High Arctic Change 08

What Are They Doing?

The team traveled to Svalbard, Norway, located in the High Arctic, to investigate how high latitude glaciers, melt-water streams, and sedimentation in lakes and fjords respond to climate change. The Svalbard region has been marked by the retreat of glaciers, reductions in sea ice, and measurable warming throughout the Holocene period, and more specifically during the last 90 years. The Svalbard archipelago has preserved geologic records of climate change since the last ice age and into the 20th century, which made it an ideal location for this study.

Where Are They?

The team worked on and around the glaciers and lakes of Kapp Linne near their field camp at Isfjord Radio on western Spitsbergen, the largest island in the Svalbard arctic archipelago. The Svalbard archipelago is situated in the Arctic Ocean, north of mainland Europe, approximately mid-way between Norway and the North Pole.

Expedition Map


Reflection in the Lake Linne When I arrived here in Svalbard over a month ago, the amount of time ahead of me at Isfjord Radio and the Linne Valley appeared to be inordinate, but looking back at all that was accomplished and all that could still be accomplished, the time here was actually too short. We had the time to visit places in the Linne Valley that most people will never experience, and had the unique opportunity to investigate the inner workings of the glacier, river, and lake system in order to truly understand how this system operates. And yet the more we delved into the system...
As this expedition comes to a close it's time to recap and pull together the various scientific endeavors that took place in the Linne Valley during the past month. There were 2 purposes for this expedition; one was providing a rich field research experience for top level undergraduate students, and the second was the continued investigation of the glacier, lake, river system of the Linne Valley in order to better understand climate change within the valley. Svalbard being located in the high Arctic is very sensitive to climate change and because of its barren lands the evidence of climate...
The process of science can be used to figure out the mechanisms behind a phenomenon, event, or observation, or it can be used to determine if a new tool can be used for analysis of an event or phenomenon. One of the Svalbard REU students from UNIS, Leo Sold from Germany, has chosen to test the adaptability of an image analysis tool to the study of glacial ablation. Leo was intrigued by the plume cam photos and used his Photoshop skills to analyze the amount of snow in an image. No one has done this before with the plume cam photos and therefore Al and Mike were excited at the prospects of...
We were treated to a couple of brief snowstorms, although the snow didn't last on the ground for too long. The process of science begins with the creation of a focused question or questions about a phenomenon or observation, and these questions are the basis for the development of a study. All the students here had research questions that provided them with structure of their projects. At this point in the process they have all done most of their background research into what has been done in the past, and they have collected their data or samples using their selected methods. Now the...
Our boatmen arrived the night before and joined us for dinner and that's when we learned that the seas were going to be rough heading back to Longyearbyen. Since taking a boat is the only method of transportation back to Longyearbyen this time of year, we are extremely dependent on the weather and the effects of the weather on the bodies of water. We were lucky to be getting out today since the weather for the next few days didn't look promising for boat transportation. We packed all our personal belongings in plastic bags before putting them in our duffels in order to protect them from...

Expedition Resources

Project Information

8 July 2008 to 16 August 2008
Location: Svalbard, Norway
Project Funded Title: Holocene and Modern Climate Change Research in the High Arctic

Meet the Team

Missy Holzer's picture
Chatham High School
Chatham, NJ
United States

Missy Holzer has been teaching for over 20 years and currently teaches Honors Earth System Science and A.P. Environmental Science at Chatham High School in Chatham, New Jersey. Ms. Holzer believes in using hands-on, minds-on, and data driven inquiry activities as a way to promote life-long learning in her students. She enjoys field research immensely and has assisted in data collection in places such as Nicaragua, Kenya, Ecuador, Jamaica, off the coast of Chile, and Oregon. She has a Bachelor’s degree in Environmental Planning and Design and Masters degrees in Secondary Science Education and in Physical Geography. In the classroom, Ms. Holzer uses her field experiences to develop units of study that inspire students to get out and explore their natural world. Outside the classroom she enjoys learning, traveling, running, hiking, kayaking, and spending time with her nephews.

Mike Retelle's picture
Bates College
Lewiston, ME
United States

Dr. Mike Retelle is a Professor at Bates College in Lewiston, Maine. Dr. Retelle teaches courses that focus on Earth surface environments and records of environmental change.
Currently Dr. Retelle is involved in several research projects in high latitude areas of the North Atlantic region. He has worked in the Canadian Arctic since 1981 focusing on glacial and sea level history and records of climate change preserved in annually layered sediments in lakes. Dr. Retelle has been working in Svalbard since 2005 and has previously mentored numerous undergraduate students in the field through the National Science Foundation’s REU program (Research Experiences for Undergraduates) as well as several past PolarTREC teachers.

Steve Roof's picture
Hampshire College
Amherst, MA
United States

Dr. Steve Roof is an Associate Professor of Earth and Environmental Science at Hampshire College. Professor Roof's teaching and research focus on environmental issues such as climate change, pollution, and land conservation. He consciously integrates the scientific, political, and social aspects of environmental problems in his classes and projects. He teaches and supervises projects in geology, climate change, resource conservation, land use planning, geographic information systems, environmental chemistry, and the evolution of scientific thought. He and his students travel frequently to Death Valley and the Southwest for climate change field research. He also coordinates the Svalbard REU program, taking undergraduate students to the High Arctic. To learn more about Dr. Roof, please visit his faculty biography page [http://www.hampshire.edu/faculty/sroof.htm]

Al Werner's picture
Mount Holyoke College
South Hadley, MA
United States

Dr. Al Werner is a Professor of Geology at Mt. Holyoke College. His areas of research are in geology and climate change. As a kid he was told "not to play in the mud," but now he makes a living doing just that! Werner's fieldwork has taken him across the circumpolar world. He and his students conduct their research in remote locations—from Alaska to the Canadian Arctic to Spitsbergen, an island in the Norwegian-Greenland Sea—bringing recovered sediment cores from lakes back to the laboratory to learn more about past environmental change. To learn more about Dr. Werner, please visit his faculty biography page [http://www.mtholyoke.edu/acad/facultyprofiles/alan_werner.html]