Tundra Nutrient Seasonality
Archived PolarConnect Event
PolarTREC teacher Susan Steiner hosted a PolarConnect event from Toolik Field Station on 7 June 2012.
The archive is for this event. Please visit the PolarConnect Archive Page
What Are They Doing?
Arctic soils have large stores of carbon and as the arctic environment warms, this carbon may be released to the atmosphere in the form of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and methane. The current understanding of tundra ecosystems and their responses to climate change is based on the idea that nitrogen limits plant growth, however nitrogen availability is strongly seasonal, with large amounts available early in the growing season but very little available later on.
Since nutrient cycling on the tundra changes throughout the season, the research team worked to understand how seasonal changes in tundra plants and soil dynamics are affected by changes in the timing of snow melt and warming. By experimentally manipulating factors such the timing of spring thaw and fall freeze directly on the tundra, the team could study how this affects the ecosystem directly. The team was engaged in a mixture of outdoor field sampling, experimentation, and laboratory work. Through this research the team aimed to better predict the impacts of changing growing season timing and duration on the carbon balance of arctic ecosystems.
Where Are They?
The research team lived out of Toolik Field Station, located in the northern foothills of the Brooks Range in northern Alaska. The team traveled to their field plots, located approximately 10 miles from Toolik Field Station, by truck. 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
Ms. Steiner grew up loving the outdoors, spending time exploring the backyard woods with her faithful Bassett hound Falstaff, enjoying family camping trips in the Rocky Mountains, and learning to canoe in the Ozarks of Missouri. A high school Biology teacher inspired her to learn more about the natural world, and early observations of endangered whooping cranes fed the curiosity that led her to major in Biology at the University of Central Missouri. A quest for adventure after graduation led her to the Nantahala Outdoor Center in Bryson City, North Carolina, where she spent a number of years canoeing, backpacking, and exploring rivers and trails around the country. She eventually returned to her biological training to work as a research technician at Coweeta Hydrologic Laboratory in Western North Carolina. Besides helping scientists gather a variety of data about soils, forest health, and streams, she volunteered to become involved with a science program for students called the Schoolyard LTER (Long Term Ecological Research) program. She enjoyed teaching authentic science to the kids so much that she decided to return to school for her Master’s degree, this time in Science Education with an emphasis in Biology. After teaching a number of years at Macon Early College in Franklin, NC, she now teaches at Murphy High School in Cherokee County, North Carolina; guiding students to learn about and enjoy the natural world through courses in Earth/Environmental Science and Biology.
Michael Weintraub is an assistant professor in the Department of Environmental Sciences at the University of Toledo, where he studies terrestrial ecosystem and global change ecology. His research program is focused on understanding the mechanisms underlying basic ecosystem processes and how they are affected by impacts such as climate change and nutrient deposition. His overall research goal is to understand the controls on ecosystem processes such as decomposition, and transformations of both inorganic and organic soil nutrients. Dr. Weintraub uses a range of research tools in order study questions that range from the scale of microbial communities up to the ecosystem level. Learn more about Dr. Weintraub's research here [http://www.eeescience.utoledo.edu/faculty/weintraub/csas.htm]