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Effects of Climate Change on Arctic Plant and Animal Communities

July 18 – August 4, 2006 | Toolik Field Station, Alaska


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Charla Jordan
Carlisle Junior High School
Price, Texas
Laura Gough
University of Texas at Arlington
Arlington, Texas

John Moore
University of Northern Colorado
Greeley, Colorado

Toolik Lake
A mountain pass near Toolik Lake Field Station, Alaska.
Photo by Tom Crumrine, Courtesy of ARCUS

Teacher Charla Jordan along with the researchers Laura Gough and John Moore traveled to Toolik Lake Field Station, Alaska to investigate the effects of increased soil nutrient availability on arctic plant and animal communities both above- and belowground. As the Arctic continues to warm, soil nutrient availability will increase because the microbes are better able to decompose the organic matter present in the soil and in the process release nutrients. The research team conducted a harvest of the plants and soils in experimental plots in two different kinds of tundra; these data are crucial to understanding the long-term responses of these two communities and to predicting future changes.

Teacher Charla Jordan teaches 7th and 8th grade science, environmental science, technology applications and is the Director of the Outdoor Learning Center at Carlisle Junior High in Price, Texas. As part of the Outdoor Learning Center's program, a greenhouse is being built to conduct climate change experiments, which Charla feels will help connect her students and her TREC experience. Charla believes that by participating in the TREC program she will be able to learn innovative scientific methods to integrate into her hands-on teaching approach. She also looks forward to exposing students to the many similarities and differences between their homes and the Arctic. Charla welcomes the chance to learn new ideas, strategies and techniques for teaching environmental science, along with working and connecting with professional scientists.

Laura Gough is an associate professor of biology at the University of Texas at Arlington. Her research focuses on the forces that structure plant communities, how species diversity affects ecosystems, and the effects particular traits may have on species responses to disturbances. Laura has been studying arctic tundra in northern Alaska since 1996. In addition to arctic tundra, Laura has been active in research on several different ecosystem types, including salt marshes, coastal marshes, prairie, and savannah.

John Moore is a research scientist in the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Northern Colorado. John’s professional and research activities cover several areas, including soil and theoretical ecology and food web dynamics. John is also the Director of the UNC Mathematics and Science Teaching (MAST) Institute. As  Director he leads several programs that involve pre-service teacher education, in-service professional development, and graduate studies for teachers

Laura and John both feel very strongly that their research has a greater impact if it is conveyed to the general public and used to increase scientific literacy. Working with a teacher provides one such outlet, and they hope to work with Charla to develop classroom activities related to their experiences.

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