Dr. Sarah Evans, Assistant Professor, Department of Geological and Environmental Sciences
Student and Faculty Excellence (SAFE) Fund Recipient: Spring 2022
Project: “Hydrologic Impacts of Permafrost Thaw on the North Slope of Alaska”
The Arctic has warmed at twice the rate of the global average, resulting in perennially frozen ground, known as permafrost, thaw. As permafrost thaws, it releases stored carbon into the atmosphere with the amount of carbon released depending on how saturated the ground is. While this link is understood, we do not understand the dynamics of saturation patterns in the Arctic, and more importantly, the primary drivers of these patterns, and their sensitivity to climate change. College of Arts and Sciences Student and Faculty Excellence (SAFE) grant funding was used to purchase fieldwork supplies for study sites on the North Slope of Alaska. Results from this fieldwork will increase understanding of saturation patterns in the Arctic which are critical to understanding carbon release.
This past summer, three Appalachian undergraduate environmental science majors joined Dr. Evans in Alaska to research the effects of climate change on water flow above perennially frozen ground known as permafrost. This SAFE grant paid for each student's required medevac insurance to cover the cost of air medevac services from the field station to a hospital hundreds of miles away (which we thankfully never needed to use) and durable, waterproof boots to work in the harsh Arctic. Finally, because cell phones do not work anywhere in the field area, this SAFE grant paid for three months of an inReach satellite phone plan. Although there were no issues during this summer's fieldwork, these tools supplied by the SAFE grant made the student's feel more comfortable and were critical to the safety and success of the team's field work.
“The undergraduate students instrumented hundreds of water flow and temperature sensors in permafrost on the North Slope of Alaska using the equipment provided by the SAFE grant. This was a once in a lifetime experience for the students!” said Evans.
About the Department of Geological and Environmental Sciences
Located in Western North Carolina, Appalachian State University provides the perfect setting to study geological and environmental sciences. The Department of Geological and Environmental Sciences provides students with a solid foundation on which to prepare for graduate school or build successful careers as scientists, consultants and secondary education teachers. The department offers six degree options in geology and two degree options in environmental science. Learn more at https://earth.appstate.edu.
About the SAFE Fund
Initially endowed by Hughlene and Bill Frank, the College of Arts and Sciences Student and Faculty Excellence (SAFE) Fund provides resources that can be used to support undergraduate, graduate and faculty experiences. The SAFE Fund provides funding for college priorities and opportunities that arise throughout the year. These unrestricted funds support student and faculty travel, publication support for faculty and student research opportunities. Learn more at: https://cas.appstate.edu/students/student-and-faculty-excellence-safe-fund.