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Cryospheric Connection to Understanding Climate Change

Principal Investigators: Principle Investigator: Kathryn Berry-Bertram; Co-Principal Investigator: Kenji Yoshikawa, Fairbanks, Alaska
Project Website:

Project Description

Cryosphere Connection Photo1
Photo showing coastal erosion and exposed ice-rich permafrost along the north coast of Alaska. Photo courtesy Benjamin Jones & Christopher Arp, USGS, Alaska Science Center.

The Cryospheric Connection to Understanding Climate Change will reveal how NASA data from space, suborbital, and ground platforms can be used to provide classroom instruction reflective of authentic NASA climate science research. Developed by the University of Alaska Fairbanks Geophysical Institute, Cryospheric Connection will demonstrate how educational activities paralleling NASA's climate research are naturally suited for engaging minority students in science and technology.

Cryospheric Connection is being designed as an online professional development course for teachers. A series of six online tutorials will provide step-by-step instructions for incorporating NASA data and resources into classroom curricula, and provide virtual classroom resources that can immediately be integrated into local instruction. Permafrost will be used as the springboard for helping teachers and students understand how the major components of Earth's climate system are interconnected.

The cryosphere collectively describes the portions of Earth that are frozen, and includes permafrost, sea ice, and snow-cover. Scientists believe the cryosphere is a key indicator of global climate change. In the Arctic, the cryosphere is undergoing dramatic change as a result of recent shifts in climate.

While collecting and analyzing data on permafrost, learners will reconstruct past climates, identify subtle and large-scale shifts in climate, and design community-action plans to adapt to future climate impacts.

Program Goals

Cryospheric Connection strives to strengthen NASA's efforts to create a scientifically literate citizenry by:

Alaska students learn how to gather permafrost data
Alaskan teachers and their students will pilot test Cryospheric Connection. Photo lower left USGS; all others UAF Geophysical Institute.

  • increasing teacher and student global climate literacy,
  • increasing the number of teachers and students using NASA data and models in class,
  • building skills paralleling those used in authentic climate research, and
  • strengthening the education pipeline of minority students to NASA careers.

After pilot testing in Alaska school districts, Cryospheric Connection will be permanently established as an e-education course to promote equal access to quality education for all U.S. teachers, including those in rural or disadvantaged locations often populated by high percentages of minority students. Course tutorials and classroom resources will be available for free from the program website

Contact Information:
Kathryn Berry-Bertram, Principal Investigator/Director
Geophysical Institute
University of Alaska Fairbanks
903 Koyukuk Drive
PO Box 757320
Fairbanks, AK 99775-7320
Phone: (907) 474-2722 Fax: (907) 474-5691