Update

Now Archived! PolarConnect Event with teacher Melissa Lau and researchers Jeremy May and Matthew Simon live from Toolik Field Station, Alaska. View the archive here

What Are They Doing?

Karl Horeis: "The ground out here is often covered with many tiny plants. Some look like tiny ferns while others look like branches from little cedar trees. Note the ripe blueberries in the foreground, a favorite among bears (and archaeologists)." Raven Bluff, Alaska. Photo by Karl Horeis
Karl Horeis: "The ground out here is often covered with many tiny plants. Some look like tiny ferns while others look like branches from little cedar trees. Note the ripe blueberries in the foreground, a favorite among bears (and archaeologists)." Raven Bluff, Alaska. Photo by Karl Horeis.
The goal of this expedition is to understand arctic terrestrial change by monitoring vegetation communities in northern Alaska associated with the International Tundra Experiment Arctic Observatory Network (ITEX-AON). The team will study environmental variability and increased temperature on tundra plant phenology, growth, species composition and ecosystem function.

The ITEX network works collaboratively to study changes in tundra plant and ecosystem responses to experimental warming. The network monitoring sites are located across many major ecosystems of the Arctic.

This project will provide urgently needed data critical to understanding the impact of multi-scale vegetation change on ecosystem function, namely land-atmosphere carbon and water fluxes and energy balance.

Where Are They?

Toolik Field Station, from the team's helicopter. Toolik Field Station, Alaska. Photo by Josh Dugat.
Toolik Field Station, from the team's helicopter. Toolik Field Station, Alaska. Photo by Josh Dugat.
From Fairbanks, Alaska the team will embark on an eight hour drive to 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. The team's research sites around the Toolik Lake area on foot. Some work will be conducted at Alyeska workpad along the Alaska pipeline.

Expedition Map

Dates
-
Location
Toolik Field Station, Alaska
Project Funded Title
Arctic Observing Networks: Collaborative Research: ITEX AON - understanding the relationships between vegetation change, plant phenology, and ecosystem function in a warming Arctic
Melissa Lau - Educator
Educator
Piedmont Intermediate

Melissa Lau teaches 6th grade science at Piedmont Intermediate in Piedmont, Oklahoma. In her 18 years of teaching she has taught ages Pre-K through 6th grade first as a music teacher and later, a classroom teacher. In the summers, Mrs. Lau works with the non-profit organization, Great Expectations, sharing researched based best practices with 100’s of teachers.

Melissa grew up in the small western Oklahoma town of Weatherford. It was here where she spent her childhood exploring the outdoors and sparking her love and curiosity for nature. She feels through her teaching she can instill some of that spark in her students.

Steven Oberbauer - Researcher
Researcher
Florida International University

Steven Oberbauer is a Professor of Biological Sciences at Florida International University in Miami. Dr. Oberbauer received his B.S. and M.S. degrees from San Diego State University, where he was first introduced to arctic research. He completed his Ph.D. at Duke University studying the ecophysiology of tropical trees in Costa Rica. Dr. Oberbauer currently researches climate change effects in both the Arctic and the Tropics, specifically how plants adjust to changes in their environment and resource availability.

Jeremy May - Researcher
Researcher
Florida International University

Jeremy May is a visiting postdoctoral research associate in the Department of Biological Sciences at Florida International University in Miami, Florida, USA. He has worked in Arctic Alaska for over 10 years studying the effects of climate change on tundra vegetation. The current project that he works on with Dr. Steve Oberbauer focuses on incorporating traditional, plot-scale vegetation monitoring techniques with landscape-scale, remote sensing technology. In addition to his work in the Arctic, he also studies the impact of hurricanes within the Everglades ecosystem of South Florida.

Latest Journals

My Expedition Ended, But My Journey Continues! This school year is flying by! I have been sharing my experience with my students and community since my return and one thing I've noticed is how many new opportunities that being a part of the PolarTREC family opens for me. Recently, I was selected…
Been There For 30 days, I immersed myself into the field research experience. I spent a week in Barrow (Utqiagvik), Alaska learning not only about my project, phenology and vegetation change in the warming arctic, but also other research happening in the Barrow region. I was also able to to learn…
Today is my last full day at Toolik. I'm planning on doing as much as I can fit in to one day with my team. I've been trying to figure out what to say about my month here on the north slope, but I'm still trying to take it all in. So, I don't have any profound revelations or grand statements. Just…
When you speak of the tundra, most people will picture this desolate, frozen landscape. However, in reality, it's a vast, dynamic ecosystem that survives in extremes. One of the features I have been interested in is thermokarst. Thermokarst is when the permafrost melts and creates slumps, ridges,…
Last Hike Today we hiked Slope Mountain. Although we didn't spot any animals, it was a fun climb with great company. Since Jeremy and Matthew's cameras take better pics, I included several of their shots too (photo credits given, of course!) I was a perfect day with just enough wind to keep the…
I Know It Sounds Crazy Guys, it's hot in Alaska. I know, I know, all my friends down south are rolling their eyes and sighing mightily. I know if you look at the temperature, you might think, "What a lovely, cool day." But no. It's hot. No lie, and here's why. Sunny day at Toolik Lake outside Lab…

Phenology and Vegetation Change in the Warming Arctic Resources

The PolarTREC Experience

PolarTREC, funded by ARCUS (Arctic Research Consortium of the United States) and the NSF (National Science Foundation), endeavors to connect educators and researchers in real field work experiences.

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PolarConnect event with teacher Melissa Lau and researchers Jeremy May and Matthew Simon discussing their research on Phenology and Vegetation Change in the Warming Arctic. This presentation was broadcast live from Toolik Field Station, Alaska on 20 June 2018.

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This story about PolarTREC teacher Melissa Lau and her upcoming trip to the Arctic, ran on the local Oklahoma ABC affiliate May 22, 2018.

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Local news coverage (Channel 9, Oklahoma City, OK) of Melissa Lau's upcoming expedition in Alaska.

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