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Flagship US Arctic research facility welcomes EU scientists

Two European Union scientists won an international competition to conduct research at the United States' flagship Arctic research facility in northern Alaska during the 2014 field season.

The University of Alaska Fairbanks' Institute of Arctic Biology is welcoming the scientists at the Toolik Field Station in July and August. A third EU scientist will be going to the Barrow Environmental Observatory.

"This competition is an opportunity to increase international participation and capacities for scientific exchange, access to international data, and opportunities for synthesis of arctic-related research," said Syndonia "Donie" Bret-Harte, principal investigator administering the Toolik Field Station and a plant ecologist at IAB.

The competition is hosted by INTERACT, the International Network for Terrestrial Research and Monitoring in the Arctic, an EU-funded infrastructure project linking 59 circumarctic field research facilities, of which the UAF and Barrow facilities are partners. One of INTERACT's goals is to promote the training of young scientists and encourage collaboration across international boundaries.

The Alaska competition is the first time EU scientists have had the opportunity to come to the U.S. through this program.

"Because of support from the National Science Foundation, we are able to provide 30 person-days for research, which includes access to research sites, room and board, and a maximum of $9,000 for project-related travel and freight costs," said Bret-Harte. "If this trial is successful, we hope it will make it possible for U.S. field stations to fully participate in transnational access under the renewal of the INTERACT project."

Much of what is known about terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems of the Arctic has emerged from long-term research at IAB's Toolik Field Station, located on the northern foothills of the Brooks Range. Ongoing projects address the effects of climate change in the region, feedbacks to global climate change through gas and hydrological fluxes and adaptations of plant and animals to the Arctic.

Researcher Pierre Rasmont of the University of Mons in Belgium, who will be at Toolik Field Station in August, is investigating whether climate change in the Arctic is contributing to the worldwide decline in abundance and diversity of wild bumblebees.

Researcher Agata Buchwal from the Adam Mickiewicz University in Poland and a visiting Fulbright Scholar at the University of Alaska Anchorage will be at the station in July. Buchwal will be studying whether the rings of tundra shrub stems provide reliable timelines for shrub growth in the Arctic.

The Barrow Environmental Observatory, located at the northern tip of Alaska on the coast of the Chukchi and Beaufort seas, has tundra, lakes and wetlands reserved for long-term environmental monitoring and habitat manipulation experiments.

The Barrow facility will host researcher Jakub Hruska of the Czech Geological Survey in the Czech Republic. Hruska's project will look at the acid/base character and the origin of dissolved organic carbon in different water bodies as a means for better understanding carbon cycling in Arctic environments.

"With the participation of the U.S.'s two terrestrial Arctic observatories, INTERACT can now provide enhanced international access throughout the circumarctic," said Craig Tweedie, science liaison in the Barrow area and associate professor at the University of Texas at El Paso.


Contact: Marie Thoms
University of Alaska Fairbanks

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