Toolik launches climate education program for underserved students

March 21, 2023

Haley Dunleavy

four people launching a weather balloon with tundra and mountains in the background
Photo by Faustine Bernadac/Toolik Field Station
Researchers at Toolik Field Station launch a weather balloon as part of an outreach activity for middle school students in June 2019.

Twelve high school students will visit Alaska’s remote Arctic during summer 2023 to learn about the effects of climate change on the region.

The students will spend five days at the University of Alaska Fairbanks Toolik Field Station, located in the northern foothills of the Brooks Range.

Toolik Field Station is partnering with the Oregon TRIO Association, the Juneau Icefield Research Project and the University of Maine to support the student trip. 

The students are in Oregon State University’s TRIO Upward Bound program. TRIO programs provide federally funded student services for individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds. 

At Toolik, the students will learn from the station’s scientists about topics like ecology and space physics, and hear from staff about the range of careers in Arctic research. The students will also gain firsthand experience communicating science to public audiences as they document the station’s long-term interdisciplinary research.

Students will use drones to capture 360-degree photos and videos, and they’ll share what they’ve learned as virtual reality content. The content will be distributed to classrooms across the U.S. through a network of teachers interested in polar science, technology, engineering and math topics.

The program is funded by a $30,000 grant to the Oregon TRIO Association from Battelle, the largest independent nonprofit applied science and technology organization in the world.

The partnership also offers an opportunity for Toolik Field Station to strengthen its relationship with another long-standing scientific research station in Alaska, the Juneau Icefield Research Program. The icefield facilities are co-sponsored by University of Alaska Southeast and the University of Maine with funding from the National Science Foundation.

“The Oregon TRIO Association is delighted to be able to offer this opportunity to Oregon TRIO students,” said Matt Bisek, executive director of the nonprofit. “In addition to learning about Arctic climate research at Toolik, students will visit the Juneau Icefield Research Program to learn how climate change affects glaciated environments. This is an incredible opportunity for students to compare two distinct environments, the tundra and glaciers, in Alaska.”

Program leaders hope that by comparing the changes, students will gain a deeper understanding of the multiple ways a warming Arctic climate affects local communities and the globe alike.

“With support from the National Science Foundation, Toolik Field Station has long hosted educational field courses in the Arctic,” said the station’s director, Syndonia Bret-Harte. “We’re looking forward to welcoming these students to our station as part of strategic efforts to build upon the educational programming we offer.”

This will be the first summer that students will participate in this unique learning opportunity.

For more information about Battelle, visit the Battelle website