Posts Tagged ‘Greenland’

This post was originally featured on the Dartmouth Biological Sciences Foreign Study Program blog.


We’re not in Greenland anymore.

That thought has been passing my mind on a daily basis since I arrived in Costa Rica to do biological research in the tropics as part of Dartmouth’s foreign study program. For six weeks, we’ll be going  across the country, jumping from field station to field station as we conduct scientific research from the planning stage to the final paper. Having focused my research on the Arctic up until this point, I was both excited and curious to start my coursework.

The minute we got off the bus at our first station – the Palo Verde National Park – I immediately felt a wall of intense heat smack me in the face. This was an experience unnatural enough to be having in January, but do be doing research in anything but chill weather seemed alien to me.

  1. As I continued with my week, I was struck at the similarities I felt between my work in Greenland and the Tropics. These regions might not be that different after all.Soil research is deeply relevant to understanding both ecosystems – yet soils aren’t usually the first parts of the landscape that come to mind when people think of either the Arctic or the rain forest. I definitely wasn’t expecting to be doing more soil research upon arriving in Costa Rica – just as I wouldn’t have expected to be doing soil research in the tundra as Julia’s field assistant – and yet that’s exactly what I found myself doing. Here are Julia and I collecting samples in July 2013:
    998583_10201263848072499_1188912330_n dscf4061 And here I am in Costa Rica, measuring soil moisture in the same way I analyzed our Greenlandic samples back in Hanover! IMG_2234 DSCF4141
  2. Both the Arctic and the tropical rain forest are incredibly beautiful. Research is pretty distracting when faced with these views: This photo was taken in Kangerlussuaq, Greenland at 1AM:DSCF3865
    And these ones were taken at sunset at Palo Verde, Costa Rica: DSC_0703 DSCF4180
  3. The vegetation types, while on opposite extremes, are entirely different from what you’d see back home. While in the tundra you can see miles and miles into the distance – and the immense span is shocking… DSCF3655
    … here in the tropics, the trees are bigger than I’ve ever seen anywhere – especially in primary forests. And you can barely see 100 feet ahead of you when the forest is thick:
    DSCF4108 DSCF4066
  4. Both regions are significantly affected by climactic changes. Arctic and tropical ecosystems are some of the most vulnerable to tipping points and thresholds, wherein global warming may cause irreversible changes to our environment. Interestingly, though, I haven’t heard talk of either region among both communities of researchers.

    I still have so much to learn about these regions and others around the world, all of whom contribute to a better understanding of climate change. (Stay tuned for more reflections as the weeks pass by!) As a budding climate scientist, I recognize how important it is to acknowledge that our world is deeply interconnected – from the poles to the equator. And I’m incredibly grateful to have had the opportunity to conduct research in these places, hoping to gain the skills that will form my work as a scientist, understanding the world’s collective future.

Read Full Post »

Mary Albert and Kaitlin Keegan are once again mentioned in a news story about the recent melting in Greenland. ScienceNews has published an article that references Kaitlin’s identification of 1889 as the date of the last significant melt at Summit. There have been a number of stories lately about the melt due to a NASA “unprecedented” press release on their satellite data. You can read many of the articles written about it which reference Kaitlin or Mary on the Dartmouth IGERT News page. 


Read Full Post »

You’ve seen the Arctic once, that vast, white nothingness, so you’ve seen it all, right?  Not quite.  After spending 6 months in the Arctic, transitioning from Greenland to Alaska half way through, I realized how different various parts of the Arctic could be from one another.

White Tundra
A view of the tundra just outside of Barrow, Alaska from a helicopter.

In Greenland this summer, IGERT Fellow Julia Bradley-Cook and I trekked and camped in the stunning mountainous region of tundra bordering the Greenland ice sheet near Kangerlussuaq (67° 01’ N, 50° 42’ W), collecting samples for her research on soil carbon dynamics in the area.  Kangerlussuaq is more of an outpost than a town; mainly existing to support the international airport located there, the scientific community, and a growing tourist economy.

Russel glacier
One of our many stunning lunch spots, at Russell Glacier near Kangerlussuaq, Greenland.

Barrow, Alaska (71° 18’ N, 156° 44’ W), on the other hand, is a booming city compared to Kangerlussuaq.  The city is the seat of the North Slope Borough’s government and has a population of around 5,000 people, approximately 60% of whom are Alaskan Native Iñupiaq Eskimo.

Barrow by helicopter

Barrow, Alaska

When I arrived in Barrow I was stunned to see a completely flat horizon line in all directions, the Ocean to the North, and the openness of the “slope” to the South.

The community also seemed improbable: hundreds of houses built on stilts, plopped down on a dirt patch.  There are no paved roads in Barrow (due to permafrost), but there are a number of stoplights and no shortage of cars, ATVs and snowmobiles.

My street in Barrow
My street in Barrow.

During my three-month stay in Barrow I worked as a community outreach intern for the Barrow Arctic Science Consortium (BASC) through the Dartmouth Stefansson Fellowship program.  Up until very recently BASC provided logistical support for researchers visiting Barrow and functioned as a bridge between the scientific community and the local community through weekly outreach events.  I came onboard to start up a new outreach effort targeting local k-12 students.

A researcher heading out into the large patch of tundra that makes up the Barrow Environmental Observatory.

What really surprised me in my work with students was the lack of awareness for the wealth of research taking place in Barrow (since Barrow is one of the major hotspots for Arctic research). With the support of the school district, I was able to connect students to visiting scientists and local science organizations via small group field trips and class visits. In the three months we organized and ran 33 field trips and set up a framework to continue the program throughout the school year and into the summer. It is my hope that this internship will continue either with BASC or with another local logistics organization so that teachers and students can take advantage of all the special opportunities and resources in their community.

Field trip with Archaeologist Anne Jensen
Middle School Students on a field trip with local Archaeologist Anne Jensen.

While my experiences in Greenland and Alaska felt like polar opposites, together they gave me a bigger and better picture of Arctic life!

Two Foxes
A couple Arctic Foxes enjoying the first snow of the season in Barrow.

If you would like to see more of what I was up to in Barrow, you can check out the blog I was keeping during my time there: http://above66degreesnorth.wordpress.com/

Read Full Post »

One of the highlights of our trip to Nuuk is the opportunity to practice communicating our science to the general public. Lone Moller of the Self Government’s Agency of Culture, Education, Research and the Church organized a two evening lecture series to provide an occasion for us to share our research. The lectures are to be held at the town center, Katuaq, which is a thriving gathering area for the people of Nuuk that houses a café, movie theatre and meeting spaces. This past Thursday we had a session with posters from each of us that explained why we are working in Greenland, and what sort of studies we are doing while here. Four of us (Julia, Lauren, Laura, and I) were also given an opportunity to give talks about our work. The audience included professors and students from the University of Greenland, representatives from the Self Government and the Inuit Circumpolar Council, researchers from the Institute of Natural Resources, and Greenlandic chef and author Anne Sofia Hardenberg. Our talks were well-received and sparked discussions about contemporary mythology regarding aquatic insects, plant uses, and changing carbon levels in the permafrost. Many thanks to Lone for organizing a successful event.

Kaitlin, Chris, and Gifford will be presenting next Thursday at 7:00.

Read Full Post »

How does something 10,000 feet tall and 1.7 million square kilometers melt? After hearing and feeling loud rumbles from our field site, we hiked to the source, Russell Glacier, to watch the calving. It was a warm August afternoon, and the ice had been in the sun for at least 12 hours by the time we arrived. Below is a sample of the magnificent process.

For size perspective, here are a few members of the team during a calving:
Russell Glacier calving. Laura, Gifford, Lauren and Chris for scale. Photo by Matt Ayres.

Read Full Post »

Team IGERT helped Kaitlin collect all her data for a snow pit on summit — permeability, density, and crystal size. To find out more about the process, please view our mini documentary.

Read Full Post »