Midnight Sun Greets Whitman’s Traveling Biologist

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As reported in the June Issue of Spotlight News, Whitman biology teacher Mr. John Karavias, along with Jonathan Nichols, a postdoctoral research fellow At the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, are spending a week at the Institute of Arctic Biology Toolik Field Station (TFS), a world-renowned Arctic climate change research station located in the northern foothills of the Brooks Range in Alaska.

"Arctic peat bogs have been absorbing carbon for thousands of years," Jonathan writes in his daily blog about their experience. "But will this continue as the poles heat up? Warmer temperatures could cause bogs to decay, sending billions of tons of carbon back into the air. But a warmer climate might also improve growing conditions, allowing the bogs to take up more carbon than before. A team of scientists will travel to Alaska's remote North Slope to collect peat bog samples to understand how climate and carbon uptake have varied over the past 15,000 years and what this might mean for the future."

"Today, we drilled a core sample deeper than any scientist has ever been able to drill in this area since researching sphagnum paleoclimate." said Mr. Karavias. "We will be analyzing these coring samples to identify the flora (plants) and then to see how much stored carbon is in them. We will then cross-reference the flora and carbon data them with the paleoclimate." When the two return from Alaska, the analysis portion of their summer study will take place back home, at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory in Palisades, NY.

If you would like to learn more about what John Karavias and Jonathan Nichols are researching at the Arctic Circle, you may follow their blog at:http://blogs.ei.columbia.edu/tag/alaskan-tundra/