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Faculty member, student to perform research in Siberian Arctic

By Anna Stevens '10
July 1, 2008

As many other Oles bask in the warmth of summer, St. Olaf Professor of Biology and Environmental Studies John Schade and biology student Katie Abbott '09 will spend a month performing research in the Siberian Arctic.

Schade John
Schade and Abbott are traveling to Siberia to join other researchers with the Polaris Project, a multifaceted program that includes a field course and research experience for undergraduate students. Schade, Abbott and others from the United States and Russia will spend the month of July conducting research focusing on carbon and nitrogen cycling in aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems at the Northeast Science Station in Cherskiy, Russia. Their research will mark the beginning of a three-year project, and they will use their time in the Arctic this summer to begin the development of the Polaris Project's field course.

"One reason we chose the Arctic is the uniqueness of the environment. With its midnight sun in the summer and unique organisms, it is attractive to students and myself as a place to experience what is, in effect, a strange new world," Schade says.

This map shows the location of the Northeast Science Station in Cherskiy, Russia. St. Olaf Professor John Schade and student Katie Abbott '09 will spend most of July performing research at the station.
Schade is one of the 11 scientists on the Polaris Project team who will direct the research and field course. The Polaris Project is a collaborative effort by the Woods Hole Research Center, seven universities and colleges and the Northeast Science Station. The intent of the project, which is supported by the National Science Foundation's International Polar Year Program, is to capitalize on the enthusiasm for Arctic science generated by the International Polar Year. In addition to building on the skills of future arctic researchers, project leaders plan to distribute all course materials, from both the Siberian field course and on-campus courses in Arctic ecology, to other universities in order to advance Arctic education.

Over the course of the Polaris Project, faculty and student participants will study carbon and nitrogen cycling in areas of the Siberian tundra where permafrost is melting because of climate change. Schade notes that six or seven St. Olaf students will likely be involved with the project over the next three years. They will be among the 30-35 undergraduates from six institutions that organizers estimate will participate in the program. Students, including Abbott, will also share their research experiences with children at local schools to increase the impact of the Polaris Project.

Abbott Katie
The Polaris Project team is interested in attracting and developing the next generation of polar researchers, integrating research and education, creating innovative undergraduate science and education resources and providing authentic research experiences for undergraduates.

"Our goal is to engage early career scientists and students and to expand the number of people actively involved in polar research," Schade says.

Contact Kari VanDerVeen at 507-786-3970 or