Nutrient Transport in Arctic Watersheds
Melissa's PolarConnect event on 17 May 2012 is now archived. It is available in the PolarConnect Archives.
What Are They Doing?
The research team evaluated how changes in water and nutrient cycles on land can affect stream networks in the Arctic. Changing climate in the Arctic may contribute to increases in the transport of nutrients to river networks and oceans by causing the release of nutrients from thawing permafrost, altering precipitation patterns, increasing rates of biogeochemical reactions, or expanding storage capacity in thawed soils. These changes may have far-reaching effects because flowing water connects land to downstream aquatic ecosystems.
Since the flowpaths connecting terrestrial ecosystems to stream networks remain poorly understood, the group focused on transport and reaction of water and solutes within water tracks, which are linear regions of surface and subsurface flow that connect hillslopes to streams and account for up to 35% of watershed area in arctic tundra. The research increased our understanding of the role of hillslopes in connecting terrestrial ecosystems to stream networks.
Where Are They?
The research team lived and worked out of Toolik Field Station, located in the northern foothills of the Brooks Range in northern 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.
Meet the Team
Melissa Barker teaches Biology and Environmental Science at the Alexander Dawson School outside of Boulder, CO. She is in her 14th year of teaching science and holds a Masters in Natural Science and Science Education from the University of Northern Colorado. Ms. Barker strives to help her students connect biological concepts to their own lives and to experience and engage in the process of science. She loves to extend her students’ learning outside of the classroom. Her students have studied marine biology in Florida, snow science in the Colorado backcountry, and organic agriculture in their own backyard. Ms. Barker directs the experiential education program and founded Dawson’s cyclocross team. When not teaching Ms. Barker is an avid bike racer and enjoys getting into the wilderness on foot and skis with her husband.
Dr. Tamara Harms is a research associate at the University of Alaska-Fairbanks. Trained as an ecosystem ecologist and biogeochemist, Tamara conducts studies of nutrient cycling in watersheds, often focused at land-water interfaces. Her research in the arctic and sub-arctic has focused on the consequences of climate change for cycling of nitrogen, an essential nutrient to all living things. To study nutrient cycles, Tamara analyzes the nutrients present in soils and water, conducts experiments to measure rates of microbial processes that transform nutrients, and identifies how nutrients are transported from land to water. In particular, she is interested in potential consequences of thawing permafrost for nutrient cycles.
Dr. Sarah Godsey is an assistant professor of catchment hydrology in Geosciences at Idaho State University. She is interested in studying how water resources respond to land use change and climate change, especially in mountainous and polar regions. She has worked in the Arctic studying how water and energy flows change in degraded permafrost for the past few years. To understand water resources in permafrost, she collects data on water flows, soil moisture, thaw depths, temperatures and water table depths.