Ten years of US-UNIS collaboration on Arctic field education at Kapp Linné!
This summer marked the 10th year of climate change and surface process research with undergraduate students at Kapp Linné in a collaborative program with UNIS Arctic Geology Department and the U.S. Svalbard REU (Research for Undergraduates) Program.
Text: Mike Retelle with contributions from Melissa Reusche and Hanne Axen
Directed by Hanne Christiansen and Sara Cohen (UNIS), Steve Roof (Hampshire College), Mike Retelle (Bates College) and Dan Frost (Carrabasset Valley Academy), the research program featured a 5-day introduction to the high arctic environment and surface processes in Longyearbyen followed by an intensive month of field work based in Linnédalen and adjacent areas.
Three major elements
In 2012, the research program pursued three major elements: Glacier-river-lake sedimentation processes, karst hydrology and limnology, and educational outreach to broad public audiences.
Kayla Nussbaum (Macallister College) recovering suspended sediment samples from an autosampler in the glacial meltwater stream in from of Linné
breen, assisted by Elin Roalkvam (University of Tromsø) and Steve Roof (Hampshire College). (Photo: John Whiting).
The REU students focused their efforts on understanding the link between climatic sensitive surface processes in glaciated Linnédalen and the sediment record contained in glacier-meltwater fed Linnévatnet. After hiking 5-15 km to Linnédalen from the coast, some of their daily chores include monitoring glacier mass balance and meltwater streams on Linnébreen, and sediment provenance, transport and deposition in Linnévatnet.
Sediment core recovered from Linné
vatnet by Dion Obermeyer (left; from Northern Arizona University) and Helena Tiedmann (from Beloit College). (Photo: Mike Retelle).
The UNIS student teams targeted their work on the unique geomorphology, hydrology, and physical limnology of strandflat and karst lakes north of Linnévatnet. The karst lakes are situated in carbonate bedrock (fossiliferous limestones) and have been observed to rise, fall, and even drain in recent years – processes that are quite rare in high arctic settings due to continuous permafrost.
The third component of the project was led by Dan Frost, a high school teacher from Maine, USA, coordinating an outreach campaign that is targeted specifically to inform his high school students and the public in general, about arctic environments and climate change. Dan’s activities included posting a daily blog complete with photographs (http://www.polartrec.com/expeditions/high-arctic-change-2012) focused on his involvement in the research activities and was supported by and coordinated through the PolarTrec program, sponsored by the U.S. National Science Foundation.
Lukas Glaw (University of Trier) surveying in the karst lake system northeast of Linné
vatnet using a total station. (Photo: Louise von Barth).
Data and samples collected over the summer will form the basis of course projects for the UNIS students and a bachelor’s thesis project for the REU students. Program participants in recent years have presented research results at their home institutions and at meetings such as the International Arctic Workshop or the Geological Society of America Annual Meeting.
The six UNIS students (Hanna Axén, Elin Roalkvam, Lukas Glaw, Lauren Farnsworth, Dagmar Schou, and Louise von Barth) were enrolled in AG-212: Holocene and Modern Climate Change in the High Arctic Svalbard Landscape, a field-based course originally designed as part of the 2007-2008 International Polar Year to accompany the REU program in a parallel research experience. The five U.S. REU students (Helena Tiedmann, Kayla Nussbaum, Melissa Reusché, Dion Obermeyer, and John Whiting) were recruited from universities across the U.S.
As in the past, all eleven students assisted their colleagues in different projects, with UNIS students hiking up to the glacier and REU students aiding in survey work at the karst lakes. Along with honing field techniques, the partnership between the two courses has fostered relationships between students from all over the world. By living and working together for over a month, these budding scientists have learned to communicate effectively and have formed bonds with others interested in the study of the High Arctic. Between hiking in the cold rain and diving into the Arctic Ocean, the students have learned about Arctic research as well as each other, and have made this program an unforgettable experience.
UNIS AG-212 and U.S. Svalbard REU research team at Isfjord Radio, August 10, 2012. (Photo: Steve Roof).