Welcome to the Projects feature of our website!

What are Projects?

Projects are a collection of PolarTREC expeditions that are related and/or share the same research project. The funding sources, title, and other parameters of the research project may change from year to year but the overall research focus is the same. These expeditions are often in the same location and involve many of the same team members over multiple years.

Why Projects?

We created Projects as a way to show the depth and breadth of the research that is taking place in the Polar Regions. It’s not often apparent that many of the expeditions are multi-year research projects. The goal is to showcase the on-going PolarTREC contributions to the magnitude of the science, in various aspects of the continuing projects. Projects that have had multiple teachers over time offer updated journal content, unique field experiences, and new learning opportunities every year. PolarTREC Projects content and related resources is a great way build and develop STEM curriculum in classrooms and communities. Projects allow users to learn more about the science and see all the teachers and researchers involved in the research project. View any project page to access the related project resources such as lessons, articles, presentations, and more!

Project Location: Ny Alesund, Svalbard, Norway
Project Funded Title: Svalbard REU: Understanding climate change in Tidewater environments of the High Arctic
Project Description: 

The Svalbard Archipelago has an arctic climate and is home to several large bodies of ice – alpine glaciers in the mountains, and tidewater glaciers that descend into the sea. For the past 10,000 years the glaciers of this region have been receding and more recently researchers have noted a regional reduction in sea ice.

The research team, which included undergraduate geoscience students participating in the Research Experiences Undergraduates (REU) Program, traveled to Svalbard to research how high latitude glaciers, melt-water streams, and sedimentation in the fjords reflect climate. The Svalbard region is ideal for the study of past climate because several different types of measurements on and around glaciers can be conducted there. Working out of small boats in the fjord and hiking to sites on land, the team collected data to determine what relationships exist between current sedimentation, glaciers, oceans, and climate. Using the historic sedimentation record can help the researchers understand and better predict how glacial systems react to climate change.

Project Location: McMurdo Station, Antarctica
Project Funded Title: The Cost of a New Fur Coat: Interactions between reproduction and molt in Weddell Seals in Erebus Bay, Antarctica
Project Description: 

The team traveled daily to seal haul-outs and worked on the sea ice outside of McMurdo Station, Antarctica. While on the ice, the team located the seals, weighed them, measured them, collected blood and tissue samples, took thermal images of the seals, tagged them, and then left the seals alone until the next research season. When the team comes back following year, they re-locate the seals, re-weigh and re-measure them, collect the tags, and determine if the seals have pupped.

Project Location: McMurdo and Mario Zuchelli Station, Antarctica
Project Funded Title: Deciphering the Tectonic History of the Transantarctic Mountains and the Wilkes Subglacial Basin
Project Description: 

Antarctica plays a central role in global tectonic evolution. Competing theories have been put forward to explain the formation of the Transantarctic Mountains (TAMs) and the Wilkes Subglacial Basin (WSB), primarily due to a lack of information on the crustal thickness and seismic velocity of these areas. The research team is attempting to resolve how the TAMs and WSB originated and how their formation relates to Antarctica's geologic history. Since most of Antarctica is covered by large ice sheets, direct geologic observations cannot be made; therefore, "remote sensing" methods like seismology must be used to determine details about the earth structure.

Project Location: Barrow, Alaska
Project Funded Title: Annual Observations of the Biological and Physical Marine Environment in the Chukchi and near-shore Beaufort Seas near Barrow, AK
Project Description: 

The research team worked out of Barrow, Alaska, at the juxtaposition of two Arctic seas; the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas. It is a region frequently traveled by the endangered bowhead whale. This project had its genesis in understanding why the region near Barrow, Alaska has been a feeding hotspot for migrating bowhead whales. The whales and their prey will continue to be a focus of the team's interpretations. The research team conducted oceanographic sampling of the physical and biological marine environment in the region over the period 2005-2011 and observed significant inter-annual variability. Long-term studies of the ocean conditions in the Arctic are needed in order to understand how these environments vary inter-annually. The research team will continue to document conditions in the biological-physical ocean ecosystem, through annual boat-based surveys in order to predict and understand potential impacts of climate change on the Arctic ecosystem.

Project Location: South Pole, Antarctica
Project Funded Title: IceCube
Project Description: 

How do you find something that isn't directly visible? That's the challenge faced by the team who developed the IceCube neutrino detector under the ice at the South Pole. Just as X-rays allow us to see bone fractures, and MRIs help doctors find damage to soft tissue, neutrinos will reveal new information about the Universe that can't be seen directly. The in-ice particle detector at the South Pole records the interactions of neutrinos, which are nearly massless sub-atomic messenger particles. Neutrinos are incredibly common (about 100 trillion pass through your body as you read this) subatomic particles that have no electric charge and almost no mass. They are created by radioactive decay and nuclear reactions, such as those in the Sun and other stars. Neutrinos rarely react with other particles; in fact, most of them pass through objects (like the earth) without any interaction. This makes them ideal for carrying information from distant parts of the universe, but it also makes them very hard to detect.

Project Location: Barrow, Alaska
Project Funded Title: Historical Ecology for Risk Management: Youth Sustainability (HERMYS)
Project Description: 

Applied Research in Environmental Sciences Nonprofit, Inc. (ARIES), the Barrow Arctic Science Consortium (BASC), the North Slope Borough of Risk Management, and Cooperative Extension of Ilisgavik College collaborated to plan, develop, and implement a historical ecology model for the North Slope Coastal Region of Alaska. Historical ecology is an applied research program that focuses on interactions of people and their environments. Research applications involve studying and understanding this relationship in both time and space to gain a full picture of all of its accumulated effects. The research program can be applied to understanding changes among community landscapes that can assist strategies for the future. For this proposal, the emphases aligned with the ARIES mission of research, education, and community engagement, the Inupiaq Learning Framework of the North Slope School District, and the eco-heritage indicator of the CRIOS model (Cumulative Regional Integrated Operability Scores).

Project Location: Svalbard, Norway
Project Funded Title: The Svalbard REU - Holocene and Modern Climate Change Research in the High Arctic
Project Description: 

The research team of undergraduate geoscience students that participated in the Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) Program traveled to Svalbard and conducted independent research projects. Research focused on how climate influences the modern glacial, river, and lake systems, in order to better interpret the sediment record of past climate change.

Project Location: Kangerlussauq and Summit Station, Greenland
Project Funded Title: Kangerlussuaq Science Field School and the US Science Education Week
Project Description: 

The expedition members visited several research sites in Greenland as part of an initiative to foster enhanced international scientific cooperation between the countries of the United States, Denmark, and Greenland. The expedition members spent several days learning about the research conducted in Greenland, the logistics involved in supporting the research, and they gained first-hand experience conducting experiments and developing inquiry-based educational activities.

Project Location: Toolik Field Station, Alaska
Project Funded Title: Collaborative Research: Persistence, entrainment, and function of circadian rhythms in arctic ground squirrels
Project Description: 

In the Arctic, bright summers and dark winters are a fact of life and can lead humans to rely on clocks and routines to tell them when to eat or sleep, but how do animals function under these conditions? Circadian rhythms refer to the "internal body clock" that regulates the approximately 24-hour cycle of biological processes in animals and plants. Rhythms in body temperature, brain wave activity, hormone production, and other biological activities are linked to this 24-hour cycle. The Earth's light-dark cycle provides the strongest influence on circadian rhythms and is thought to be the primary driver for the emergence and evolution of internal clocks. In the Polar Regions, however, photoperiod exhibits extreme annual variation because of near 24 hour sunlight in the summer and 24 hour darkness in the winter. In the absence of a well-defined light-dark cycle, some arctic residents lose their daily organization of behavior and physiology, and it is thought that the molecular clockwork that drives circadian rhythms may be weak or absent in arctic vertebrates.

Project Location: Kangerlussuaq, Greenland
Project Funded Title: Operation IceBridge
Project Description: 

Operation IceBridge, a six-year NASA mission, is the largest airborne survey of Earth's polar ice ever conducted. IceBridge uses a highly specialized fleet of research aircraft and the most sophisticated science instruments ever assembled to characterize yearly changes in thickness of sea ice, glaciers, and ice sheets in the Arctic and Antarctic. The research team experienced first-hand the excitement of flying a large research aircraft over the Greenland Ice Sheet. While in the air they recorded data on the thickness, depth, and movement of ice features, resulting in an unprecedented three-dimensional view of ice sheets, ice shelves, and sea ice.

Project Location: Approximately 8 miles off the Parks highway, near Healy, Alaska
Project Funded Title: Effects of warming and drying on tundra carbon balance
Project Description: 

The carbon cycle is the means by which carbon is moved between the world's soils, oceans, atmosphere, and living organisms. Northern tundra ecosystems play a key role in the carbon cycle because the cold, moist, and frozen soils trap organic material and slow their decomposition. This very slowly decaying organic material has caused carbon to build up in the Arctic during the past thousands of years. Historically, the tundra has stored large amounts of carbon. Now warming in the Arctic is slowly causing the permafrost to thaw and the tundra to become warmer and dryer. As the earth warms and permafrost thaws, this previously frozen carbon is released as carbon dioxide and goes into the atmosphere, turning the tundra into a source of carbon, rather than a sink. Because carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas, this additional carbon dioxide creates a positive feedback that leads to even further warming.

Little is known about respiration in the arctic winter. The team used five different methods to find the best way to measure how much carbon is being released from northern ecosystems in the winter. Measuring winter respiration directly from experimentally warmed plots and understanding the drivers of wintertime tundra respiration have the added benefit of being able to improve global arctic carbon models. More information about the project can be found here.