Climate Change and Pollinators in the Arctic 2016


Now Archived: 16 June 2016 Event with Anne Schoeffler You can access this event by visiting the PolarConnect Archives.

What Are They Doing?

Researcher Christine Urbanowicz supplements a flower by painting pollen onto the stigma. Photo by Emily Dodson.Researcher Christine Urbanowicz supplements a flower by painting pollen onto the stigma. Photo by Emily Dodson. 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?

A view of Kangerlussuaq, Greenland. Photo by Emily Dodson.A view of Kangerlussuaq, Greenland. Photo by Emily Dodson. The research team will travel 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 camps and works outside of the town where most sites were reached on foot or by truck. The team occasionally spends a night at the local science station in order to charge instruments and take advantage of a hot shower.


Cargo for Air National Guard Flight
Traveling Home Flying with the Air National Guard involves loading checked bags and luggage the day before the flight. All cargo is loaded into big wooden crates that are strapped all over, so that nothing slips around. This is where cargo/baggage is loaded for the Air National Guard flight. We had a 6:45 a.m. breakfast run and then a passport check. Finally at 8:30, we were bussed to the military part of the airport where we walked out to the C-130 Hercules cargo plane. C-130 Hercules Air National Guard Plane The interior of the plane reveals all of the equipment, wiring, and ducts...
Christine Urbanowicz
Christine Urbanowicz preparing to hand-pollinate blueberry plants. As my expedition nears its end, and I pack to go home, I am reflecting on why Arctic research is so important. We can think about this question from the perspective of human lifestyle, ecosystems, and the interaction between those. Starting with Ice Looking at the photo of Greenland's coast, taken from a plane, you can see large and small icebergs that have calved off of the Greenland ice sheet. Each of these melts as it drifts south, raising the level of the ocean just a tiny bit and lowering the concentration of salt...
Boots on Ice!
A Visit to the Glacier We knocked off work early the other day because it was too windy to hand-pollinate flowers. Instead we went to 660, the end of the Kangerlussuaq Road. There we hiked through the newest moraines (the piles of sand, gravel, and rocks that the glacier has pushed up). Then suddenly, we were walking on ice! As you can see, it is very dark and sandy near the moraines because wind blows the sand back onto the ice. In the picture of me there is also a stream of meltwater flowing right behind me, so there is a stream of liquid water on top of the solid water! I am standing...
 Clouds hanging low over camp
So What Do You Do When It's Too Cold and Rainy to Trap Insects? You go for a hike, of course! The clouds were so low over the river this morning, that it almost looked like you could reach up and touch them! Clouds hanging low over the river and camp. So we finished our morning's work, collecting insect sticky traps; these had been in place for a week and were ready to be collected. We wrapped each trap (a sticky, white circle about 4cm (2.5 inches) in diameter on a wire stick) in plastic wrap and labeled the date and location; the insects will be identified and counted later. There...
Bee Behavior This project is named for pollinators, but we haven't talked about bees at all. How could that happen? Bees are the least common pollinators in Greenland, but they are also the most effective ones because they carry more pollen than flies or mosquitoes; they can carry thousands of grains of pollen, while the others can carry only a few. There are more than 25,000 species of bees in the world, but only two in Greenland: Bombus polaris and Bombus hyperboreus. (There are also some managed hives of honeybees further south.) These Bombus bumblebees are hairier than other bees...

Expedition Resources

Project Information

3 June 2016 to 30 June 2016
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

Anne Schoeffler's picture
Seton Catholic School
Hudson, OH
United States

Anne Farley Schoeffler has been teaching sixth, seventh, and eighth grade science near Cleveland, Ohio since 2003 and focuses on problem-solving and investigation skills. She holds a PhD in Linguistics from the University of Chicago and a much more recent Masters in Science Education from Montana State University. She has backpacked and canoed in the backcountry in Minnesota, Ontario, Montana, and Peru. She shares this passion for the outdoors with her students through outdoor education camp, outdoor classes, an on-campus ecosystem restoration project, and service learning (water quality testing and invasive species remediation). She is the facilitator for an extracurricular philanthropy education program and is also an 18-year Girl Scout volunteer. For fun she loves to hike, read, travel, and spend time with her family.

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

Thank you, Lee! Reading your questions and responses while I was in the field gave me a little taste of home!
I'm just catching up on journals! I love this going home journal and your welcome greeting! So, sweet!! I hope you have rested and recovered and are enjoying being home. Thanks for all the...
Welcome home! Thank you very much for your updates and pictures. They were so-o-o-o fascinating and learned so much from your experiences! I'm glad you had the opportunity to be a part of such a...
I believe it is actually a cinquefoil. On 6/22/16 11:27 AM, PolarTREC wrote: I have replaced the photo, and it now shows Dryas as it says.
Yay! You are home! Congratulations on accomplishing all you did. What an experience. Your journal/photos and all were so professionally done. Hopefully your team learned what it set out to learn. Be...