Back to Siberia! Clark professor and students embark on ‘Polaris Project’

June 27, 2012

View from the Northeast Science Station, East Siberia. (Photo © Karen Frey)

No fireworks, perhaps, but the midnight sun should brighten the season for arctic scientist Karen Frey and three of her students as they conduct environmental research in Siberia from June 26 to July 26.

Frey, assistant professor in the Graduate School of Geography at Clark University, has been a co-principal investigator of The Polaris Project: Rising Stars in the Arctic and Amplifying the Impact since its beginning in 2008. The innovative research and education program is funded by the National Science Foundation's (NSF) Office of Polar Programs and Arctic Natural Sciences Program.

The Polaris Project trains future leaders in arctic research and informs the public about the Arctic and global climate change. During the annual month-long field expedition to the Northeast Science Station in Cherskiy, East Siberia, faculty, graduate and undergraduate students conduct cutting-edge investigations that advance scientific understanding of the changing Arctic.

Dylan Broderick '12

The 2012 Polaris Project participants from Clark, who are among only 16 selected from around the world, include Ph.D. student David Mayer, Dylan Broderick '12, and Samuel Berman '14.

This is Broderick's second field season in Siberia. She is pursuing a master's degree at Clark in Geographic Information Science, and will continue her work in using remote sensing and GIS to identify patterns and trends of carbon storage across the landscape.

"I feel so fortunate to have the chance to continue my research from last year," Broderick said. "Something that really struck me from my previous experience was not only the remote location and the fieldwork, but also the broad range of interests and infectious enthusiasm among the students, professors, and scientists."

Ph.D. student
David Mayer

Ph.D. student Mayer holds a master's degree in Earth and Planetary Science, from Washington University in St. Louis. His research utilizes satellite remote sensing coupled with field-based studies to monitor polar environmental change.

Berman, a junior this fall, majors in Environmental Science, with a concentration in Earth Systems Science. In his first journal post, he writes: "Our month stay overseas will no doubt be the highlight of many of our lives and undergraduate careers. This truly will be an experience that will open up new doors and change our view of what it means to be a field researcher. … This trip is an opportunity for us to use what we have spent years studying and to learn skills and techniques that we otherwise would not learn until graduate school."

Samuel Berman '14

To date, The Polaris Project has conducted the "Rising Stars" field program each summer since 2008. Clark students have participated in every season.

The Polaris Project participants maintain a lively blog, often with stunning photographs, taking readers along on research forays made from aboard their barge-based living quarters on the Kolyma River. To visit the blog and follow on Twitter and Facebook, visit

From The Polaris Project website: The allure and mystique of the Arctic, combined with its central role in the global warming issue, make it the ideal place to capture the imagination of the public while engaging students and early career scientists in interdisciplinary polar research and education. … The unifying scientific theme of the Polaris Project is the transport and transformations of carbon and nutrients as they move with water from terrestrial uplands to the Arctic Ocean. This is a central issue in arctic system science and the Polaris Project will train future leaders in arctic research and education, and educate the public, both of which are essential given the rapid and profound changes underway in the Arctic in response to global warming.

For more about the Polar Science Research Laboratory, click here.

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