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, AlaskaSpring 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, AlaskaThe 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 Resources

Project Information

Dates: 15 June 2014 to 3 July 2014
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?




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Meet the Team

Lauren Watel's picture
St. Mary's Academy High School
Englewood, CO
United States

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's picture
Oregon State University
Corvallis, OR
United States

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 Comments

Ditto this comment, where did you find those beautiful large sterile syringes (>60ml)? Can't find seem to them anywhere.
Hello, In my research group and startup company we are using eDNA for detecting animals in water. We currently use a peristaltic pump with the sterivex filters but I'd like to try with a...
Where do I begin, Lauren? Thank you taking us on this "wonder-filled" journey. I have appreciated your comprehensive reporting from the trip preparations to the helicopter ride to the...
What an adventure you shared with us! We learned so much from what you learned and shared with us. Well done x
I 've always thought that there is nothing more wonderful than a nap in the sunshine. But you make that sublime surrender to shut-eye on the expansive tundra almost a transcendental experience....