High Arctic Change 2011


Learn more about the research directly through the research team and Mark Goldner! Check out one of two PolarConnect events by visiting the PolarConnect Archives..

What Are They Doing?

The Svalbard Archipelago has an arctic climate and is home to several large bodies of ice called glaciers. There are alpine glaciers in the mountains, and also tidewater glaciers that end in long narrow bodies of seawater called fjords. For the past nearly 10,000 years, the glaciers of this region have been receding and most recently there has been a regional reduction in sea ice. The region is ideal for the study of past climate because the arctic is sensitive to changes in climate and several different types of measurements on and around glaciers can be conducted here.

The research team, which included undergraduate geoscience students participating in the Research Experiences for Undergraduates Program, traveled to Svalbard to investigate how climate change affects sediment transport and deposition associated with the tidewater glaciers, icebergs, meltwater streams, and marine currents. Tidewater glaciers are among the fastest changing systems in the Arctic, offering the team the opportunity to monitor rapidly changing and dynamic systems.

To conduct their research, they sampled ice from Svalbard glaciers and icebergs and studied the concentration of rocks and sediments. They also studied the sediments on the glacial fjord sea bed to look at where sediment from the glacier was being transported and deposited in the past. The oceanography of the fjord waters in front of the ice margins were also studied by the students. The team also utilized aerial photographs and GPS mapping to determine the position of the glacier and its rate of retreat. Using this data and more, the team helped determine what relationships exist between current sedimentation, glaciers, oceans, and weather data. Being better able to predict how glacial systems react to climate change helps scientists better understand their contribution to sea level rise.

Where Are They?

The team worked on and around Kongsfjord and its glaciers while working out of Ny Alesund on western Spitsbergen, the largest island in the Svalbard island archipelago. The Svalbard archipelago is situated in the Arctic Ocean, north of mainland Europe, approximately mid-way between Norway and the North Pole. Ny Alesund is one of the world’s northernmost settlements and can have a population of up to 120 people during the summer when research is being conducted.


Project Team
After the wind-down of the field season and the students' presentations of their science talks in Longyearbyen, this phase of our REU has ended. So we felt it appropriate to let everyone who has been following the "Fellowship of the Fjord" (as the students ended-up calling us) know just how pleased and excited we are about the expedition as a whole, and especially the outcomes we see reflected in the experiences and science results the student's have shown so far. This group has worked as a team, having fun with each other, enjoying the hands-on learning process, wallowing in the experiences...
Snow on Amundsen
Snow in August We arrived in Longyearbyen on Thursday afternoon after a bit of touch-and-go over whether we'd actually get out of Ny Ålesund. After 4 weeks of almost nonstop nice weather, we awoke Thursday morning to a snowstorm! It was actually pretty cool to see the area being blanketed with a thin layer of snow. But along with the snow came clouds and fog. And the little airport up there doesn't support an instrument-only takeoff or landing, so if the visibility is bad the plan can't land or takeoff. Luckily the visibility improved enough, so we said our good-byes to Ny Ålesund and here...
Morning Run in Ny Ålesund
Closing up Shop We've just packed up all the science equipment and are heading off to Longyearbyen where we'll spend our last two days before coming back to the U.S. Moving the boxes to the dock where they can be shipped home I want to take the opportunity to close out my time in Ny Ålesund by writing a bit about this remarkable community. We all shout out a huge "THANKS!" to our hosts here from Kings Bay and the Norwegian Polar Institute who have helped make this a wonderful month! Given how comfortable this little town is, it's not that hard to forget that you're in the Arctic. (That...
Standing on the Vestre Lovenbreen glacier.
Yesterday we did our last bit of science – we picked up the HOBO to finally bring it back to the lab. Rebecca, Liz, Daksha and I said goodbye to the glacier for the last time! It was fitting that the waves and wind were pretty strong on the way back, so we had a bumpy wet ride for our last ride out there. Last night we held one final webinar for PolarTREC. I continue to be impressed by how clearly the REU students are able to communicate about their research. While I have learned so much from Ross and Julie, I have also learned a great deal from the students. Daksha talking during last...
George in Longyearbyen airport
Today's journal is written by REU student George Roth, who is a student at the University of Washington in Seattle, where he is majoring in oceanography George on a hike just outside of Ny Ålesund looking out over the fjord. I’ve often been asked why a kid who grew up on a potato farm in Idaho became interested in the Arctic. During the summer after my freshman year, I went on a month-long University of Washington course/experience where we traveled along the west coast of Greenland with two geology teachers learning about climate change, glaciers, and the Greenland Ice Sheet. I loved the...

Expedition Resources

Project Information

10 July 2011 to 14 August 2011
Location: Ny Alesund, Svalbard

Meet the Team

Mark Goldner's picture
Heath K-8 Elementary School
Brookline, MA
United States

Mark Goldner teaches 7th and 8th grade science at the Heath K-8 Elementary School in Brookline, Massachusetts. He has been teaching middle and high school science for the past 19 years. In his classes, Mr. Goldner stresses the importance of developing a strong and positive relationship with the natural world, and that the best way to learn science is by doing real scientific investigations. Outside the classroom, Mr. Goldner enjoys spending time hiking, swimming, biking, and sailing with his wife and two kids, and on weekends and in the summer, he can often be found on the coast of Maine. Along with his outdoor adventures, Mr. Goldner plays the trumpet and loves jazz.

Julie Brigham-Grette's picture
University of Massachusetts
Amherst, MA
United States

Dr. Brigham-Grette's research interests are focused on the stratigraphy, sedimentology, and chronology of geologic systems that record the climate evolution and sea level history of the Arctic since the Pliocene. Most of her research program is aimed at documenting the global context of paleoenvironmental change across "Beringia", i.e., the Bering Land Bridge, stretching across the western Arctic from Alaska and the Yukon into NE Russia including the adjacent marginal seas. Starting in the 1980s with fieldwork on the sea level history and glacial stratigraphy of vast Arctic coastal plains and coastal environments in comparison with regional alpine glaciation, she is now focused on the integration of records from marine and lake systems.

Since 1991, her group has participated in numerous field expeditions to remote regions of Arctic Russia and she was co-chief scientist in 2002 of an expedition on the U.S. Coast Guard icebreaker Healy, taking sediment cores from the Bering and Chukchi Seas. She is the US Chief Scientist of the El'gygytgyn Lake Scientific Drilling project, a multinational field program leading to the first unprecedented recovery in 2009 of a 3.6 Myr record of terrestrial paleoclimate. She has previously been involved in the IPY STEM Polar Connections project to integrate the study of polar regions and International Polar Year activities into the middle and high school curriculum from the terrestrial Arctic.

Ross Powell's picture
Northern Illinois University
DeKalb, IL
United States

Ross Powell has been a professor in the Department of Geology and Environmental Sciences at Northern Illinois University since the early 1980's. His main research interests focus on processes where glaciers and ice sheets enter the sea, and his recent research has focused on Alaskan and Antarctic glacimarine processes and paleoclimate history involving underwater remotely-operated vehicles (ROV's) among other scientific tools. He has played a lead role in the [ANDRILL](http://www.andrill.org/static/index.html) (Antarctic geological Drilling) Program and the [WISSARD](http://www.wissard.org/) program, collecting sediment cores for the first time from a subglacial lake in Antarctica—Lake Whillans. He has mentored teachers in polar field research through the Cape Roberts and ANDRILL programs in Antarctica and the Svalbard REU program in the Arctic. He is also periodically a guest lecturer at the University Center ([UNIS](http://www.unis.no/)) on Svalbard.