Toolik shares research with Alaskans and beyond through spring outreach

June 12, 2023

Haley Dunleavy

people stand at outreach table with family
Photo by Amanda Young/Toolik Field Station.
Toolik Field Station friend David Watts and staff members Kara Kornhauser and Rowan McPherson talk about the seasonal cycles of migratory birds with over 700 Fairbanks community members at the Friends of Creamer's Field Spring Migration Celebration.

This spring, Toolik Field Station connected with over 1,900 people in a series of outreach events that highlighted the local and global importance of the Arctic tundra.

The activities spanned from virtual presentations to in-person celebrations of STEM. Whether talking with local Alaskans, natural history enthusiasts in France, or classrooms from Virginia, the importance of sharing our science was clear: People of all ages across the world are concerned about the Arctic and will deeply engage with scientists to learn more about the changes this region is experiencing.

 Amanda Young, our Spatial and Environmental Data Center manager, kicked off the series of outreach events with the Fairbanks-based Friends of Creamer’s Field Spring Migration Celebration in April. Young developed a new activity that got participants thinking about between bird adaptations to the seasons of the Arctic. Attendees also virtually immersed themselves into life at Toolik by watching 360˚ videos through our virtual reality headset.

The following month, Toolik participated in UAF’s annual Arctic Research Open House, showcasing the ways we study permafrost thaw and why it matters. Toolik’s GIS department shared their 3D-rendered, digital flyover thermokarst near Toolik to demonstrate the dramatic ways thaw affects the Arctic landscape.

Toolik staff were joined by Marta Toran, the outreach coordinator for Sarah Evans and Sarah Godsey’s NSF-funded project on permafrost hydrology. Toran’s visit was part of a longer trip to build the grant’s broader impacts to Alaskans. After the open house, she met with the Alaska Native Science and Engineering Program, known as ANSEP, to plan future collaborations with ANSEP middle and high school student programs.

Woman at outreach table with permafrost activities
Photo by Haley Dunleavy/Toolik Field Station.
Marta Toran, an outreach coordinator at Appalachian State University, guides attendees through activities on permafrost temperature, depth, and stability at UAF's 2023 Arctic Research Open House.
overhead shot of people visiting Arctic Research Open House tables
Photo by Haley Dunleavy/Toolik Field Station
Staff from Toolik Field Station joined others at the Institute of Arctic Biology in welcoming over 525 people at UAF's annual Arctic Research Open House.

Also at the open house was the InsideOut Story Lab, a collective that supports education for those inside and out of Alaska’s carceral system. Their collection of community-sourced stories of Science on the Move heavily featured Toolik research in creative writing and poems, written by Jackson Drew, Amy Loeffler, Lori Petrauski, and Haley Dunleavy. Submissions are still being accepted on InsideOut’s website.

Later in May, Godsey piloted the first NSF Live from the Arctic with coordination from NSF Office of Polar Programs communications specialist Sara Eckert, PhD candidate Brandon Yokeley, and research assistant Noah Caldwell. Similar to NSF’s popular Live from the Antarctic events, this virtual visit to Toolik gave attendees a glimpse at what it’s like to live and work at a remote Arctic research station.Over 650 attendees and classrooms joined in, spanning 28 states and 4 countries. Yokeley and Caldwell toured their lab space as Godsey braved the rainy weather to show off Toolik’s view of the Brooks Range while sharing her research from the community center deck. Watch a replay of the event on NSF’s YouTube channel.

As Toolik’s outreach efforts continue into the summer with visits from middle and high school students to the station, we hope to others will join us in engaging the public in science. If you’re interested in participating in future outreach to highlight your science, contact communications and DEI manager, Haley Dunleavy (hdunleavy@alaska.ed) and Amanda Young, (