2022 TUNDRA Award Recipients

Morag Clinton

Project: Investigating Emerging Diseases in Arctic Fish

Researcher Morag Clinton samples fish on a boat.

I am an Assistant Professor in the Department of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF), where I teach classes in veterinary functional anatomy and aquatic animal health, as well as studying fish health and pathology. My research interests are primarily in disease diagnostics and the health of marine and freshwater fish. Using molecular techniques and classic pathology, I seek to understand the etiology and consequences of disease in the aquatic environment. My PhD studies focused on the infectious and environmental factors that lead to gill disease in Atlantic salmon, and prior to joining UAF, I was the veterinary aquatic pathologist for the UK government agency Cefas (Centre for Environment Fisheries and Aquaculture Science). This work involved a lot of disease surveillance, identifying the causative agents behind disease outbreaks, and even describing novel disease conditions in fish.

Climate change presents a challenge to aquatic animals across the world, but particularly in the rapidly changing circumpolar north. Since joining UAF, a lot of my work has centered around studying the health challenges to Alaska’s fish stocks. At Toolik I will be performing fish health assessments and disease screens on a range of freshwater species, providing important data regarding current pathogenic challenges to Arctic fish stocks. Emerging diseases and altered pathogen ranges with climate change pose a critical risk to wildlife populations, but hopefully through enhanced surveillance, such as my efforts facilitated by the TUNDRA award, any changes can be identified early. Morag Clinton's personal website


Alex Michaud

Project: MICRO-SWEAT: Microbial Sources of Weathering in Emerging Arctic Thermokarst

A headshot of researcher Alex Michaud.I'm currently a Research Scientist at Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences in East Boothbay, Maine. Conducting the field work for this TUNDRA award is a long time in the making. Looking back at the files, this proposal was submitted on 16 March 2020, ominous timing for an early career researcher looking to collect data on an up-and-coming project! The willingness and flexibility of Toolik Field Station to accommodate this award in 2022 is remarkable. I'm grateful to TFS for making this work a reality. My research focuses on how the loss of ice impacts the spatial and temporal patterns of microbially mediated biogeochemical cycles. This project is an extension of that theme as it looks at how retrogressive thaw slumps, areas of tundra disturbance due to rapid melting and collapse of ground-ice rich permafrost, transform the tundra and downstream aquatic ecosystems. In particular, the project will examine the role of microorganisms in releasing nutrients (i.e., iron, phosphate) from these natural disturbance features. Alex Michaud's personal website

*2020 recipient, postponed to 2022 due to COVID



Chelsea Smith

Project: Stabilization of Organic Carbon in Iron Complexes Buried in Toolik Lake Sediment

Researcher Chelsea Smith sampling soils near Abisko, Sweden.I am a PhD candidate in the Biological Sciences department at Kent State University. I received a BS (2014) and MS (2016) in Biology from the University of Akron. My past research focused on the interplay of evolutionary forces and its effects on bacterial populations. My PhD research centers on microbe-mineral interactions and nutrient biogeochemistry and aims to investigate biogeochemical controls on phosphate availability under contrasting redox conditions of arctic and temperate soils.

The TUNDRA award will support research used in an NSF postdoc fellowship proposal focusing on the vulnerability and fate of organic carbon:iron (OC:Fe) complexes in arctic lake sediments to assess carbon (C) stabilization mechanisms. Arctic lake sediments have been known to act as C sinks. However, continued rise of potent greenhouse gases like methane and carbon dioxide, exacerbate warming, potentially forcing these arctic lakes to shift from a C sink to C source. Elevated temperatures increase permafrost thaw causing more runoff and nutrient release from the landscape. This combination of increased nutrient concentrations and elevated temperature can result in cyanobacterial blooms, providing inputs of fresh carbon to lakebed sediments. This C can either be quickly respired by microbes, or may be stabilized through the co-precipitation with iron oxides, thereby protecting it through deposition and burial. This work will investigate the importance of reactive iron in facilitating C stabilization through a coupled benthic-pelagic biogeochemical study in Toolik Lake. Understanding the fate of lakebed C continues to grow in importance as climate change places more stress on these susceptible landscapes.


Megan Wilcots

Project: Assessing the effects of increasing nutrient availability on CO2 fluxes in the Alaskan Arctic

Researcher Megan Wilcots samples soils in the long-term fertilization plots near Toolik Field Station.My name is Megan Wilcots (she/her), and I’m currently a 4th year graduate student at the University of Minnesota. I work with Dr. Sarah Hobbie and Dr. Elizabeth Borer, and my research focuses on the shape of plant and ecosystem responses to different rates of nitrogen addition. The TUNDRA award is supporting my research this summer, which focuses on identifying how rates of net carbon uptake change across the growing season in some of the Arctic LTER nutrient manipulation plots. My first summer at Toolik was in 2017 as an undergraduate with Team Vole, and I returned to Toolik last summer to start my current project. I also work at Cedar Creek Ecosystem Science Reserve in Minnesota, where I conducted research in 2019 and 2020. I currently serve as the DEIJ Graduate Fellow at Cedar Creek, and I have really enjoyed working with Haley and other members of the community to work on DEIJ issues here at Toolik as well. Megan Wilcots's personal website






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