Update

Archive of PolarConnect Event with Lauren from Alaska!
Lauren hosted a great event on Friday, 27 June 2014. Check out the audio, video, and slides in the PolarConnect Archives

What Are They Doing?

Spring thaw on the tundra outside of Toolik Lake, Alaska
Spring thaw on the tundra outside of Toolik Lake, Alaska
Microbial diversity has recently been found to show a pattern of organization at various scales. The research team attempts to answer three basic questions about microbial diversity and dispersal, focused on the long-term aspects of dispersal events and climate change: 1) How does environment influence microbial community composition and rate of function? For example, how quickly they convert organic material to carbon dioxide. 2) How are distribution patterns of microbial communities in lakes, streams, and soils influenced by the dispersal from local water flow? 3) How are the shifts in microbial community composition related to shifts in environmental conditions over time such as those caused by climate change?

To date, the researchers have found that microbial communities in lakes and rivers change dramatically through the seasons but reassemble on an annual basis. They have also found that community composition in soil and surface waters shifts within days in response to environmental fluctuations in temperature or dissolved organic matter composition. They have also found that upland terrestrial habitats act as landscape-level seedbanks for lowland aquatic systems. The ultimate goal of the project is to develop a greater understanding of the controls on microbial community composition and function over space and time.

Where Are They?

The view from Toolik Field Station, Alaska
The view from Toolik Field Station, Alaska
The research team was based out of Toolik Field Station, located on the Dalton Highway in the northern foothills of the Brooks Mountain range. The station is an 8-10 hour drive north from Fairbanks, 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. From the field station, the team traveled to their sites by foot, truck, and helicopter.

Expedition Map

Dates
-
Location
Toolik Field Station, Alaska
Project Funded Title
NSF-LTREB – Long Term Research in Environmental Biology: What controls long-term changes in freshwater microbial community composition?
Lauren Watel - Teacher
Teacher
St. Mary's Academy High School

Ms. Watel has been teaching at St. Mary's Academy in Englewood, CO since 2009. During that time she has taught biology and environmental science to grades 9-12. She also serves as the faculty advisor of the Environmental Club and a 10th grade advisor. St. Mary's Academy is a JK-12 school, and Lauren teaches in the high school division which has an all-female student body. Lauren received a BA from Colorado College in biology in 2007 and a MEd in curriculum and instruction from the University of Washington in 2009. She also completed a graduate resident teaching program culminating in a certificate from IslandWood in environment, education and community in 2008. Lauren enjoys spending her free time traveling, biking, hiking, and skiing with her husband Ethan and dog Ralph.

Byron Crump - Researcher
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

This quote from John Muir helps to capture why everyone needs to care just a little bit more about the changes happening in the polar regions of the Earth. What happens in the Arctic... There's another great saying I learned from Dr. George Kling, a co-PI on this project. Unlike the saying "What…
The Journey Home When I last updated I was waiting for my husband Ethan to make his way to Fairbanks for some Alaskan adventures! Here's some of the fun we had... Denali Star We took the Alaska Railroad from Fairbanks to Anchorage. This was a really fun way to travel across the massive expanse…
The Migration South Begins We made the drive down the Dalton yesterday back to Fairbanks. Byron left Sarah behind at Toolik to collect the remaining samples for the season. When all is said and done she will collect around 400 (we collected just over 1/4 of that to the point when I left, so she…
Wrapping up my time in the Arctic I love the Arctic! Today is my last full day at Toolik. Byron, Hannah and Sarah completed day 2 of the bacterial lakes survey, bringing our sampling total up to 115 samples collected during my time at Toolik! I stayed behind and helped filter for different…
What does it all mean? I've tried to introduce you to Byron's microbial research over the course of my stay at Toolik. I want to take this journal to try and relay what some of his findings have been, and why this should be something that we care about even if we don't all live in the Arctic. The…
Meet the Team Introducing Sarah Nalven of Team Microbe. Sarah has been so busy these days that she is frankly hard to find with a spare minute, but nevertheless, here's Sarah! Species Journal Hannah hiking along the Atigun River on the way to Atigun Falls on a day off. Sunday is everyone's…

Microbial Changes in Arctic Freshwater Resources

Overview

Biodiversity is a central concept in understanding ecosystem functioning. Students explore how biodiversity is measured, impacted and can shift due to environmental changes to develop their understanding. Based off of the Microbial biogeography studies that Dr. Byron Crump is doing in the Arctic and around the world.

Lesson
Arctic
Less than a week
High school and Up
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First person article written by Lauren about how her undergraduate experience tied into her PolarTREC expedition to the Arctic. Published in the Colorado College alumni bulletin.

Article
Arctic
All Aged

The report is written by teacher participants upon return from their field expedition portion of the PolarTREC program. It summarizes the benefit of the expedition to the teacher, a description of activities, and a summary of how teachers plan to link this experience in classrooms and communities.

Report
Arctic
Less than 1 period
All Aged
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The Loretto Earth Network News e-pub newletter features a recap of Lauren Watel's expedition to Toolik Field Station. Access the online archive in the LEN News - Summer 2014, page 7.

Article
Arctic
Less than 1 period
All Aged
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This one hour webinar is a great look at the PolarTREC 2014 Arctic expeditions. Each teacher presents a little about the research projects, implementation in the classroom, and outreach into communities.

Event
Arctic
About 1 period
All Aged
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