Frequently Asked Questions for Researchers

Program Information

Question:
Is PolarTREC a professional development program?
Answer:

Yes. PolarTREC is a professional development program for educators and is designed so that teachers participate in polar research in order to improve their science content knowledge and understanding of scientific inquiry. To do this, participating teachers are not merely observers, but active members of the team being trained and getting involved in research activities wherever possible. PolarTREC will look for applications from researchers that acknowledge this effort to truly engage and collaborate with the participating teacher.

Question:
How long has the program been in existence?
Answer:

PolarTREC started during the International Polar Year in 2007 and was funded through 2009. However, it was based on a preceding program called TREC that matched teachers with researchers for research experiences in the arctic from 2004-2006. The National Science Foundation Division of Polar Programs has funded PolarTREC through 2016. Funding is pending for 2017-2018.

Question:
Where does my research site have to be, to be considered for the program?
Answer:

Research projects that are polar or sub-polar may be considered for the program. PolarTREC research locations will vary from year to year depending on the researchers that apply to host a teacher.

In the past, arctic field research sites have included well-established research stations (Toolik Station, Alaska and Summit Station, Greenland); communities (St. Paul, Alaska and Oulu, Finland); ship based expeditions (USCGC Healy in Bering Sea and Polar Sea in Arctic Ocean); or remote camps (Greenland, Russia, Alaska).

Previous Antarctic research sites have included McMurdo Station, South Pole Station, West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) Divide, McMurdo Dry Valleys, Mt. Erebus, and ship based expeditions (Oden, Palmer).

Question:
I am afraid my research is too complex. What kinds of research projects are selected to have PolarTREC teachers?
Answer:

The type of research projects varies each year depending on who applies to host a teacher, but it encompasses many different scientific disciplines including archaeology, geology, ecology, atmospheric science, and much more.

Through an intensive selection process, applicants will be matched with research projects based on scientific skills and interest areas. We often have excellent applicants and some with advanced science degrees. If applicants do not possess an adequate scientific background for the project in question, a match will not be made.

Question:
How is PolarTREC tracking the impacts of the program?
Answer:

Since 2007, PolarTREC has been working with an external evaluator, Goldstream Group, Inc.. A comprehensive evaluation plan is in place to track and document program impacts on participating researchers, teachers, and their students. You can view the results of the evaluation here.

Application

Question:
Do you have to be the Principal Investigator of a research project to apply to host a PolarTREC teacher?
Answer:

No. Researchers wishing to host a teacher could be at any career level—graduate student, post-doc, or faculty researcher at any level. PolarTREC recommends that researchers discuss their plans to host a PolarTREC teacher with project PI's, Co-PI's, and team members before applying.

Question:
Can I apply if I have already had a PolarTREC, TREC, or TEA teacher?
Answer:

Yes. We accept applications from alumni researchers wanting to host a new teacher on their project. If you are wanting to work with a PolarTREC alumni, please contact us and we will discuss the possible options.

Question:
Do I have to have funding for my project to apply to host a teacher?
Answer:

PolarTREC prefers that researchers have funding when applying to host a teacher. However, if you are awaiting confirmation, you may apply. Please make sure to include information about when you expect to know about your funding and keep PolarTREC project managers abreast of your funding situation.

Question:
Do you have to be a National Science Foundation-funded researcher to apply to host a teacher through PolarTREC?
Answer:

Not necessarily. NSF-funded projects will receive priority, however. We will make decisions on applications from projects funded by other sources on a case-by-case basis after discussion with the NSF program officers.

Question:
What if my research location is very "extreme"; may I still host a teacher?
Answer:

PolarTREC has supported teachers in a number of locations, some being what most would consider "extreme". Teacher applicants come from diverse backgrounds with varying experiences, and you will find that some teachers are well prepared for remote field camps, with experience mountaineering, hiking, camping, etc. If you are unsure about whether your field location is too extreme, feel free to contact the program managers for further discussion.

Question:
Do you have to be a U.S. Citizen to apply to the program?
Answer:

No. Such applications will be addressed on a case-by-case basis with NSF program officers.

Question:
I am interested in applying, but will be in the field when the application period is open. Is there any other way to apply?
Answer:

If you are interested in applying, but unsure that you will be available or was not available during the application period, please contact the PolarTREC project managers at info [at] polartrec.com.

Question:
How many researchers apply for PolarTREC?
Answer:

Program popularity has been increasing in the past several years and in turn we have had a growing number of research applications each year. Generally we get 20-30 researcher applications for approximately 12 opportunities to host a teacher, so the application process is becoming more competitive. In our selection and matching process we are looking for good motivation, projects that match our top pool of teachers, and projects that are logistically and temporally feasible.

Selection Process

Question:
How are teachers paired with a researcher and an expedition?
Answer:

The top 100 teacher applications are sent to the PolarTREC Selection Committee for review. The Selection Committee changes annually and consists of researchers, educators, polar logistics providers, and arctic residents. The Selection Committee narrows the applicant pool down to the top 30-40 applicants that seem best suited for the research projects available. At that point, PolarTREC staff select research projects based on committee recommendations, and sends each researcher a group of approximately 5 applications to review. Researchers select the top three applicants to interview, conduct phone interviews, and ultimately the research team selects which teacher will participate in their project. This interview and selection process can take several weeks to complete.

Please note that the application and selection process are quite lengthy and it takes about 4-5 months to process the applications and select the final teachers.

Question:
How many research projects will be selected for PolarTREC?
Answer:

PolarTREC will support approximately 12 projects per year—6 in the Arctic and 6 in the Antarctic. Depending on the dates and types of projects, this balance may vary.

Question:
May I work with a teacher I already know?
Answer:

Yes, a teacher and researcher with a pre-existing relationship may apply to work together, but they will be both be subject to the full selection process. They must each fully complete their respective PolarTREC application by the application deadline and include the name of the individual in the space indicated on the application. Teachers and researchers with a pre-existing relationship applying to work together are also required to jointly complete and submit a supplement to their applications due by the general application deadline. If there are further questions about this, please contact the PolarTREC Project Managers at info [at] polartrec.com.

Question:
Can I be matched with a teacher that lives or works close to my institution?
Answer:

Being a national program, we recruit nationally and we may or may not have applicants from your region. If you are interested in conducting teacher recruitment in your region, PolarTREC can work with interested researchers to provide information and resources to take to local schools.

Question:
How are teachers prepared for their involvement?
Answer:

Prior to going into the field, teachers will participate in two to four online webinars (web conferences) that provide background information about the program and additional training as needed. All selected teachers are required to participate in a week-long orientation in Fairbanks, Alaska. The orientation provides training on journaling, photography, interactive technology tools, field communications, polar science content, education and outreach planning, and safety training. Specialized training that is related to the project is discussed in pre-field logistics calls and takes places as needed.

Question:
How do we know teachers are physically qualified for the expedition?
Answer:

Short essay questions on the teacher application address the applicants' general health, physical abilities, and outdoor experiences. If more information regarding the applicant's health or physical abilities is needed, researchers are welcome to ask related questions when interviewing top applicants. Teachers selected to go to Antarctica must pass the same Physical Qualification (PQ) process as researchers.

Participation

Question:
Do researchers receive a stipend for their participation?
Answer:

No. Instead, we reimburse schools for the teacher's substitute costs while in participating in the expedition and in the case that they are participating while school is in session.

Question:
What are the costs associated with participation in PolarTREC?
Answer:

Major costs associated with hosting a teacher are covered by PolarTREC or the NSF logistics providers, including travel, accommodations, food, user fees, and miscellaneous logistical items. We also provide the teachers with a laptop computer, camera (w/ video), and any special equipment that they may need that is necessary for the expedition. We work with the logistic providers to also supply any clothing or gear needed for the expedition. Any exceptions will be discussed with researchers on a case-by-case basis.

Question:
Do researchers need to apply for supplemental funding from NSF to host a teacher?
Answer:

No, researchers should not need to apply for supplemental funding. In the majority of cases, researchers accepted to the PolarTREC program will have all major costs associated with hosting a teacher covered by PolarTREC or the NSF logistics providers, including travel, accommodations, food, user fees, and miscellaneous logistical items. Any exceptions will be discussed with researchers on a case-by-case basis.

Question:
What are the travel and training commitments prior to the research experience?
Answer:

Prior to going into the field with the teacher, researchers are required to attend one online webinar that provides background information about the program and allows the researchers to present their projects to the group. Researchers will also be required to participate in a pre and post-field experience logistics phone calls as well as the evaluation.

Question:
How do teachers gain adequate knowledge of the research methods and equipment before the beginning of the expedition?
Answer:

A limited amount of polar science background information is provided at the PolarTREC orientation. It is up to the researcher and his/her team to provide teachers with publications or other study material to build background knowledge of the science before the expedition. Past PolarTREC teachers have been invited to participate in conference calls, workshops, and other project planning related activities or training before the expedition.

Question:
Do researchers have to attend the PolarTREC Orientation in Fairbanks, Alaska?
Answer:

No. Researchers do not have to attend the orientation, but are welcome to attend all or part of it if they would like. However, there is no funding to support researcher travel to the orientation.

Question:
Is there support for teachers and researchers to meet before or after the expedition?
Answer:

Yes, there is limited funding to support pre or post expedition meetings between teachers and researchers. If possible, teachers are encouraged to visit their researcher's institution prior to going into the field so that they have an opportunity to meet the research team and learn more about the research project. The researcher may also travel to the teacher's school or the teacher and researcher can plan to meet at a data workshop, planning meeting, or other professional conference.

Education and Outreach Activities

Question:
How do teachers communicate from remote field sites?
Answer:

Teachers are equipped with the tools and training they need to communicate from field sites. They will communicate from the field using blogs (or online journals), multimedia and photos. The public can ask questions and/or post comments directly to expedition journals. Anyone can also attend a "PolarConnect" event, a real-time call from the field to talk with teachers and researchers. Teachers should work with their research teams to establish a balance between science activities and their outreach activities.

Question:
I am still unsure about this and have questions, how can I learn more?
Answer:

We encourage you to contact us directly at info [at] polartrec.com to discuss your concerns and address your questions. We'd be happy to share contact information for researchers that have participated in the program so you can get their perspective. Each year, we will also host a webinar for interested researchers to learn more about the program. The webinar will be announced through our ARCUS and Polar Education list as well as posted on the PolarTREC website. All webinars are archived for later viewing.

Question:
What type of classroom involvement is expected in PolarTREC?
Answer:

PolarTREC does not have specific classroom requirements. Teachers are expected to share what they are doing or have done with the experience both in and outside of the classroom. Past TREC and PolarTREC teachers have used this experience in a number of ways in their own classrooms and other types of outreach. Classroom involvement depends largely on field expedition dates. If school is out when a teacher is in the field some of the outreach tools, such as the live events might not involve students in real-time but can be shared with students upon returning from the field. Many teachers work intensively with their classes before leaving for the field, engaging their students in the planning process and getting them excited about the expedition so that students and families will be interested in following the expedition when school is not in session. Sometimes teachers use the experience very little with their present class, but after taking time to process the experience, they find themselves using it for the rest of their career. It really varies from person to person and for each unique situation.

Question:
Is PolarTREC restricted to K-12 teacher and student involvement or are teachers and researchers able to share their experiences with a wider audience?
Answer:

We encourage teachers and researchers to get involved in as many public outreach activities as possible and to share their knowledge and experience with a variety of audiences. Outreach is not limited to classrooms, schools and local communities. Many past TREC and PolarTREC teachers have shared their experiences at national or international conferences. Some have written articles for newspapers, magazines or academic journals and others have given interviews to radio and print media. PolarTREC staff will provide support whenever possible to help teachers in their outreach endeavors. During the orientation event in Fairbanks, teachers will receive advice and training on how to address the media and make the most of public outreach activities.