High Arctic Change 2012

What Are They Doing?

Taking an ice core of a glacier on SvalbardTaking an ice core of a glacier on Svalbard The research team of undergraduate geoscience students that participated in the Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) Program traveled to Svalbard to conduct independent research projects. Research focused on how climate influences the modern glacial, river, and lake systems in order to better interpret the sediment record of past climate change.

The team investigated how high latitude glaciers, melt-water streams, and sedimentation in lakes and fjords respond to changing climate conditions. The Svalbard region has been marked by the retreat of glaciers, reductions in sea ice, and measurable warming during the past 12,000 years, and more specifically during the last 90 years. Svalbard's high latitude location, its location at the end of the Gulf Stream, combined with its relatively easy access, makes it an ideal location for this study. Svalbard has an arctic climate and is home to many large glaciers, including alpine glaciers in the mountains, and tidewater glaciers that end in long narrow bodies of seawater called fjords. The region is ideal for the study of past climate because the Arctic is highly sensitive to changes in climate and several different types of measurements on and around glaciers can be conducted there.

Where Are They?

Snow covered mountains on SvalbardSnow covered mountains on Svalbard The team flew to Longyearbyen, Spitsbergen, the largest settlement in the Svalbard Archipelago. Svalbard is situated in the Norwegian-Greenland Sea, north of Iceland, approximately mid-way between Norway and the North Pole. From Longyearbyen, the team then traveled to their base camp at Isfjord Radio at Kapp Linne on western Spitsbergen, the largest island in the Svalbard archipelago. The team traveled on foot and by boat to work on and around the glaciers and lakes in the Linne Valley.

Expedition Map


Back to my home and school...
It has been one week from our official return to the states and the return to 'normalcy' has been interesting. The midnight sun was not so bad to deal with sleeping-wise when you hike a minimum of 8 miles and are dead tired at the end of the day, however, when your days are not quite so physically intense and your schedule is not clearly outlined for weeks of predictability, darkness is a welcome forcer of circadian rhythm. This new environment offers a cell phone instead of a 30-06, a toyota with wheels instead of a 25 hp yamaha outboard, and my new classroom has 4 walls instead two mtn....
Study in Svalbard?
As these days are being spent in transition I thought I'd include a few pictures of life around UNIS and Longyearbyen before my final field journal. In addition, here is Dion Obermeyer's project proposal to study the varies of Linnevatnet. This proposal has guided his field work at Kapp Linne and is a good introduction to what he'll expand upon on his Monday presentation. Thanks for the write-up Dion! 'My project is designed to help answer the question of how sedimentation occurs in Linnevatnet. Each year a summer layer and a winter layer of sediment are deposited at lake bottom. The couplet...
Front desk UNIS
11, 12, 13…just like that and here I am in Oslo again. The weekend in Longyearbyen went fast. Saturday and Sunday were spent in differing ways for various members of our cohort. Students worked on their project presentations and somehow a talk on outreach got thrown into the mix for Monday as well, meaning this guy had a bit of work to do a well (didn't want it to be a complete snoozer). Mike and Steve primarily spent the weekend organizing gear, preparing samples for shipment, and helping students with last minute project questions and I assisted where possible. The weekend was also a good...
Inner Logistics
A lot has happened in the past 48 hours. I last checked in at the closing of Aug. 8 thinking that all was buttoned up neatly. Field work done, heading out on Friday…pack things up and cast off. Well, later on Wednesday night (post journal) we got a message from UNIS logistics. The logistics department is responsible for ensuring that research teams get to where they are going from the University Centre (UNIS), have all of the gear they need, and make it safely back. The 'warehouse' room that logistics occupies is completely filled with survival suits, glacier rescue kits, rooms with motors...
Mike, Helena, and Dion's final hike back for the season
This morning as I perused my news page online over 6:45 coffee, I came across an article that announced '62% of Americans take at least one 10 minute walk per week.' Bravo! This fact less than filled me with national pride when I thought of the other 38% and the likelihood that they did not in fact 'run' those same 10 minutes. In the same vein however, I got to thinking about the past month here at Kapp Linne and a few statistics. We've been here for 29 days of field work. Today, Wednesday the 8th, was our last day on Lake Linne and in the field. In those 29 days we've each probably had about...

Expedition Resources

Project Information

5 July 2012 to 15 August 2012
Location: Svalbard, Norway
Project Funded Title: The Svalbard REU - Holocene and Modern Climate Change Research in the High Arctic

Meet the Team

Dan Frost's picture
Carrabassett Valley Academy
Carrabassett Valley, ME
United States

Dan Frost has been teaching science, mathematics, and music in Carrabassett Valley, Maine since 2006. After graduating from Bates College in 2005, Dan moved to "the valley" and created an Environmental Science course at Carrabassett Valley Academy (CVA) that focuses squarely on immersing students in the science that surrounds them as well as the larger scale contemporary issues. On any given day, the class could be found increment boring trees on top of Sugarloaf Mountain., up to their arms measuring discharge in the Carrabassett River, or coring Maine's ponds and lakes for sediment records of climate/environmental change. Dan has worked with students both teaching and coaching skiing, backpacking, and canoeing in alpine environments from New Zealand to Austria in hopes to spark enthusiasm for all things from geocaching to geomorphology. His own interests were fostered from growing up on the rivers and lakes of Maine and more recently living off the grid while teaching at CVA. Dan is especially excited for his time in Svalbard as he has worked to stay active in the field of paleoclimate research and continually collaborated on student projects with his former advisor and Svalbard research team co-leader Mike Retelle. His hope is that students will be able to connect the field work that they do in Environmental Science in the mountains of Maine to the work being done in other alpine and arctic environments and serve as inspiration to follow their own paths further in the sciences.

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]

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.