What Are They Doing?

An international team of American, Japanese, and Russian researchers and students examined the 5,000-year history of human-environmental interactions in the Kuril Island chain of Russia. The team combined studies of archaeology, geology, paleoecology, oceanography, and climatology to investigate the records of human settlement and abandonment on the Islands. They also surveyed the geologic evidence of volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, tsunamis, past vegetation and marine conditions, and climatological evidence of past temperature, sea ice, and storminess. The research team traveled by boat to a number of islands to dig archaeological pits, sample soils, and search for buried artifacts and clues to past activity on the islands. The objectives of the project include understanding the environmental conditions of the past and estimating the degree of human vulnerability and resilience to both sudden and gradual environmental changes.

Where Are They?

The research team traveled by boat to several islands in the Kuril Island archipelago. The Kuril Islands lie between the Kamchatka peninsula of Russia and northern Japan, in the northwest Pacific Ocean.

Expedition Map

Dates
-
Location
Kuril Islands, Russia
Project Funded Title
Biocomplexity and Human-Environment Interactions in the Kuril Islands, Russia
Misty Nikula - Teacher
Teacher
Whatcom Day Academy

Misty Nikula has taught math and science at Whatcom Day Academy in Bellingham, Washington for nine years and in 2004 was awarded two Science Teacher of the Year awards. Ms. Nikula considers herself a scientist first, then a teacher, and encourages her students to see themselves as scientists as well. Ms. Nikula worked as a chemical engineer for five years before returning to school to get her Masters of Education. Ms. Nikula’s own high school science teachers helped her develop a love for learning—a curiosity that inspired her to seek out programs like PolarTREC where she can work in the field with scientists and bring her experiences back to her school and community. Ms. Nikula was a TREC teacher in 2004 (Barrow, Alaska) and 2006 (Kuril Islands, Russia).

Mike Etnier - Researcher
Researcher
University of Washington

Michael Etnier received his Ph.D. in Anthropology from the University of Washington in 2002. A zooarchaeologist by training, he uses bones and teeth from archaeological sites to study changes in the ecology of marine ecosystems over the past several thousand years in the North Pacific. Dr. Etnier lives and works in Bellingham, Washington, where he operates a small business that combines his interests in archaeology, marine ecology, and science education.

Jody Bourgeois - Researcher
Researcher
Department of Earth and Space Sciences, University of Washington

Joanne Bourgeois is a Professor in the Earth and Space Sciences Department at the University of Washington. Her main research interests include sedimentary structures and tectonics. Dr. Bourgeois also teaches and researches the history of geology, believing that exploration of how science is done leads to better science. Dr. Bourgeois has also served a two-year term as a Program Director in the Earth Sciences Division of the National Science Foundation.

Ben Fitzhugh - Researcher
Researcher
University of Washington

Ben Fitzhugh is a Professor of Archaeology and Anthropology at the University of Washington in Seattle. Dr. Fitzhugh’s research focuses on maritime/coastal hunter-gatherers in the North Pacific and addresses questions of cultural evolution and human-environmental dynamics. Dr. Fitzhugh teaches classes on Archaeological Method and Theory, North and South American Archaeology, Arctic Archaeology, and the Evolution of Inequality.

Latest Journals

This was my second year working with the KBP group. So when reflecting on this summer there are a lot of comparisons that I naturally make. Last year was a summer of transformation for me - I felt that I came home from a journey of both scientific and personal discovery. This year was more…
So we had the whole day in Seoul, Korea. Colby and Ben decided that they wanted to hang around the hotel for the day, while Mike and I decided that we would find out from the concierge how to get to downtown Seoul to do some sightseeing. We found out that it was pretty easy - take the hotel…
Did I say it was a trip of 40 hours...turns out to be a little bit longer (depending on where you call "home")!On the morning of Wednesday, August 22, Colby, Ben, Mike and I got up at our usual time of about 6:30 or 7 am. We ate up some of what remained of our food - oatmeal, some milk,…
For my last journal from Russia, I thought that I would summarize a bit of my experiences and observations of living in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk for a week at each end of the expedition. Shopping In general, shopping is more tedious in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk than in the United States.  One reason has to do…
Well, most of the work that we need to do before we head home for Seattle has been accomplished. Colby, Bre, Matt, Mike, Ben and I have spent the last three days at the Sakhalin Regional Museum counting, cataloging, organizing, sorting, checking, verifying, cleaning, photographing and making…
On August 11, at about 7 pm, we saw our last of the Kuril Islands as the Iskatel-4 lifted anchor shortly after the small field crews were returned from Rasshua at around 6:30 pm and we headed south before turning west to cross the Sea of Okhotsk on our way back to Korsakov. Compared to last year,…

Kuril Islands Biocomplexity Resources

Overview

This activity was adapted from a TEA activity authored by:

Activity
Arctic
Less than a week
Middle School and Up
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Overview

Students will independently explore the PolarTREC expeditions, and reflect on the scientific questions, discoveries, and outcomes of the work that is or has been done.

Activity
Arctic
More than a week
Middle School and Up
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Overview

Students are presented with an actual series of tundra photos, which they use to develop a hypothesis for which sort of ground cover will have the most/least permafrost depth. Then they are given a set of actual data and use this to test their hypothesis

Objective

Students will:

Lesson
Arctic
Less than a week
Middle School and Up
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Overview

This lesson was modeled after some of the routine activities undertaken by the geologists on the Kuril Island Expedition.

Complete the following activities:

  • Day 1 To measure a simple topographic profile with a level instrument or hand level and stadium rod.

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

This activity is designed to take place near or at the end of a unit on the ocean floor. Students should be familiar with the physical features of the ocean floor including the continental shelf, abyssal plain, seamounts and guyots, seafloor ridges and trenches, and submarine canyons. The students should have also previously learned about sonar methods for mapping the ocean floor.

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