the largest island in the Svalbard island archipelago. The Svalbard archipelago is situated in the Arctic Ocean, north of mainland Europe, approximately mid-way between Norway and the North Pole. Ny Alesund is one of the world’s northernmost settlements and can have a population of up to 120 people during the summer when research is being conducted.

Expedition Map

Dates
-
Location
Ny Alesund, Svalbard
Related Expeditions
Mark Goldner - Teacher
Teacher
Heath K-8 Elementary School

Mark Goldner teaches 7th and 8th grade science at the Heath K-8 Elementary School in Brookline, Massachusetts. He has been teaching middle and high school science for the past 19 years. In his classes, Mr. Goldner stresses the importance of developing a strong and positive relationship with the natural world, and that the best way to learn science is by doing real scientific investigations. Outside the classroom, Mr. Goldner enjoys spending time hiking, swimming, biking, and sailing with his wife and two kids, and on weekends and in the summer, he can often be found on the coast of Maine. Along with his outdoor adventures, Mr. Goldner plays the trumpet and loves jazz.

Ross Powell - Researcher
Researcher
Northern Illinois University

Ross Powell has been a professor in the Department of Geology and Environmental Sciences at Northern Illinois University since the early 1980's. His main research interests focus on processes where glaciers and ice sheets enter the sea, and his recent research has focused on Alaskan and Antarctic glacimarine processes and paleoclimate history involving underwater remotely-operated vehicles (ROV's) among other scientific tools. He has played a lead role in the ANDRILL (Antarctic geological Drilling) Program and the WISSARD program, collecting sediment cores for the first time from a subglacial lake in Antarctica—Lake Whillans. He has mentored teachers in polar field research through the Cape Roberts and ANDRILL programs in Antarctica and the Svalbard REU program in the Arctic. He is also periodically a guest lecturer at the University Center (UNIS) on Svalbard.

Julie Brigham-Grette - Researcher
Researcher
University of Massachusetts

Dr. Brigham-Grette's research interests are focused on the stratigraphy, sedimentology, and chronology of geologic systems that record the climate evolution and sea level history of the Arctic since the Pliocene. Most of her research program is aimed at documenting the global context of paleoenvironmental change across "Beringia", i.e., the Bering Land Bridge, stretching across the western Arctic from Alaska and the Yukon into NE Russia including the adjacent marginal seas. Starting in the 1980s with fieldwork on the sea level history and glacial stratigraphy of vast Arctic coastal plains and coastal environments in comparison with regional alpine glaciation, she is now focused on the integration of records from marine and lake systems.

Since 1991, her group has participated in numerous field expeditions to remote regions of Arctic Russia and she was co-chief scientist in 2002 of an expedition on the U.S. Coast Guard icebreaker Healy, taking sediment cores from the Bering and Chukchi Seas. She is the US Chief Scientist of the El'gygytgyn Lake Scientific Drilling project, a multinational field program leading to the first unprecedented recovery in 2009 of a 3.6 Myr record of terrestrial paleoclimate. She has previously been involved in the IPY STEM Polar Connections project to integrate the study of polar regions and International Polar Year activities into the middle and high school curriculum from the terrestrial Arctic.

Latest Journals

Coming to the PolarTREC orientation 8 years after my PolarTREC field experience gives me a chance to reflect on how the experience has changed my life. How Science is Done Through my field experience and subsequent activities, I have developed a much deeper understanding of how science is done.…
After the wind-down of the field season and the students' presentations of their science talks in Longyearbyen, this phase of our REU has ended. So we felt it appropriate to let everyone who has been following the "Fellowship of the Fjord" (as the students ended-up calling us) know just how pleased…
Snow in August We arrived in Longyearbyen on Thursday afternoon after a bit of touch-and-go over whether we'd actually get out of Ny Ålesund. After 4 weeks of almost nonstop nice weather, we awoke Thursday morning to a snowstorm! It was actually pretty cool to see the area being blanketed with a…
Closing up Shop We've just packed up all the science equipment and are heading off to Longyearbyen where we'll spend our last two days before coming back to the U.S. Moving the boxes to the dock where they can be shipped home I want to take the opportunity to close out my time in Ny Ålesund by…
Yesterday we did our last bit of science – we picked up the HOBO to finally bring it back to the lab. Rebecca, Liz, Daksha and I said goodbye to the glacier for the last time! It was fitting that the waves and wind were pretty strong on the way back, so we had a bumpy wet ride for our last ride out…
Today's journal is written by REU student George Roth, who is a student at the University of Washington in Seattle, where he is majoring in oceanography George on a hike just outside of Ny Ålesund looking out over the fjord. I’ve often been asked why a kid who grew up on a potato farm in Idaho…

High Arctic Change 2011 Resources

In this investigation, students will measure production of CO2 from surface water and consider the role of surface waters in the global carbon cycle and climate change. They will gather data on using Vernier CO2 sensors. This lesson presents a wonderful opportunity for student-designed experiments.

Lesson
Arctic
Less than a week
Middle School and Up
Download, Share, and Remix

This is a good lesson to get students thinking about the complexity of the systems involved in providing our society with energy, the consequences of energy use and efficiency. Students are encouraged to explore the data sets on their own, ask their own questions about energy use and present their findings to each other.

Lesson
Less than a week
Middle School and Up
Download, Share, and Remix

This outreach piece in Nature describes the aspects of bringing various guests on field science expeditions. The PolarTREC program is a focus amongst the programs providing some best practices as the author offers advice to scientists considering the addition of guests on expeditions.

Article
Arctic
Less than 1 period
High school and Up
Download and Share

This 1-hour webinar was part of the C-ISE online course being offered by PolarTREC and the University of Alaska Fairbanks. The presentation theme was earth science, and discussed climate change in the arctic and how scientists are using glacial features to study arctic change.

Event
Arctic
About 1 period

PolarConnect event with Mark Goldner, the Svalbard REU team, and Drs. Julie Brigham-Grette and Ross Powell working on marine and glacial science in Svalbard, Norway.