The Polaris Project Lakes team is Kirill Tretyakov, Yakutsk State University and Claire Griffin, Clark University.

“Thermokarst lakes appear when ice-filled frozen soil thaws. These lakes have a strong influence on the environment through the release of greenhouse gases, methane and carbon dioxide, to the atmosphere. Scientists do not understand if upland thermokarst lakes have different water properties, such as the amount of nutrients, compared to lowland floodplain lakes. Organisms in the lakes, mainly bacteria, may be found in different numbers depending on the chemistry of the lake water. The amount of oxygen and basic nutrients controls the amount of life the lake can support.

I am measuring nutrients and the amount of food available to microbes at various depths in floodplain and thermokarst lakes. I processed the water samples in the field and in the laboratory to measure the temperature, dissolved oxygen, and pH. These data will answer basic questions about different types of lakes and potentially be used to interpret greenhouse gas emissions in the Siberian Arctic.” -Kirill Tretyakov

“Lakes, streams and rivers cover much of the Arctic, making a landscape that is heavily influenced by water. The characteristics of these waters are largely unknown, leaving major gaps in our knowledge of the regional environment. With the advent of satellites, we can look at lakes and rivers that have never been directly observed. However, before looking at unknown water bodies, we need ground measurements to interpret the satellite signals. I am measuring the clarity, color, and chemistry of lakes and streams in the Kolyma River basin. These properties are linked to the amount of carbon in the water that could eventually be released to the atmosphere as carbon dioxide, a greenhouse gas. If clarity, color, and chemistry of water bodies can be seen from space, we will be able to study much larger areas than could ever be sampled on the ground. This could lead us to a better understanding of how the entire landscape functions and how it is responding to climate change.” -Claire Griffin