Arctic

Looking North: Challenges and Opportunities

Watch the video.

US Ambassador to Sweden Mark Brzezinski '87 led a panel discussion of the U.S. chairmanship of the Arctic Council, 2015-2017, at the U.S. Embassy Sweden. A diverse range of guests discussed an important topic: sustainable development in the Arctic. The panel also included Gary Knell, President and CEO of National Geographic; Björn Dahlbäck, Director-General of the Swedish Polar Research Secretariat; Terry Garcia, National Geographic’s Chief Science and Exploration Officer; Niila Inga, a reindeer herder and head of the Laevas Sami Village in Northern Sweden; and Börge Ousland, a Norwegian polar explorer, writer and photographer.

 

Ross Virginia Featured in UArctic Snowy OWL Talks

Ross Virginia, Director of the Institute of Arctic Studies at the Dickey Center, is a featured speaker in the University of the Arctic (UArctic) Snowy OWL video series. Virginia talks about how as the climate warms, the amount of carbon that has been permanently locked in frozen soils is coming to life. View his entire 3-minute talk on the UArctic website, along with talks by the former president of the Inuit Circumpolar Council, Aqqaluk Lynge, and Fran Ulmer, chair of the Arctic Research Commission, and others. 

How Temperature Change Affects the Greenland Ice Sheet

Gifford Wong, Ph.D. Student, Earth Sciences

Gifford Wong looks at the effect of climate change on the growth and decay of the Greenland Ice Sheet (GIS). He studies how changes in temperature affect our ability to assess the health of the GIS.

During the summers of 2010 and 2011, Gifford collected snow samples from pits (~2 m depth) and cores (~10-100 m depth) in the northwest GIS along a traverse route that roughly connects Thule Air Base with NEEM camp and Summit Station in Greenland. He took these samples back to the labs at Dartmouth where he prepared them for chemical analyses.

So far, Gifford has characterized how snow pit chemistry in the dry snow zone of the GIS is affected by percolating melt water. He also observed how the rate of change in snow accumulation is different between more coastal sites than it is in the interior of the GIS. This observation may improve our ability to model glacier mass changes with our changing climate.

The Yeti Robot Looks for Dangerous Crevasses

Rebecca Williams, PhD, Engineering

Rebecca William’s research while she was a Thayer School of Engineering graduate student involved creating higher-level intelligence and control software for a four-wheel robot called Yeti. It pulls ground penetrating radar behind it to find crevasses. Each year heavy equipment resupply missions travel to remote, heavily crevassed locations in Greenland and Antarctica. Rebecca worked on the Yeti robot that tows Ground Penetration Radar to detect crevasses.

In 2012, she also worked on Roosevelt Island on the eastern side of the Ross Ice Shelf in Antarctica in an 8-nation project to reconstruct the climatic and glaciological history of the Ross Sea region since the last ice age. The eastern side of the embayment is the missing link in understanding how this critical region has responded to climate changes in the past, and a more detailed understanding of the climate changes and associated ice behavior will enhance our ability to inform projections of sea level rise into the coming centuries.

Preserving Traditional Ecological Knowledge in Greenland

Simone Whitecloud, PhD student, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

Simone Whitecloud documents plant names and uses in order to preserve traditional knowledge. Plant ranges are changing in response to a changing climate, and her data will preserve knowledge that would otherwise be lost as plant ranges shift and practitioners lose access to the same plants.

During the summer of 2011, Simone worked with her collaborator, Lenore Grenoble from the University of Chicago, to document plant uses in southern Greenland (Qassiarsuk and Nanortalik) by interviewing community-recognized plant experts. She used fresh and dry plant samples, as well as photos, to speak via an interpreter with nine women and one man about names, uses, and to document pronunciation.

"Cool Robot" Uses Ground Penetrating Radar To Save Lives

Benjamin Walker, PhD Student, Engineering Sciences

Ben Walker studies ways in which to conduct safe crevasse detection for sup¬ply traverse personnel through robotics research. Each year a heavy equipment resupply is conducted between Thule, NEEM and Summit Camp, Greenland, and this resupply must traverse heavily crevassed sections of the Greenland Ice Sheet to complete the job. Ben’s research is developing a robot and instrument combination that will automatically collect and interpret this data.

During his fieldwork season at Summit Camp in June of 2013, Ben increased the reliability of the solar power system of a robot—the “Cool Robot.” This robot tows the Ground Penetration Radar, which is used to detect crevasses. Ben and his colleagues performed multiple long-distance runs in order to determine the solar power available and the daily range of the system.

Temperature and Pollination in Greenland

Christine Urbanowicz, Ph.D. Student, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

Christine Urbanowicz studies the pollinators and plant-pollinator interactions that are beneficial for flowing plants in Greenland’s tundra ecosystem. She is interested in how variation in plant density and temperature influence the number of pollinators that visit flowers and the number of fruits a plant produces. She is also collecting data on parasites of bumblebees in Greenland.

In 2013, Christine counted the numbers of insects visiting flowers in six sites around Kangerlussuaq, Greenland, that were subjected to different wind conditions. She collected and identified insects at these sites, and collected and identified pollen off their bodies to determine the plants that each insect visits.

During the summer of 2014, Christine is determining how variation in temperature in Kangerlussuaq affects the pollination and fruit set of blueberry as well as a few other plants. Climate change is expected to cause drastic changes in vegetation in Greenland, and many of these changes will be mediated by the availability and composition of pollinators.

How Does Climate Change Affect High Latitude Aquatic Ecosystems?

Jessica Trout-Haney, Ph.D. Student, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology

Jess Trout-Haney studies how climate change affects high latitude aquatic ecosystems, specifically their physical, biochemical, and biological properties. She studies how differences in lake chemistry and morphometry of low-nutrient Arctic lakes affect the abundance of cyanobacteria and cyanotoxins in southwestern Greenland.

In the summer of 2013, Jess surveyed 19 lakes of varying size and depth between Kangerlussuaq and the Greenland Ice Sheet in southwestern Greenland. She ran sonar transects across each lake in order to generate maps of lake basins. Additionally, she collected lake water, phytoplankton, and zooplankton samples in order to examine how nutrients, species composition and cyanobacterial toxins vary among lakes.

Soils Biologist Studies Past and Present Erosion in South Greenland

Ruth Heindel, Ph.D. Student, Earth Sciences

Ruth Heindel studies soils, a valuable resource for Greenland that supports natural ecosystems and also agricultural activity in South Greenland. Specifically, she studies past and present wind-driven soil erosion, a process that threatens soil resources by removing soil and disturbing vegetation.

During the summers of 2012 and 2013, Ruth collected spatial data describing eroded areas in the Kangerlussuaq region. Additionally, she measured lichen diameters in order to estimate past and present rates of soil erosion. In the spatial analysis lab at Dartmouth, Ruth has developed a land cover classification for the Kangerlussuaq region that identifies eroded areas from satellite imagery. She has found that eroded areas generally occur on steep south-facing slopes, and are much more common closer to the Greenland Ice Sheet.

Rising Temperatures Affect the Number of Mosquitoes in the Arctic

Lauren Culler, Ph.D., Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Dickey Center Arctic Fellow and Outreach Coordinator

Climate change is causing temperatures to rise in the Arctic and Lauren is studying how these changes in temperature affect mosquito emergence from freshwater ponds.

During the summers of 2011 and 2012, Lauren Culler counted the number of mosquitoes in several ponds near Kangerlussuaq, Greenland, every few days and measured how many mosquitoes emerged from each pond. (See picture of individually wrapper mosquitoes.) She also used lab studies at Kangerlussuaq International Science Support to measure how temperature affects the number of days it takes a mosquito larva to grow into an adult.

So far, she has leaned that warmer temperatures are likely to increase the number of mosquitoes that emerge because the larvae grow much faster when it’s warmer and thus spend fewer days exposed to predators. She has also discovered that the amount of rainfall in the spring is a crucial factor because very dry weather leads to the death of mosquito larvae as their habitat dries.

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