Now Archived! PolarConnect event with Ale Martinez and the team studying Phenology and Vegetation in the Warming Arctic from Toolik Field Station in Alaska. This event was broadcast on Tuesday, 25 June 2019. You can access this and other events on the PolarConnect Archives site.

What Are They Doing?

Ale Martinez and Jeremy May setting up the MISP tram.
Ale Martinez and Jeremy May setting up the MISP tram. Photo by Ale Martinez.
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?

Colorful tundra with Toolik Field Station, Alaska in the distance. Photo by Nell Kemp.
Colorful tundra with Toolik Field Station, Alaska in the distance. Photo by Nell Kemp.
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 are accessed by walking on approximately 1.5 km of boardwalk. They also use a truck for daily visits to Imnavait Creek, North Slope, Alaska.

Latest Journals

Our class mascot, SloMo and I have arrived back home to Texas. The last month has been such an incredible experience. I learned so much about phenology, plants, and ecosystems, but mostly how science works in the field. GVSU and FUI team. Photo by Jeremy May I am still in awe of the people I got…
How do we assess vegetation health in the Tundra? Using the LI-COR machine to assess photosynthesis Watch the video below to learn all about NDVI and a LI-COR machine.
Ground Squirrels can be spotted everywhere around Toolik Field Station on a daily basis. They come across our path as we walk to the lab, or the run across the boardwalk as we head out to the plots or tram site. Ground Squirrel at Toolik Field Station Arctic ground squirrels can reach 500 to 900…
My last week in the Arctic has begun! Although I am sad, the team keeps me busy and I try to help out with whatever I can. Jeremy May at the Imnavait Tram Site Over the last few days we have collected Eriophorum vaginatum, or tussock flowers, also known as cotton grass. Steven Unger will be…
Utqiagvik, Toolik Field Station
Project Funded Title
Collaborative Research: Using the ITEX-AON network to document and understand terrestrial ecosystem change in the New Arctic; AON-ITEX
Alejandra Martinez - Educator
Memorial Junior High

Alejandra Martinez is a 7th grade science teacher at Memorial Junior High in Eagle Pass, Texas. She earned her bachelor’s degree at Texas A&M University in Wildlife and Fisheries Sciences. Alejandra has been teaching for 13 years and holds a master’s degree in education. She previously sailed aboard the Ocean Exploration Trust’s E/V Nautilus with Robert Ballard and served as an Education and Outreach Officer on the JOIDES Resolution. She enjoys bringing cutting edge science into her classroom. She, along with researchers from Texas A&M University and Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, are currently working on a project that allows them to take students out on a research vessel.

Steven Oberbauer - 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
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.

Phenology and Vegetation in the Warming Arctic 2019 Resources


After spending 5 weeks in the Arctic learning about tundra vegetation and phenology, Alejandra Martinez wanted to have her students observe the growth of plants in their school. In this lesson, students will grow plants in multiple locations and track their growth to compare their phenology.

More than a week
Middle School and Up
Download, Share, and Remix

The Canary In The Coal Mine

South Texas is pretty far removed from the Arctic. When I mention climate change in my classroom, my students think of emaciated polar bears roaming the Arctic Ocean for a few minutes and then carry on with their day.

All Aged
Download and Share

Educator Ale Martinez and the team researching Phenology and Vegetation in the Warming Arctic live from Toolik Field Station in Alaska. This event was broadcasted on 25 June 2019.

Florida International University (FIU) Preeminent Program research team hunts for the drivers of global climate change in the Arctic. Video produced by Florida International University, May 2019.

Less than 1 period
All Aged
Download and Share