A bright orange tent in the distance of an Arctic landscape A bright orange tent in the distance of an Arctic landscape
Science & Discovery 

We opened a lab in the Arctic

arctic research

The Arctic is known for the breathtaking beauty of its vistas, the diversity of its wildlife, and the delicate balance of its ecosystems. And it’s known for something else, too: the awe-inspiring opportunities it provides for research and transformational discovery.

Every summer, NAU faculty members travel from our Arizona campuses to the far reaches of the Arctic to study this unique region—both in its current state, and with an eye for how it could change in the coming years and decades. Leading NAU scholars conduct research in the Arctic on topics ranging from communicable diseases to vegetation patterns. Together, we’re making discoveries that help us better understand the world and our place in it.

  • Supported by grants from the US Department of Energy, NASA, and others, NAU conducts research in Alaska’s Denali National Park, in the remote communities on St. Lawrence Island, and in key locations throughout the region. Whether a project would benefit from proximity to a certain type of wildlife or the opportunity to learn with and from Indigenous peoples, NAU researchers have access to sites that will support it.
  • Collectively, NAU’s Arctic research projects address critical questions that arise as weather patterns and temperatures in the region rapidly shift—and affect the global ecosphere. From thawing permafrost to wildfires, seasonal vegetation growth, and community-based participatory research on disease in Indigenous communities, NAU is at the forefront of the effort to understand the changing Arctic ecosystem and the effort to preserve it for future generations.
  • Students at NAU learn from world-class faculty who conduct research in the Arctic across many disciplines: ecology, ecotoxicology, informatics, and more. Our students work closely with their mentor-professors to assist in advancing this research. Students are exposed to the thrills and challenges of research, all while making concrete contributions to the base of knowledge in their chosen fields. Doctoral student Katie Orndahl is an excellent example: her research used remote sensing equipment to study some of the most remote and inaccessible caribou habitats, and it earned her a fellowship from the National Science Foundation’s Graduate Research Fellowship Program.

As someone interested in climate change, I was drawn to the Arctic. It feels exciting and extremely relevant to study a region where climate is changing faster than anywhere else on the planet. Getting to do fieldwork in Alaska, and specifically in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, was a bonus!

Broaden your horizons

The Arctic may seem worlds away from Arizona, but it can feel like an extension of the NAU classroom. The stunning landscapes and remarkable ecosystems provide an education in and of themselves—with countless discoveries waiting to be unearthed.

Ellie Broadman chose NAU’s PhD program in Earth Sciences and Environmental Sustainability for her graduate career. Her advisor is paleoclimatologist and Regents’ Professor Darrell Kaufman. “The main reason I came to NAU was to work with Darrell Kaufman, my advisor. He has an incredible reputation; he does super-interesting and important research, and it was a major selling point that his research program is focused on Alaska. As someone interested in climate change, I was drawn to the Arctic. It feels exciting and extremely relevant to study a region where climate is changing faster than anywhere else on the planet. Getting to do fieldwork in Alaska, and specifically in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, was a bonus!” Ellie Broadman’s research in Arctic Alaska culminated in a study recently published in the prestigious scientific journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

If the idea of studying and learning on the front lines of research makes your heart beat faster, NAU could be the perfect place for you to bring your aspirations.

EXPLORING THE TERRAIN

  • The Arctic region spans approximately 5.5 million square miles across eight countries:
    1. United States
    2. Canada
    3. Russia
    4. Finland
    5. Sweden
    6. Norway
    7. Iceland
    8. Greenland
  • The Arctic is home to nearly 400,000 Indigenous people across numerous tribes, including:
    • Aleut
    • Athabaskans
    • Gwich’in
    • Inuit
    • Inupiat
    • Inuvialuit
    • Saami
    • Yupik
  • Approximately 21,000 unique species make their home in the Arctic region
  • The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) reports that temperatures in the Arctic tundra are rising more than twice as fast as in the rest of the planet

Two men conduct an experiment in the arctic snow

A researcher examines soil collected in a tube

Researchers erect a tripod in the Arctic