University science station nets $16 million award
Fairbanks, Alaska—The National Science Foundation awarded $16.3 million to the University of Alaska Fairbanks in support of the Toolik Field Station, a major site for national and international research in the North American Arctic since 1975.
“With this award Toolik Field Station is now considered a major NSF facility,” said Marion Syndonia “Donie” Bret-Harte, principal investigator for the award and a scientist at UAF’s Institute of Arctic Biology, which operates the station.
The five-year cooperative agreement, the third from NSF since 2000, will enable the station to increase and improve the provision of housing, utilities, meals, communications, modern lab space, vehicles and common-use science equipment to the hundreds of scientists and students who work at the station each year.
“This is more than a supplies and logistics award,” said Bret-Harte. “By supporting our efforts to improve Toolik’s GIS and baseline environmental monitoring services, the NSF award is a significant step toward Toolik becoming an international flagship environmental observatory.”
The station is currently host to NSF’s Arctic Long-Term Ecological Research and Arctic Observatory Network programs and is a member of the International Network for Terrestrial Research and Monitoring in the Arctic. The station has also been selected as the arctic site for the National Ecological Observatory Network program.
“Much of what is known about terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems, adaptations of plants and animals to the Arctic and the effects of climate change come from long-term, process-based ecological research conducted at Toolik,” said Bret-Harte. “This award will help us grow that legacy.”
The station and its population of visiting scientists have grown substantially since 1975, when just a handful of researchers braved Alaska’s Dalton Highway to reach the facility and few stayed over winter. In 2010, TFS hosted 569 project participants from 68 different universities and research institutions working on 61 funded research projects.
“This award demonstrates the confidence that NSF has in UAF and IAB’s ability to foster and support national and international science, education and outreach” said Brian Barnes, IAB director, TFS science director and co-principal investigator.
Toolik Field Station is located on the southeast shore of Toolik Lake, in the northern foothills of Alaska’s Brooks Range. It is 370 miles north of Fairbanks and 189 miles north of the Arctic Circle. Its location allows researchers access to three major physiographic provinces of Alaska: the Brooks Range, the arctic foothills, and the arctic coastal plain.