Environmental scientists couldn’t wait to get back to work this year after having to sacrifice precious field time in 2020 due to pandemic shutdowns. At Toolik Field Station in arctic Alaska, the summer field season is brief and intense: Scientists flock there to take advantage of 24-hour light and thawed soil before, once again, the long, frozen, dark winter descends.

Among the core contingents at Toolik are scientists associated with the National Science Foundation’s Arctic Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER) site, which has been managed by an MBL principal investigator (currently Ed Rastetter) since its founding in 1987. The Arctic is one of the most rapidly warming regions on Earth, and scientists are focused on how tundra, stream, and lake ecosystems are responding to climate change and disturbance.

Five alumni of the MBL’s undergraduate Semester in Environmental Science program are among the global assemblage of field researchers who converged at Toolik this year (pictured below):

SES alumni at Toolik in 2021 (L-R) Miriam Ritchie, Wheaton College (’20); Ruby An, University of Chicago (’17); Sarah Messenger, Trinity College (‘18); Nick Patel, Swarthmore College (’18); and Abigail Rec, Gettysburg College (’20). Photo courtesy of Sarah Messenger.

What are they doing in the Arctic this summer? Miriam Ritchie is a research assistant for the LTER's terrestrial group, maintaining long-term experiments and monitoring efforts; Ruby An is lead research assistant supervising the LTER's terrestrial effort and will be starting a PhD program at Princeton this fall; Sarah Messenger is the lead research assistant for the LTER's lakes project, supervised by MBL's Anne Giblin; she is maintaining experiments and monitoring; Nick Patel is a summer research assistant with the LTER's vole project, experimentally manipulating vole density and assessing the response of vegetation and soils; and Abigail Rec is a graduate student at the University of Vermont with Breck Bowden, working in the LTER's lakes and streams project.

Thanks to Sarah Messenger for dispatching the photo!

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