Archive for the ‘Lauren Culler’ Category

This year Dartmouth begins a new NSF-sponsored partnership with JSEP, the Joint Science Education Project. We have been working with this program since 2011 and now take more of a lead role in directing the science programming in cooperation with Kasper Busk from the Government of Greenland.

IGERT graduate students have already been working with the very inspiring group of JSEP high school students from Denmark, Greenland, and the US. On Tuesday we briefly shared our science projects and on Saturday, the 4th of July, we’ll work with them as mentors and help develop and carry out science projects that look at environmental change in the ecosystems of the Arctic.

Please follow us on twitter. We will be sharing our experiences and knowledge in three languages- Kalaallisut, Danish, and English. Also, tweet to us if you have any questions about what we are doing and learning.


Dartmouth IGERT fellow Jess Trout-Haney, and her field assistant, Zach Wood, discuss lake ecosystems with JSEP students.

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A few Fridays ago I had the opportunity to join a cold-loving and charismatic group of people at the Snow Walkers’ Rendezvous. This yearly event is held at the Hulbert Outdoor Center in Fairlee, Vermont and brings together people interested in and experienced with travel, camping, and a diverse range of outdoor activities in the north, including dog sledding, canoeing, and skiing. Presentations and workshops run throughout the weekend on topics such as axe safety, filmmaking in the Arctic, and hypothermia. The gathering has been held for around 20 years, with many members reaching or nearing perfect attendance.

I shared some of our experiences working in Greenland, including camping on top of the Greenland Ice Sheet, teaching Greenlandic, US, and Danish high-school students about Arctic science, and connecting with the various stakeholders in Greenland who are interested in polar environmental change. I did not need to spend any time convincing this group that Greenland is a wonderful place to spend the summer!

Thanks to Wendy Scott for organizing a wonderful evening and to Aleks Gusev for capturing the fun and engaging crowd in the slideshow. We look forward to working with the Snow Walkers in the future.

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Kristin had been raving about Ilulissat all summer.  In Nuuk, when we exclaimed about the icebergs in the fjord, she laughed and said, “Just wait for Ilulissat.”  And yet, she kept worrying outloud: “What if the others don’t like it?  What if it really isn’t as spectacular as I think?”  The second our cohort spotted Ilulissat from our plane windows, we knew Kristin had no reason to worry.  She was absolutely right: Ilulissat was so spectacular that our pictures didn’t seem real, even hours after taking them.

Taking in the view from the hotel's balcony.  By this point, we agreed with Kristin completely: Ilulissat was incredible.

Taking in the view from the hotel’s balcony. By this point, we agreed with Kristin completely: Ilulissat was incredible.

Indeed, the natural beauty of Ilulissat, the third largest town in Greenland, has been recognized internationally by the World Heritage Committee.  In 2004, Ilulissat Icefjord joined the ever-growing list of World Heritage sites, which includes familiar locations such as the Statue of Liberty, Yosemite National Park, and Yellowstone National Park.  World Heritage sites are chosen for their ‘outstanding universal value,’ and must meet at least one out of ten selection criteria (to learn more about the selection process, visit the World Heritage Committee’s website).  Ilulissat Icefjord met two selection criteria: being an example of an important stage in Earth’s history, and being a memorable natural spectacle.

There is no doubt that the view of the Ilulissat Icefjord is memorable.  Our first day in Ilulissat, Kathy Young, CPS Science Coordinator, took us on one of the many marked trails around town.  As we rounded the corner and the icebergs came into view, our jaws dropped in amazement.  Continuing along the rest of the hike was slow going – we had to stop every few minutes to stand in awe, take pictures, and pinch ourselves.

Cohort 4 soaks in the beauty of the icebergs during our first day in Ilulissat.

Cohort 4 soaks in the beauty of the icebergs during our first day in Ilulissat.

We had to stop frequently to take pictures.

We had to stop frequently to take pictures.

A few days later we experienced something that will stick with me forever.  As we walked from town to the World Heritage Site, cold fog suddenly blew in.  At first, we thought we wouldn’t be able to see any icebergs.  As we looked up, however, we realized that the tops of the icebergs were sticking up through the fog, floating pinnacles of towering ice.  Absolute magic.

Icebergs floating on a bed of fog.

Icebergs floating on a bed of fog.

It is Ilulissat’s other reason for World Heritage site selection that makes me pause and think: an example of an important stage in Earth’s history.  Usually, when I think of Earth’s history, I think far back in time: the first life on Earth, the rise of oxygen in the atmosphere.  Ilulissat Icefjord, however, is an example of a very recent stage in Earth’s history.  The fjord was full of ice during the Last Glacial Maximum, and we are today witnessing the retreat of the glacier up the fjord.  Thinking about the site in terms of Earth’s history makes me realize just how fleeting this natural phenomenon is.  At some point, will people stand looking out over the fjord, relying on signs telling them about the icebergs?  Will the location of the World Heritage site seem strange: just another glacial fjord, devoid of ice?  How will they ever know how beautiful it was?

A boardwalk leads to the World Heritage site.

What will this boardwalk lead to in a few hundred years?

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Seals, polar bears, and double-tusked narwhals, oh my! One of the many exciting things to do in any capital city is go to their museums. Nuuk is no exception! The C4 IGERTs (+ C1 IGERT Lauren, now a Dartmouth postdoc) got to experience part of Greenland’s cultural history by visiting not only the Nuuk Museum and the Art museum, but also an ‘economy’ museum where we watched a few very skilled inuit people constructing their traditional outfits.

The Museum (a.k.a. Nunatta Katersugaasivia http://www.natmus.gl/) was established in the mid-1960’s and was one of the first museums in Greenland. The Museum is made up of multiple buildings and walks through different periods in Greenland’s history from the first settlements to industrialization. The exhibits show what every day life was like through displays of traditional clothing, modes of transportation and even types of food they were eating and hunting.

varieties of traditional Greenlandic outfits

varieties of traditional Greenlandic outfits

Beyond seeing the detail in the traditional Greenlandic costume, one of the most interesting things for me were the different hunting outfits, hunting boats and how they evolved with new hunting methods and with new animals being caught. The Museum even had a few of the outfits from arctic explorers- one was made entirely out of polar bear!

Polar explorer outfits made of polar bear and other furs

Polar explorer outfits made of polar bear and other furs

The Museum even has an impressive skull of a Narwhal with two tusks more than 2 meters in length!

Christine and Zak discussing the double-tusked narwhal

Christine and Zak discussing the double-tusked narwhal

Right around the corner from The Museum is Kittat the ‘economy museum’, or workshop, that specializes in making the traditional Greenland costumes. The traditional Greenland outfit is made of different seal skins, intricate beading, crocheted lace and wollen cloth. Kittat is a fully functional shop with the sewing room inside and the skin-drying racks outside. Not only could you watch some of the incredible beadwork and leather stitching taking place, but you could try your hand at sewing some of the leather pieces together- they make it look so easy!

Ruth feels the very soft fur used in the traditional Greenlandic costume

Ruth feels the very soft fur used in the traditional Greenlandic costume

The last museum we had the opportunity to visit was the Art museum, Nuuk Kunstmuseum (http://www.kunstmuseum.gl/). This museum (and over 300 paintings and nearly 500 figures) was given by Svend and Helene Junge Pedersen in 2005 and donated to the citizens of Nuuk. Among all of the fantastic art, Nuuk Kunstmuseum contains the largest collection of paintings by Emanuel A. Petersen (150 pieces).  E. A. Petersen (1894-1948) was an artist from Copenhagen who traveled all around Greenland in the early 1900s painting, drawing and sketching the different landscapes. These paintings are some of the first forms of documenting the landscape (including glacier position!) of this area.


an Emanuel A. Petersen painting of a glacier terminus

We even got a special treat at the last stop on our Nuuk museum tour- when we were talking with the curator, we found out she used to be a member of the Greenlandic government. She was in office when Greenland was granted self-rule (June 21, 2009) which gave Greenland more independence from Denmark. Hearing another first hand experience of that day and all of the new experiences that resulted was incredible!

I think we will all remember Nuuk with fond memories of the culture, museums and especially the people. Thank you Nuuk!

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On Aug 8th we had the pleasure of traveling up the Kobbefjord by boat to visit the Nuuk Basic field station. Nuuk Basic was established in 2007 through funding by the Aage V. Jensen Charity Foundation and is run by the Danish Energy Agency. The aim of the field station is to document and study the effects of climate change on aquatic and terrestrial systems.  Although relatively new, the station has already housed many researchers and is generating incredible data.  What’s more, the long term data they have begun collecting will undoubtedly be valuable in the coming years and decades, especially when compared to the data generated by its sister field station, Zackenberg Basic, in Northeast Greenland.

The main building at Nuuk Basic can house four researchers, has a kitchen, toilet, and a laboratory.  If the researcher population is higher than four (which it often is), a small tent village is created around the main building. photo source

The main building at Nuuk Basic can house four researchers, has a kitchen, toilet, and a laboratory. If the researcher population is higher than four (which it often is), a small tent village is created around the main building. photo source

After a lovely 45 minute boat ride from Nuuk we were greeted by our guide for the day, Maia Olsen.  Maia is a Nuuk native who traveled to Denmark to obtain her bachelor’s degree in molecular biology but has returned to Greenland to spend time in the field.


Maia greets us on the rocks as we arrive by dinghy.

Maia is in charge of collecting data associated with BioBasis, which is one of the four branches of research conducted at Nuuk Basic (the others are ClimateBasis, GeoBasis, and MarineBasis). For BioBasis, Maia is observing phenology of flowering plants, conducting bird surveys, and pan trapping for insects among other duties. I was interested to learn that, like the Colorado habitats where I perform my field work, snowmelt is the main driver of flowering phenology in these habitats.

Maya explains what data she is in charge of collecting as part of BioBasis.

Maia explains what data she is in charge of collecting as part of BioBasis.

Next we were introduced to Maria, a Danish researcher who is getting some field time in before starting a Master’s program.  Maria is currently in charge of collecting data on soil methane release. The set-up is incredible, and consists of a series of small bridges extending into a wet meadow.  The bridges lead to eight plexiglass boxes.  Once every few minutes, the lids automatically close and take methane measurements using a sensor similar to the IRGA that we learned about from Julia Bradley-Cook. One of the most incredible features of this research is that all of the data are instantly and freely available online (link).


Maria explain how the methane monitoring system works.

After a quick hike we came across three more researchers who are studying how climate change could affect soils and vegetation.  They are using ITEX, the plexiglass structures pictured below, to increase temperatures over several plots within a meadow near the Nuuk Basic field station. We tried sticking our hands in these plots and noticed that the air was considerably warmer in there, so the treatments seems to be working well! The first researcher explained that she is studying how increased temperatures could affect soil CO2 flux by placing an IRGA over a small patch of bare soil in each plot (learn more about an IRGA from Julia here!). Next, another researcher demonstrated how he collects data on vegetation CO2 flux using a larger chamber that fits completely over the shrubby plants within the plots. Finally, yet another researcher showed us how he collects air samples to test for VOCs (volatile organic compounds) released by the plants.


Christine tests the air inside the ITEX. Yep! It’s warmer in there!

We get the lowdown on how these researchers are investigating how warmer climates could affect soil carbon flux.

We get the lowdown on how the Nuuk Basic researchers are investigating how warmer climates could affect soil carbon flux.


We are all impressed the the volatile organic compound (VOC) capturing machine! The VOCs are sucked up into a small metal tube, to be analyzed later in a lab in Denmark.

Nuuk Basic is an incredible facility filled with enthusiastic scientists.  Thanks to Maia and all the other researchers for taking time out of their field seasons to show us around, we are eager to see what conclusions can be drawn from these data! Keep up the good work!

Check out those sweet hats!

Check out those sweet hats!

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This year marks the fourth year that Dartmouth graduate students are in Nuuk, Greenland as part of an IGERT goal to build and sustain partnerships in Greenland. A core component to our success has been involvement with the Joint Committee, a high-level forum involving cooperation and interaction between the Greenlandic, Danish, and U.S. governments.

The Joint Committee Science Group supports projects such as IGERT that facilitate interaction between government, academia, and the private sector to advance Arctic science and education policy. This year I joined Ross Virginia and Lenore Grenoble for a meeting with Naja Lund of the Joint Committee and Greenland representative of the Arctic Council. We are excited to work with Naja in the future to continue our involvement with the Joint Science Education Project, expand our student exchange program, and develop new initiatives that support the Joint Committee’s language and education goals.

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Knoxville, Tennessee hosted the 2012 annual meeting of the Entomological Society of America. The theme this year was A Global Society for a Global Science. Many of the sessions highlighted the latest research on how global change will impact insects as pollinators, pests of agricultural and forest systems, and vectors of disease.

Zak Gezon and I presented our research that falls within this theme. Zak shared his results from a study of how collecting bees for scientific studies affects native bee populations.
Zak at his field site

[Zak and his bee net near Gothic, Colorado. Photo credit: Jess Welch]

Pollination biologists collect hundreds of bees every year to count and identify for important studies such as climate impacts on pollinator phenology (more on this in the future from Zak). Given significant concerns about global pollinator decline, it’s necessary to think about how collecting bees for these studies may affect native bee populations. The highly-anticipated results of Zak’s study are good news for scientists, as they suggest so far that the number of bees collected have negligible effects on bee populations.

I shared the Arctic perspective in a symposium titled “Aquatic Entomology as a Measure of Global Changes.”

speaking at the Entomology meeting

[Lauren on stage, talking about insects. Photo credit: Ramsa Chaves-Ulloa.]

The highlight was sharing my latest data on climate effects on mosquito abundance. Turns out, and consistent with local knowledge, a warm and wet spring ups the number of mosquitoes that survive to emerge. I also shared some preliminary data on mosquito fecundity, or how many eggs a female mosquito will lay. With the help of some very tolerant lab assistants, we counted the numbers of eggs in hundreds of mosquitoes collected from Kangerlussuaq this spring.

a female full of eggs

[The maximum number of eggs counted from one mosquito is… 122!]

In addition to sharing science, being at these meetings provides an opportunity to meet and talk with entomologists from around the world.
excited entomologists

[Some very excited entomologists, including Zak Gezon (second from right) and Ramsa Chaves-Ulloa (right) from Dartmouth’s EEB graduate program.]

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