IAB Research Project Description

Toolik Field Station

Toolik Field Station (TFS), in the northern foothills of the Brooks Range, Alaska, has been a major site for research in the North American Arctic since 1975. Much of what is known about the structure and function of terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems of the Arctic and the effects of climate change and feedbacks to global climate comes from the long-term, process-based ecological research projects at TFS.

TFS-based work has also resulted in a showcase of discoveries on the adaptations of organisms to the Arctic and population-level changes in animal and plant phenologies and distributions. Because climate is changing most rapidly in arctic and boreal regions and changes in the Arctic are predicted to strongly affect the global climate system, continuing research into the causes, mechanisms of response, and feedbacks to further ecosystem change is a high research priority.

Along with the ongoing strong interest for use of TFS as a research platform by scientists from a broad array of disciplines, and a specific call for year-round studies of arctic ecosystems, this high priority promises a steady demand for TFS-based services into the future.

TFS is accessible from the road and air from Prudhoe Bay on the Arctic Ocean, 212 km to the north, and from Fairbanks in the Interior, 596 km to the south. Visitors must have prior approval.

Toolik-based researchers have access to 87,000 acres designated by the Bureau of Land Management as a Research Natural Area.

The station hosts the Arctic Long-Term Ecological Research program, managed by the Marine Biological Laboratory, and other long-term, intensive, process-based ecological research projects.

Our location allows scientists access to three major physiographic provinces of Alaska: the Brooks Range, the arctic foothills, and the arctic coastal plain. TFS also serves as a base for scientists working along the ecological transect stretching from the coastal tundra of Prudhoe Bay to the boreal forest of Fairbanks.

Facilities and services

Services provided year round from the Fairbanks office and on-site during the field season.

Personal Support - Year round

• Scheduled meals including vegetarian entrees. • Dorm-style trailer modules and WeatherPORTs. • Sauna • Clothes washers, dryers, and mud sink • Multiple deluxe outhouses • Men’s and women’s showers, sinks, and storage

Research Support - Year-round

• Laboratories ~ 10,000 sq.ft. • Seven wet chemistry labs • LAN, wireless Internet, T-1 • Satellite phones, VHF radios • Helicopter, snowmobiles • Meeting room, herbarium • Weekly freight and mail service, shipping, receiving • Warm storage in Fairbanks, cold storage at TFS • Bus service to commerical airport in Prudhoe Bay • Basic mechanical, electrical, carpentry support

Research Highlights

• As an Arctic Observatory Network site, TFS is part of a system of atmospheric, land- and ocean-based environmental monitoring sites which will significantly advance observations of the Arctic.

• The Arctic Long-Term Ecological Research program at TFS, administered by The Ecosystems Center, has over 30 years of recorded climate data of ecosystem processes and responses to climate change, including terrestrial, lake, stream, and land/water interactions.

• A long-term fertilization experiment at TFS demonstrated that the tundra may be more of a carbon source than a carbon sink.

• Studies of antifreeze proteins and related overwintering adaptations in Arctic/subarctic insects and animals are ongoing at TFS and IAB.

• TFS is part of the International Tundra Experiment - a scientific network of experiments focusing on the effect of climate change on selected plant species in tundra and alpine environments.

• TFS hosts researchers studying aerial deposition of contaminants such as POPs and mercury in Arctic surface waters.

• TFS scientists are studying the complex linkages between biogeochemical cycles, vegetation, disturbance, and climate across Arctic to better predict ecosystem responses to a changing climate.

• TFS is used as a base for scientists studying the synthesis and scaling of hydrologic and biogeochemical data on the North Slope and coastal zones of Alaska as a basis for studying climate change.

• TFS supports the Horizontal E-region eXperiment (HEX) that studies the three-dimensional structure of the auroral winds.

• National Weather Service radiosondes are launched and tracked from TFS as part of climate change research and ground truthing for satellite data.


•IAB’s public information officer can assist media with site visits, story development, scientist contact, and additional resources.

•The Marine Biological Laboratory offers a Science Journalism Program fellowship which provides journalists, writers, photographers, filmmakers, and artists the opportunity to document scientists and students at work in TFS’s spectacular landscape.


Services provided year round through the Fairbanks office and on-site during the field season.

• Map reproduction/distribution • Custom cartography/figures • Data/metadata distribution • Custom data development • Simple metrics: Coordinate locations Area/distance estimates Landscape characteristics • Custom analyses: • Remote sensing • Site selection • Landscape characteristics • Data synthesis • Data distribution/archiving • Post-processing • Modeling • Data manipulation • Derived product • Multivariate analyses • GPS technical training • GPS field work/consultation • Permit assistance • GPS equipment: • Mapping/Recreational grade (2-5 m precision) • Post-processed (code and carrier phase; to sub-meter precision) • RTK (real-time kinematic) processed (to sub-meter in real-time) • Survey grade (to sub-centimeter precision) • Base files for public download (www.uaf.edu/toolik/gis/TFS_GIS_gps. wwhtml)

Project Funding

National Science Foundation
1 Aug 2005 – 31 Jul 2010
IAB Proposal #2005-007
IAB Project #179

National Science Foundation
1 Nov 2009 – 31 Oct 2010
IAB Proposal #2005-007
IAB Project #179

CH2M Hill
1 Apr 2010 – 31 Jan 2011
IAB Proposal #2010-105
UAF Grant #G6289
IAB Project #179

Media Contact

Marie Thoms
Communications/Web Manager
Institute of Arctic Biology
302A Irving I
University of Alaska Fairbanks
Fairbanks, AK 99775-7000
email: methoms@alaska.edu
phone: 907.474.7412