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The Polaris Project: Permafrost

The Polaris Project, Chris Linder Photography

In this video from the Polaris Project Website, American and Siberian university students participating in the project describe their research on permafrost.

Video length: 4:58 minutes.

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Climate Literacy
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The abundance of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is controlled by biogeochemical cycles that continually move these components between their ocean, land, life, and atmosphere reservoirs. The abundance of carbon in the atmosphere is reduced through seafloor accumulation of marine sediments and accumulation of plant biomass and is increased through deforestation and the burning of fossil fuels as well as through other processes.
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Life—including microbes, plants, and animals and humans—is a major driver of the global carbon cycle and can influence global climate by modifying the chemical makeup of the atmosphere. The geologic record shows that life has significantly altered the atmosphere during Earth’s history.
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Based on evidence from tree rings, other natural records, and scientific observations made around the world, Earth’s average temperature is now warmer than it has been for at least the past 1,300 years. Average temperatures have increased markedly in the past 50 years, especially in the North Polar Region.
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Environmental observations are the foundation for understanding the climate system. From the bottom of the ocean to the surface of the Sun, instruments on weather stations, buoys, satellites, and other platforms collect climate data. To learn about past climates, scientists use natural records, such as tree rings, ice cores, and sedimentary layers. Historical observations, such as native knowledge and personal journals, also document past climate change.
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Benchmarks for Science Literacy
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Scientific investigations usually involve the collection of relevant data, the use of logical reasoning, and the application of imagination in devising hypotheses and explanations to make sense of the collected data.
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Notes From Our Reviewers The CLEAN collection is hand-picked and rigorously reviewed for scientific accuracy and classroom effectiveness. Read what our review team had to say about this resource below or learn more about how CLEAN reviews teaching materials
Teaching Tips | Science | Pedagogy | Technical Details

Teaching Tips

  • This video can be used in any lesson on permafrost and the carbon cycle.
  • Preview vocabulary for younger students.
  • Locate area on map or computer.

About the Science

  • "In our experiment, we are focusing on how permafrost qualities change over both space and time. First, we are comparing how the active layer differs across different landscapes, including lowlands, ridges, and tundra. Second, we are comparing the composition of the three permafrost layers to determine if there have been changes in organic matter over time. Finally, we are examining a potential connection between the active layer and water by testing what and how many nutrients are 'picked up' by water passing through the active layer."
  • Comments from expert scientist: The video is very effective at portraying field work in a remote and challenging environment. The narrative effectively provides a human element to the science. The importance of the study, or reason why people are looking at thawing permafrost is never explicitly stated.

About the Pedagogy

  • Video is narrated by the university students who are conducting the research; some text provided. Unusual opportunity for students to see other students conducting research in the field in Siberia.
  • Polaris Website includes a variety of multimedia resources about the project, the students who participate, and the research they conduct in Siberia. https://www.thepolarisproject.org

Technical Details/Ease of Use

  • Excellent video quality

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