Climate Change and Pollinators in the Arctic


Live PolarConnect Event!
We had a great live event with Emily while in Greenland on Monday, 16 June 2014. You can see the video, listen to audio, and access a pdf of slides all in the PolarConnect Archives!

Researchers Blogged Too!
The team researchers are part of a great science program called IGERT. You can subscribe to blogs from researchers in the program here. Here is a blog by research team member Ruth Heindel.

What Are They Doing?

Dwarf Fireweed flowerDwarf Fireweed flower The research focuses on the interactions between plants and their pollinators, which are animals that aid in plant reproduction through transporting pollen. The aim is to understand how changes in temperature and precipitation may influence plant-pollinator interactions and plant reproduction. Temperature and water availability may alter the timing of flowering and floral traits that attract pollinators, such as nectar volume and flower size. In addition, temperature may alter what pollinator species visit flowers and how often they visit. The combination of these effects on plants and pollinators may influence plant reproduction, measured as the number of fruits and seeds a plant produces. The researchers hope to relate changes in the abiotic environment to floral attractive traits, pollinator visitation, and ultimately the reproductive success of plants. Three focal plant species, blueberry, harebell, and dwarf fireweed are used because they are common in the area and flower at different times of the season.

This work can have important pan-Arctic and global implications. The majority of flowering plants in nature and one third of our crop plants depend on pollinators to produce fruits and seeds. As temperatures rise in the Arctic, successful adaptation and range expansion of many plants, including plants migrating into the Arctic, will depend on pollinators. This study will help us determine which mechanisms may most strongly drive changes in plant-pollinator interactions and plant reproduction.

Where Are They?

The view outside of Kangerlussuaq, GreenlandThe view outside of Kangerlussuaq, Greenland The research team traveled to Kangerlussuaq on the west coast of Greenland. The climate in Kangerlussuaq is arctic, with temperatures ranging from -25 to 18 degrees Celsius throughout the year and averaging between 5 and 18 degrees Celsius during the summer. The team camped and worked outside of the town where most sites were reached on foot or by truck. The team occasionally spent a night at the local science station in order to charge instruments and take advantage of a hot shower.


A Year as a PolarTrec Teacher As the anniversary of traveling to Fairbanks, AK for training has approached and passed I can't help thinking of all I have done as a PolarTrec teacher the past year. To start with, I remember the joy of being accepted in December, 2013 and finding out that I would be traveling to Greenland to study climate change and pollinators. In February, 2014 I traveled to Fairbanks, AK to meet the other PolarTrec teachers and to undergo training. It was a very exciting and important week. Some of my favorite memories were feeling how cold AK is in the winter and...
Numbered Nivi plant
Sandstorms and Sandy Beaches The pollination project has been gong really well. We have finished the Salix minus some observations which have been delayed due to the weather (I will explain in a bit). We had time to hand pollinate all of the supplemented Salix twice before they started to become unreceptive. This was a race because once we started to pollinate one a second time we had to make sure we got all the sites in a second time or else the data would not be consistent. The Vaccinium we only had time to supplement once before it started to fruit, but we are done with all of those...
Presenting at Joseph-Beth Booksellers
The research will occur in Greenland's vast tundra. The Arctic tundra is a stark landscape where the the soil is permanently frozen. This frozen subsoil is referred to as permafrost. Because of this frozen soil it is very hard for trees to grow, so instead the tundra produces lots of moss and woody plants such as blueberry bushes. During the summer some of the permafrost melts leaving the ground very soggy, but provides plants with the water they need to grow. This causes many marshes, lakes, bogs, and streams to form. During my public outreach I used jars of Jello with frozen soil on...
Pretty little flower
Explore Your World I am standing in front of the ice sheet. From a distance Kangerlussuaq may seem plain and sand filled, but if you take the time to really look, you can see the beauty that this place holds. I love all the passages the ice melt has made. Every morning I get the privilege of seeing this on the way to a site. Not a bad commute... The flowers around "Kanger" may not be as bright as what we are use to, but they are still beautiful. I don't know what this flower is, but I thought it was really pretty. Field of rhododendron flowers. This is a pretty common...
Animal Track 1
Can You Figure It Out? The sand makes a perfect medium for looking at animal prints. Looks at these next few prints and see if you can figure out what they are. First Print: It is small and furry Animal Track 1 Here is it up close Animal Track 1 up close Second Print: It has hooves Animal Track 2 Here it is up close Animal Track 2 up close Third Print: You probably have these at home Animal Track 3 Strange Fact of the Day The Kangerlussuaq Airport is the largest airport in Greenland and can handle large commercial airliners. Sometimes if a flight is especially big...

Expedition Resources

Project Information

9 June 2014 to 30 June 2014
Location: Kangerlussuaq, Greenland
Project Funded Title: The influence of climate change on plant-pollinator interactions and plant reproduction: using a natural climate gradient

Meet the Team

Emily Dodson's picture
Crawford Middle School
Lexington, KY
United States

Emily Dodson graduated with a BS from Georgetown College in environmental science with a minor in sociology. After graduation she completed a MS in secondary education at Georgetown College to certify her to teach grades 5 to 12 integrated science and biology. Upon graduation she traveled to Kyparissia, Greece and worked for Archelon, a sea-turtle conservation society, assisting with field research studying loggerhead sea turtle nesting.

Emily is now in her second year of teaching integrated science at Crawford Middle School. Her teaching style involves lots of hands-on activities that are inquiry-based. In addition, Emily is the head coach at Crawford for "Girls on the Run." This is an international program where female students work on positive body images and train and run a 5k. Finally, Emily has recently been selected to work on the Science Curriculum Design and Development team for Fayette County Public Schools. Emily's hobbies include backpacking, photography, and reading.

Christine Urbanowicz's picture
Dartmouth College
Hanover, NH
United States

Ms. Urbanowicz is a PhD student in the Ecology and Evolutionary Biology graduate program at Dartmouth College. Her research explores the effects of climate change on plant-pollinator interactions. Pollinators and plants might have different responses to climate change, which can have important environmental and agricultural consequences. She is currently focusing on the Arctic, where environmental change due to climate change is rapid. This research focus translates to many happy hours in the field, collecting data about flowers and their visitors. More information about Ms. Urbanowicz's research group can be found here.

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Latest Comments

I will try to remember the sand. The sand here is beautiful and has so many colors. I don't have to worry about bears eating my gummies, but my camp mates on the other hand...
No usually….but recently there was an rumor of a polar bear being seen. They show up every couple of years and they are usually in bad shape. They are shot on the spot. On
There are a couple of birds I see. lapland longspur, ravens, and snow buntings. We actually found a lapland longspur nest with baby birds!
Hover flies, house fly look-a-likes, mosquitos, maybe lady bugs, butterflies, moths, and lace wings
It has the potential to make Greenland more shrubby because it is making other Arctic areas more shrubby