Education and Outreach

The ARC LTER maintains a multifaceted education and outreach program with significant broader impacts.  Each program component is selected to optimize particular education opportunities.  Our strategy is to use carefully-selected activities to reach a diverse audience ranging from kindergarten through graduate students to the general public, and to governmental and scientific planning agencies.  Each of these high-impact activities is independently funded but receives support from the ARC LTER in the form of investigator, student, or RA participation, and through access to our field sites, laboratories, and data base.  We also assist with travel and logistics costs for participation by LTER students, investigators, and teachers and journalists at the Toolik Field Station.

  1. Our Schoolyard LTER program focuses on Barrow, Alaska, the nearest large town to Toolik Lake. We foster a strong link with this local community because of its historic involvement with science and its interest in, feeling of ownership of, and responsibility for North Slope science.  For ~20 years the activities at Barrow have included: (1) weekly lectures on a wide range of scientific topics and (2) an inquiry-based program that replicates some of our experimental and monitoring activities in tundra and lakes, which have been used as part of the K-12 science program in Barrow schools.  Each year 1-4 LTER personnel visit Barrow to lecture in the “Saturday Schoolyard” and in the public schools.  Both activities have been well-received.  In 2014, however, our partner in this program, the Barrow Arctic Science Consortium (BASC), dissolved and closed.  Since then we have been working with the Utgeavik Inupiat Corporation and the Barrow Native Heritage Center to reestablish this program, now in collaboration with the Environmental Literacy Program at Colorado State University.  Additionally, in summer 2015 a graduate student and REU working with the ARC LTER participated as instructors in summer “Schoolyard” science programs in the villages of Kaktovik and Arctic Village, Alaska, organized by USGS and USFWS.
  2. The Polar Hands-on Laboratory is offered each year by the Logan Science Journalism Program of the Marine Biological Laboratory (MBL).  Every summer, following a two-week intensive exposure to biology at the MBL, 2-12 science journalists come to Toolik Lake for hands-on experience in the Arctic.  Our aim is to infuse public-communication professionals with excitement for arctic research and with the principles of doing science.  The program is a tremendous impact multiplier with the graduates serving as ambassadors of our research to the general public and to others who are unable to visit our remote site.
  3. K-12 Teachers visit Toolik Lake to participate in our summer field research.  In cooperation with the Environmental Literacy Program at Colorado State University, each summer we host 2-10 K-12 teachers with funding from a range of sources, including ARCUS PolarTREC; ARC LTER typically provides travel and logistics support for some of these teachers.  The aim is to provide teachers with experience in scientific research that will inform their teaching and will provide them with access to data, methods, and other materials that they can use in their classrooms.  In some summers (2011, 2016) this effort is also supported with NSF-RET (Research Experience for Teachers) Supplemental funds.
  4. Courses in Arctic Ecology for graduate and undergraduate students are held at Toolik Lake most summers, with ARC LTER investigators as faculty.  These courses are exceptional because few other courses provide opportunities for learning advanced field techniques in the Arctic, particularly in the United States.  As with the Polar Hands-on Laboratory, these are “hands-on” courses with an emphasis on field measurements and analyzing and discussing the results in the context of ongoing LTER research.
  5. Arctic research experience for undergraduate and graduate students:  Each year the LTER supports at least 2 REU students at the Toolik Field Station, and 2-10 others in association with collaborating NSF grants.  REU’s have their own independent research projects, mentored by a PI.  Graduate students supported on collaborating grants make use of our long-term experiments and data sets, and we continue to encourage foreign collaborators to send students.  To promote communication among Toolik researchers, including these students, every summer there is a weekly seminar series, "Toolik Talking Shop".  REU students present their results at these sessions and at an end-of-summer poster session.  Graduate students, and occasionally REU students, are invited to our annual winter workshop in Woods Hole to present their results and to participate in planning for the following summer's research.
  6. Outreach to the general public includes occasional talks given by LTER personnel to Alaskan Native communities at Anaktuvuk Pass, Kaktovik, and Barrow.  Additionally, Alex Huryn and John Hobbie (2012) published “Land of Extremes”, a book intended for tourists as well as scientists on the natural history of northern Alaska, including the Toolik area.  PIs have additional records of outreach to their local communities, newspapers, and magazines plus blogs about science for public consumption; e.g., Natalie Boelman’s 15 Jun 2011 The New York Times blog, “ Eavesdropping on Arctic Birds” and Mark Urban and Linda Deegan’s 5 Feb 2016 The New York Times Op-Ed “T-Shirt Weather in the Arctic”.
  7. Outreach to federal, state, and local management agencies:  Research done at Toolik Lake is directly relevant to problems of managing the huge expanse of publicly owned, wild land on the North Slope.  We provide regular briefings to Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Department of Natural Resources, Alaska Fish and Game, and North Slope Borough officials; usually this consists of visits to their offices in Anchorage, Fairbanks, and Barrow, as well as tours of our research sites at Toolik Lake.  We work particularly closely with these agencies in association with the annual permitting process for our research, and present at local conferences upon request.  The Alaska Fish and Game office has used our data and advice to set angling policies and fish catch regulations.  Our contacts with the North Slope Borough have increased in frequency as our research increasingly involves helicopter travel through areas where subsistence hunting takes place.  Occasionally, Toolik Field Station has invited representatives of these agencies to speak at our weekly “Toolik Talking Shop” seminars, helping to make this a two-way channel of communication.
  8. National and International Research Planning and Organization:  ARC LTER scientists serve on a wide range of advisory boards and panels.  In the past 5 years this has included participation in SEARCH (the Study of Environmental Arctic Change), ISAC (International Study of Arctic Change), the National Academy of Sciences Polar Research Board, and the US Department of Energy’s Biological and Environmental Research Advisory Committee (BERAC).  We continue to serve as Advisory Committee members of Toolik Field Station (operated by the University of Alaska), and from 2011-2014 ARC LTER PI Gus Shaver served on the LTER Network Executive Committee.