In case you missed it, you can view the archive for Kate and Donie's live event from Toolik Field Station in Alaska on the PolarConnect Archives page here.

What Are They Doing?

Petri dishes filled with moss and liverwort samples. Toolik Field Station, Alaska. Photo by Svea Anderson.
Petri dishes filled with moss and liverwort samples. Toolik Field Station, Alaska. Photo by Svea Anderson.
Ecosystems develop and change through interactions between living things and their physical environment. A shift in vegetation is one of the most important changes an ecosystem can experience, because it can alter exchanges of energy (originating from sunlight), water, and elements such as carbon (C) and nitrogen (N) between air, plants, and soil. In the Arctic, a widespread shift from tundra to deciduous shrub-dominated vegetation appears to be occurring.

This project will assess contributions of different shrub feedbacks to carbon and nitrogen cycling, and improve predictions of the consequences of shrub expansion in the Arctic for regional and global climate.

Where Are They?

A view of Toolik Field Station, Alaska. Photo by Catherine Campbell.
A view of Toolik Field Station, Alaska. Photo by Catherine Campbell.
The research team will be based out of Toolik Field Station, 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. The team will drive to an additional field site ninety miles north of Toolik Field Station.

Latest Journals

Sun's rays hit the Brooks Range early in the morning Weather and climate are easy terms to get confused. Both describe atmospheric conditions that affect our lives. ClimateThe average weather over a particular region of the Earth. Climate originates in recurring weather phenomenon that result…
Our desitnation. The fossil bed we were looking for is to the left of the river in the distance where the near-black hill obscures the river. Kelvin and I were cold, but we had a great time! I was also so happy I had the gators to keep my feet and pants dry. We went for a hike at Atigun Gorge…
We've had beautiful weather the past few days and the Brooks Range that borders camp can be easily viewed. We have some mammals in camp that I've finally managed to get some videos and pictures of. We have a family of red foxes that lives near camp. There are two kits that can frequently been…
View from my WeatherPort in the morning after a heavy storm the day before. The most apparent form of life on the North Slope are plants. When I look across the tundra from my WeatherPort, most of what I can see are plants. The Arctic has a very short summer season, and even in early August, it…
Toolik Field Station, Alaska
Project Funded Title
Collaborative Research: Shrub Impacts on Nitrogen Inputs and Turnover in the Arctic, and the Potential Feedbacks to Vegetation and Climate Change
Kate Steeper - Educator
Lennox Academy

Kate Steeper currently teaches chemistry at Lennox Academy in Inglewood, California. She has previously taught biology and PLTW’s Introduction to Engineering and Principles of Biomedical Sciences in addition to biology. Kate received a B.Sc. Biology degree from Humboldt State University and a Masters in Teaching from the University of Southern California. Before teaching, Kate spent two years as a research technician in the Rando Lab at Stanford studying muscle stem cells. Standard features in Kate’s lessons include student inquiry, phenomena, and student discourse with the goal of inspiring student curiosity and awe about the world and science. She plans to bring her PolarTREC experience back into the classroom and local community to foster awareness about climate change. When she’s not teaching, Kate enjoys traveling and adventures with her husband and spending time outdoors with their two dogs.

Syndonia Bret-Harte - Researcher
University of Alaska Fairbanks

Donie Bret-Harte is a Research Assistant Professor at the Institute of Arctic Biology at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Dr. Bret-Harte is a plant community and ecosystem ecologist who examines how global climate change affects arctic vegetation composition and nutrient cycling.

Shrubs Snow and Nitrogen in the Arctic 2019 Resources


Students will be able to:

* Graph, analyze, and predict data
* Develop claim, evidence, and reasoning
* Explain how permafrost is made, current conditions, and its impacts on climate and humans


* This lesson plan can be taught either in the classroom or virtually online. Instructions on how to teach both ways are given in the Procedure

Middle School and Up
Download and Share

Bringing the Science Back to my Classroom

It’s sometimes a common and depressing comment to hear from your students, “I’ll never use this in my life! Teach me something practical like how to pay my taxes!” As teachers, we strive to make learning relevant to student’s lives, but for a multitude of reasons sometimes your lessons just don’t have that

Download and Share

PolarTREC educator Kate Steeper and researcher Dr. Syndonia Bret-Harte discuss the 2019 fieldwork and research that is occurring on a project looking at shrubs, snow, and nitrogen in arctic Alaska. This event was broadcast live from Toolik Field Station, Alaska on 15 August 2019.

Download and Share