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Arctic Long Term Ecological Research Site

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Arctic LTER: Climate Change and Changing Disturbance Regimes in Arctic Landscapes  (Marine Biological Laboratory)

Research Focus & Anticipated Benefits

The Arctic Long Term Ecological Research (LTER) site, established by the National Science Foundation (NSF), is located in the foothills region of the Brooks Range of the North Slope of Alaska, and is based out of the University of Alaska's Toolik Field Station. The principal year-round institute is based at The Ecosystems Center at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Massachusetts.

The long-term goal of Arctic LTER is to predict the effects of environmental change. To achieve this goal, the Arctic LTER is studying the ecology of the surrounding tundra, streams, and lakes with the hope of gaining an understanding of the controls of ecosystem structure and function.

The key event in the development of research in the Upper Kuparuk/Toolik Lake region was the construction of the Alaska oil pipeline and Haul Road (later named the Dalton Highway) in 1974- 1976 (Alexander and VanCleve, 1983). Before that time, access to interior regions of the North Slope was limited by the lack of roads and the small number of widely scattered locations where aircraft (mostly fixed-wing) could land, take off, and be fueled or serviced. Completion of the Haul Road in September 1974 suddenly opened up a magnificent environmental transect across the heart of northern Alaska. Toolik Lake and the Upper Kuparuk River lie near the center of this transect, and ecologists and other environmental scientists were quick to exploit the opportunities for new research in the surrounding area.

Education & Outreach

The efforts of graduate students and post doctoral fellows at Arctic LTER have resulted in numerous dissertations and papers. Undergraduates have been involved with research at the Arctic LTER both as summer employees and through the National Science Foundation's Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) program. REU students gain experience by working closely with researchers to design and carry out a project, collect and analyze the data, and produce findings.

The Marine Biological Laboratory's Science Writing Fellowships Program provides professional science reporters opportunities to immerse themselves in the process of basic biomedical and environmental research. At least one Fellowship is awarded to a reporter wishing to participate in the Arctic LTER project, traveling to Toolik Field Station for three to seven weeks of field work. For K-12 students, the Arctic Schoolyard LTER, based in Barrow, Alaska, engages participants in a tundra greenhouse warming experiment. The program also includes a Saturday afternoon lecture series open to students, teachers, and the general public.

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Images (1 of )

  • Backlit Brooks Range, blue and pink hues
  • Scientist drilling in snow-covered ground
The Arctic Long Term Ecological Research site is located in the foothills region of the Brooks Range of the North Slope of Alaska.
Arctic LTER
Arctic LTER