During, before, and after the field course, Polaris students and faculty share their thoughts through journal entries.

© Chris Linder

Blog Posts

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    Fire on the tundra

    Fire in tundra ecosystems is a relatively rare, though not unheard of occurrence. Here, fires burn a combination of vegetation and peat in the soil, releasing tons of carbon into the atmosphere and leading to a deepening of the seasonally thawed active layer, which may release even more carbon into the atmosphere.
  • Canvassing the Terrestrial Landscape

    Ultimately, we desire to know how carbon changes (fluxes) over time, but prior to this, we need a thorough accounting of the carbon stocks. This accounting is done through the terrestrial survey.
  • Science is fun when it prints out on long sheets.


    Since the arctic is underlain by a layer of permafrost, soil that remains frozen year-round, water does not penetrate far into the ground from the surface. However, the thawed layer of soil is getting deeper every year as a consequence of climate change, referred to as active layer deepening.…
  • To each organism, their own environment

    Heidi takes a look at the differences between various vegetation types in the Y4 watershed.
  • Breaking Ground

    What started as an faint interest in mosses and lichens resulted in a manipulative experiment set in the rolling hills of the Y4 watershed.
  • Patterns of thaw

    There is continually frozen ground (permafrost) sitting beneath the Arctic, but each summer, endless sunshine and warming air temperatures heat the soils from above. A fraction of the near surface soil thaws and refreezes every year. This is called the active layer.…
  • Hungry Microbes and Future Carbon

    A classic example of science here in Siberia: water bottles improvised to incubate and measure methane We have just returned from a breathtakingly beautiful trip to the tundra! Stay tuned for more project updates from the core team as the internet allows.…
  • Han's early notes on his new experiment.

    The Process of Science

    Science is funny. Over the last few days my project was in a conceptual crisis, then I found that crisis was just what I needed to make it something great. Hopefully I learned a thing or two along the way. My initial project idea revolved around measuring thaw depth at different points around the major Y4 channel to better understand and potentially predict changes in erosion that could occur with the deepening active layer we see across the arctic.…
  • Collaboration and a Cold Cave

    Spending hours sitting on a case of water bottles in a cold dark room was not quite what I had pictured when I anticipated my month of research in Siberia, however it is where I often find myself. I have become well acquainted with the frozen dirt floors, plethora of perishable foods, and other sundry inhabitants of “the cave” (a space carved into the permafrost below one of the labs that acts as a giant natural refrigerator).…
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    Finding time to soak it all in

    After arriving in Chersky last Friday I have been going practically nonstop. At times it can be difficult to stop and just enjoy the scenery around you.
  • Of Mammoths And Men

    A few days ago, we found ourselves in the middle of the Pleistocene during a trip to Duvaniy Yar.
  • Mike Loranty and Logan Berner reach shore across a path of logs from the barge.

    Back from Duvannyi Yar – All Well

    The Polaris group has safely returned from their trip to Duvannyi Yar. Details will follow in a few days when the Station again has an internet connection.
  • The research begins

    Ellen and Heidi begin their field experiment transplanting moss and lichen patches looking for changes in soil characteristics, carbon fluxes and microbial composition.
  • Science Underway

    It has been an incredible experience to witness the Arctic environmental system that I have studied for the past couple years, from my mosquito-free classroom in Worcester, Massachusetts.
  • Chris and Andy on the radio

    Seattle NPR listeners got a taste of Siberia with their coffee yesterday morning–Andy Bunn woke up at 4am in Cherskiy to talk with KUOW host Marcie Sillman. They were joined in the studio by Polaris Project photographer Chris Linder. Listen to the interview here.…
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