Update

Archived PolarConnect Events

Nick and Amanda held two successful events – one or teachers, and one for students and the public. The events are available in the PolarConnect Archives.

What Are They Doing?

Wolf Spider
Wolf Spider
While arctic species are all well adapted to living in extreme environments, it is unclear whether different species will respond similarly or differently to the environmental shifts that accompany climate change (e.g. longer growing seasons and warmer temperatures). Stronger responses by some species within a community, or strong responses by certain species groups, could lead to changes in the structure of the food web and its role in arctic ecosystems.

For example, In the Alaskan Arctic, wolf spiders are the largest and most abundant invertebrate predators. A shift in their ecological role could therefore have an important impact on the entire food web. Evidence from Arctic Greenland shows that wolf spider body sizes are becoming larger in response to longer growing seasons. These increases in body size will likely lead to larger spider populations, which could imply an increase in predation on the rest of the community.

This project explored the role of wolf spiders within arctic communities and specifically, whether climate change is stimulating changes in these predators that could influence the structure and functions of arctic food webs. The research team used a variety of methods to examine the impact of wolf spiders, including sampling spiders from various locations around Toolik Lake and carrying out a manipulative experiment that looked at the entire food web.

Where Are They?

Stream near Toolik Lake, Alaska
Stream near Toolik Lake, Alaska
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.

Latest Journals

I have not been trampled by a moose or eaten by a bear, I've been traveling throughout the state with limited access to the internet. I left Toolik on July 20, and got wrapped up in the events that surround saying goodbye to an incredible place and my friends. Since then I've traveled to Denali…
Return to Civilization Today's walk from my tent to the dining hall was different than it had been the previous 45 mornings. I took one last look at my surroundings and marveled at how after such a long period I still had the same level of appreciation and wonder that I did when we arrived back…
Today is my last full day in the Arctic. Tomorrow will mark the 46th day I've been north of the Arctic Circle. It's really hard to believe that we've been here for more than 6 weeks already! The constant daylight, combined with an endless amount of things to do (work and play) makes the days run…
"Two anesthesiologists, a surgeon, and a veterinarian from Argentina pull up to a remote field station in Alaska with two flat tires and no windshield. True life, no joke." - Susanna Michael, Smith College On one of my last days in the field, I want to go back to an earlier event (July 10) that…
Dates
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Location
Toolik Field Station, Alaska
Project Funded Title
How do climate-induced changes in generalist predators influence the structure and function of food webs in the Arctic?
Nick LaFave - Teacher
Teacher
Clover High School

Nick LaFave is a National Board Certified Teacher who has been teaching science since 1997. He currently teaches Environmental Science in Clover, South Carolina. Mr. LaFave grew up close to the New York/Canada border between the St. Lawrence River valley and the Adirondack Park. Walking out the door of his childhood home to explore the nearby woods, or fish the river sparked a lifelong passion for learning about nature. Mr. LaFave uses a hands-on approach to teaching Environmental Science. He and his students manage a nearly 100 acre "outdoor classroom" where some of the unique learning opportunities include monitoring fish populations and water quality, studying turtle populations, and raising tilapia to control nuisance plant species. He also encourages his students to be active participants in community service. Outside the classroom, Mr. LaFave spends his time playing hockey, golfing, attempting to play guitar and mandolin, hiking, and camping with his wife (also a teacher) and daughter.

Amanda Koltz - Researcher
Researcher
Duke University

Amanda Koltz is a PhD candidate in ecology at Duke University under Dr. Justin Wright. Her research focuses on the relationship between community and ecosystem ecology (e.g. how species interactions can affect key ecosystem processes like decomposition and nutrient cycling). For her dissertation research, she is exploring how climate-induced changes in predatory spiders are influencing the structure and function of food webs in the Arctic. You can learn more about Amanda's research here.

Predatory Spiders in the Arctic Food Web Resources

Newsday reporter Jennifer Smith blogs dispatches from Toolik Lake, Alaska about science underway at the research station, including the work of researcher Amanda Koltz on predatory spiders.

Web Link
Arctic
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In this one hour webinar, PolarTREC teacher Nick LaFave conducts live event for students and the public on his work at Toolik Field Station studying Predatory Spiders with researcher Amanda Koltz.

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In the field with Michael Sheriff of the Institute of Arctic Biology, University of Alaska Fairbanks. Tagging squirrels near the Atigun River, North Slope, Alaska. Video by Nick LaFave.

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In this one hour webinar, PolarTREC teacher Nick LaFave conducts professional development for teachers on his work at Toolik Field Station studying Predatory Spiders with researcher Amanda Koltz.

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Arctic
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Giving a sense of how vast and open this treeless landscape is from a helicopter. Video by Nick LaFave

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