A PolarConnect live event was held with Keri and the research team on 16 August 2010. Access the archive of the event!
What Are They Doing?
The International Tundra Experiment (ITEX) is a network of science experiments set up to study the impact of climate change on plants that live in tundra and alpine ecosystems. Plants at each site are exposed to simulated warmer temperatures using an open top chamber, which acts like a mini greenhouse, trapping heat close to the plants. Research teams at more than two dozen circumpolar sites carry out similar experiments, allowing scientists to compare the plants responses to warmer climate conditions.
The research team visited two ITEX sites in Alaska, Barrow and Atqasuk, to collect data on the plant’s lifecycle and growth. They also observed the makeup of the plant community and other parts of the ecosystem. The knowledge gained by the network helps to increase the understanding of changes that may take place in tundra plant communities. The information also helped scientists better understand the exchange of carbon and water across the land and atmosphere in a changing arctic climate.
Where Are They?
The team worked out of the communities of Barrow and Atqasuk, both located on Alaska’s North Slope near the shoreline of the Arctic Ocean. Barrow is a small community of approximately 4,500 people, and Atqasuk has just over 200 people. The climate of both communities is arctic, with the daily minimum temperature dropping below freezing 300 days a year. Both communities are primarily inhabited by Inupiat Eskimos, and neither is accessible by road.
Dr. Robert (Bob) Hollister is a biologist and ecologist at Grand Valley State University in Michigan. He is interested in the interactions between humans and natural ecosystems, and his area of expertise is vegetation change. Dr. Hollister conducts his research in research in the wetlands of Michigan, on tundra in northern Alaska, and in tropical dry forests of Puerto Rico. To learn more about Dr. Hollister, please visit his faculty biography page (http://www.gvsu.edu/biology/index.cfm?id=01231D74-B48B-B025-D10ECE66ECEC241A).