Changing Tundra Landscapes

What Are They Doing?

Ms. Campbell worked with Donie Bret-Harte and a team of researchers who measured carbon, water, and energy fluxes at Toolik Field Station, Alaska. Their results were compared to findings from other arctic sites in Russia, Sweden, Greenland, and Canada to form a coordinated network of long-term observatories.

Laura Gough and John Moore investigated how climate warming affects arctic plant and soil communities both above and below ground. For example, as the Arctic continues to warm, soil nutrient availability will increase because the microbes are better able to decompose the organic matter present in the soil, releasing nutrients in the process. The team measured and compared a variety of factors in experimental and control plots in two different kinds of tundra. These data are crucial to understanding the long-term responses of these two communities and to predicting future changes.

Where Are They?

The team lived and worked at and around Toolik Field Station, located in the foothills of the Brooks Range in northern Alaska. Toolik Field Station is managed by the University of Alaska Fairbanks and has hosted hundreds of researchers and students each season since 1975.

Expedition Map


Polar Dates August 7, 2008 – August 25, 2008 Reflections on Toolik Lake It’s been a busy time since my return to Michigan and a time of many adjustments.  The less obvious interior adjustments such as thought, feeling and reflection of the experience itself linger and surpass the obvious adjustments such as creature comforts, sundown, and differences in climate and surroundings. The evening before I left Toolik, I stayed up all night to witness that which is completely foreign to the vast majority of the human population – a sunset and sunrise that are so near to one another that the sky...
Polar Date:  July 23 & 24, 2008 The past couple of days have been busy, as I have been working on tying up loose ends.  The weather broke and we have had more sunshine and warmer temps than earlier in the week.  Because so many people were unable to get all their data collected during the snowy, rainy and cold weather, camp has been really bustling. Today I hiked up the boardwalks for the last time. Cry I took a picture of this beautifully constructed boardwalk last week when the weather was foggy and rainy. This picture is better because it looks like you could just walk down the...
Polar Date:  July 22, 2008 SNOW!!!  The rain turned to snow overnight and researchers, grads, undergrads, teachers, staff, in fact, everyone was energized and excited to wake up to a winter wonderland in July.   July 22, 2008 brought snow to Toolik. When I stepped out of the tent I was greeted with a scene from a typical Michigan winter morning. The WeatherPort is dry but not warm. My roommate Rebecca and I have not obtained a portable tent heater yet, I think we'll be getting one for tonight! Ironically, Christmas in July will be celebrated on Friday, so the snow put everyone into the...
Polar Date:  July 20 & 21, 2008 The weather did not give us a break for long.  Sunday and Monday were both gray, rainy, foggy and cold.  I spent Sunday working on my lessons and activities that I will be having my students do in the fall.  A major part of PolarTrec is for the PolarTrec teachers to take their field experiences and translate them into meaningful labs and experiments.  It’s a challenge because the researchers here use very high-tech and expensive equipment that is not available to classrooms or schools.  Additionally, the science is extremely complex, and it’s necessary to...
Polar Date:  July 19, 2008 Blue skies returned!  People were overjoyed especially those who had been working indoors for 4 solid days.  I was the opposite though, since I had been in the field for the cold rainy weather and today was an indoor lab day. After almost a solid week of fog, clouds and overcast,rainy skies, Toolik woke up to bright sunshine and blue skies again. The soils in Lab 4 were ready to be processed yet again.  This time we were taking the small samples Karl weighed, adding 45 ml of reverse osmosis (RO) water, blending them in the kind of blender normally used for...

Expedition Resources

Project Information

24 June 2008 to 26 July 2008
Location: Toolik Field Station, Alaska
Project Funded Title: IPY: Collaborative Research on Carbon, Water, and Energy Balance of the Arctic Landscape at Flagship Observatories and in a PanArctic Network

Meet the Team

Catherine Campbell's picture
Scarlett Middle School
Ann Arbor, MI
United States

Cathy Campbell became interested in science when she was a very little girl. Her grandfather had a city-lot sized garden, and every spring Cathy helped him plow and plant, water and weed, and watched as the plants bloomed, bore fruit, and were harvested. Worms, insects, birds, snakes, and all manner of critters fascinated her and led her to become a biologist. As the daughter of an English teacher, it was natural that she would also become a teacher. Ms. Campbell was a NASA Spaceward Bound teacher, leading to her research experiences in the Atacama Desert in Chile in 2006 and to the Mojave Desert in 2007. Many of the activities and experiences from her fieldwork have been translated into her classroom at Scarlett Middle School in Ann Arbor, Michigan, where Ms. Campbell has been teaching math and science for 12 years.

Syndonia Bret-Harte's picture
University of Alaska Fairbanks
Fairbanks, AK
United States

Donie Bret-Harte is a Research Assistant Professor at the Institute of Arctic Biology at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Dr. Bret-Harte is a plant community and ecosystem ecologist who examines how global climate change affects arctic vegetation composition and nutrient cycling.

Laura Gough's picture
University of Texas at Arlington
Arlington, TX
United States

Laura Gough is an associate professor of biology at the University of Texas at Arlington. Her research focuses on the forces that structure plant communities, how species diversity affects ecosystems, and the effects particular traits may have on species responses to disturbances. Dr. Gough has been studying arctic tundra in northern Alaska since 1996. In addition to arctic tundra, she has been active in research on several different ecosystem types, including salt marshes, coastal marshes, prairie, and savannah.

John Moore's picture
Natural Resource Ecology Laboratory
Fort Collins, CO
United States

John Moore is a research scientist in the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Northern Colorado. Dr. Moore’s professional and research activities cover several areas, including soil and theoretical ecology and food web dynamics. He is also the Director of the UNC Mathematics and Science Teaching (MAST) Institute. As Director, he leads several programs that involve pre-service teacher education, in-service professional development, and graduate studies for teachers.