Arctic Tundra Dynamics

What Are They Doing?

The team investigated the role of carbon in arctic tundra ecosystems. Approximately one quarter of the world's soil organic carbon is stored at high northern latitudes in permafrost and soils. As the arctic environment warms, this carbon may be released to the atmosphere in the form of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4). The goal of this project was to understand how changes in a warming and drying arctic environment might affect the balance and stability of the arctic soil carbon. The team measured soil moisture, permafrost depth, carbon dioxide and methane gas in the soil and atmosphere, and surveyed plant composition, function and primary productivity. They also used remote sensing as part of a larger project to investigate patterns of change across the tundra at various scales, from small local changes to landscape level changes.

Before Mr. Wilder joined Dr. Obermeier’s team, he had the opportunity to work on an archaeological project outside of Barrow with Anne Jensen. Ms. Jensen has been excavating remains in Nuvuk, the northernmost village in Alaska, in order to learn more about the history of the region over the past 1200 years. Click here to learn more about the project.

Where Are They?

Mr. Wilder and Dr. Oberbauer lived in the village of Barrow, Alaska and worked at sites outside of the village. Much of the field work took place at the Barrow Environmental Observatory, where many long-term environmental studies have been undertaken.

Expedition Map


Today was a very cool day here in Fairbanks and it was cool in two ways, one being that the high was only about 20*F and the other is that we were able to see the completion of the Yukon Quest dog sled race. This year it began in Whitehorse of the Yukon Territory in Canada and finished in Fairbanks, Alaska. The two cities alternate as the start and finish of the race. Here is a shot of the winner coming into the finish chute....... This is a photo of the top finisher of the 1000 mile Yukon Quest dog sled race. This musher and his dogs finished in just over 10 days. Second place was only...
It has been a while since I wrote one of these. Two years ago I was here in Fairbanks preparing for what would be one of the most exciting summers of my life.  A lot has happened in those two years but the excitement is still in the air as a new group of teachers prepare for their own TRECs.  Project manager Janet Warburton is preparing a new group of teachers for their upcoming Polar TREC.   I have been invited back to help prepare this new group by sharing my experiences from the last two years.  The snow is a little deeper this year but 0*F doesn’t feel any different than it did two...
Polar TREC Reflection Five weeks is just long enough to get a taste of life as a researcher/scientist and I feel I had a good sampling but it left me wanting more. I had more energy while in Barrow than I ever do back home even though I was up early and to bed late, feeling like I was trying to get time to stop. I didn’t want it to end. It was work and it was intense, but it was a vacation at the same time. The pressures of daily life back home can be exhausting, but the focus of concentrating on something that was new and cutting edge was energizing. I learned a lot but I want to...
Jack’s weather report: Wow! was near record temperatures today in Barrow as the string of beautiful days continue. It was in the 60’s by this afternoon. Today actually began yesterday when I woke up for my last turn at taking diurnal measurements of carbon flux. I say that because I did not go to sleep last night. I had wanted to stay up to see the sun at its lowest point on the horizon. I also wanted to savor every moment of being in Barrow, Alaska. 3:30 a.m.on July dark as it gets. Paulo, Dave Lin, from UTEP – University of Texas El Paso, and I sat around the lab...
Jack’s weather report: Wow! was near record temperatures today in Barrow as the string of beautiful days continue. It was in the 60’s by this afternoon. No trip to Barrow is complete without a trip to Joe’s Museum. Joe works at one of the restaurants in town called PePe’s. They specialize in Mexican food but actually serve a variety of offerings. Here's a picture of the restaurant from the outside.  We have eaten here several times during my five weeks in Barrow. PEPE's : North of the Border Joe’s Museum is open by appointment only and only after the restaurant closes, so you...

Expedition Resources

Project Information

31 May 2007 to 7 July 2007
Location: Barrow, Alaska
Project Funded Title: Climate Change and Tundra Ecosystems in Barrow, Alaska

Meet the Team

Rob Wilder's picture
Spartanburg High School
Spartanburg, SC
United States

Rob Wilder has been teaching high school science in Spartanburg, South Carolina for 19 years. He serves as the faculty advisor for his school's Envirothon team, coaches cross-country and track, and serves as a reader for the College Board AP Environmental Science exam. Mr. Wilder uses a hands-on approach to teaching Environmental Science, and has been known to cook meals in his solar oven in the school parking lot. Mr. Wilder enjoys the outdoors, where his hobbies include running and beekeeping.

Steven Oberbauer's picture
Florida International University
Miami, FL
United States

Steven Oberbauer is a Professor of Biological Sciences at Florida International University in Miami. Dr. Oberbauer received his B.S. and M.S. degrees from San Diego State University, where he was first introduced to arctic research. He completed his Ph.D. at Duke University studying the ecophysiology of tropical trees in Costa Rica. Dr. Oberbauer currently researches climate change effects in both the Arctic and the Tropics, specifically how plants adjust to changes in their environment and resource availability.