Click for next page ( 120


The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement



Below are the first 10 and last 10 pages of uncorrected machine-read text (when available) of this chapter, followed by the top 30 algorithmically extracted key phrases from the chapter as a whole.
Intended to provide our own search engines and external engines with highly rich, chapter-representative searchable text on the opening pages of each chapter. Because it is UNCORRECTED material, please consider the following text as a useful but insufficient proxy for the authoritative book pages.

Do not use for reproduction, copying, pasting, or reading; exclusively for search engines.

OCR for page 119
5 An Integrated Polar Biology Community: Interactions Among Scientists, Education, and Outreach FACILITATING INTERACTIONS AND TECHNOLOGY TRANSFER ACROSS SCIENTIFIC DISCIPLINES To develop a robust theoretical and empirical understanding of organisms and their roles in polar ecosystems requires an integration and synthesis of knowledge gained in many fields, from the biology of the organism to the physical and chemical characteristics of its environment. The Arctic and Antarctic polar science communities now have unique new opportunities to use multidisciplinary research and an array of new technologies to address questions that seemed unanswerable just a decade ago. However, success will require collaboration and interchange of information. Collaborations whether interdisciplinary, national, or inter- national are typically more difficult for polar researchers than for scientists working in other regions. This chapter explores some of the impediments to collaborative efforts and possible avenues for improving collaboration. Building an Integrated Polar Community Recent reports have addressed the urgency and complexity of global and environmental problems (NRC, 1999, 2001; NSB, 2000; NSF ACERE, 2003; PCAST, 1998~. The reports acknowledged that many scientific disci- plines are required to understand the interacting and interdependent com- ponents of the biosphere and Earth system science. The advancement of many disciplines and the contribution of new technologies including 119

OCR for page 119
20 FRONTIERS IN POLAR BIOLOGY IN THE GENOMIC ERA communication technologies to the social, natural and physical sciences are also noted in those reports. Most importantly, the exchange and integration of knowledge within and across environmental disciplines have been given high priority in all these reports. The challenge of integrated research for the polar scientific communi- ties is considerable, because many unique factors contribute to a separa- tion within and across the Arctic and Antarctic scientific communities. At the simplest level is the difference in research field seasons. Most Antarctic work is conducted during the austral spring and summer (October to February), and most Arctic work during the boreal spring, summer and fall (March to November). Thus, many polar biologists must rely on collaborations with others to accomplish comparative studies of similar habitats in the Arctic and Antarctic. A higher order problem is the lack of a scientific society dedicated to polar biology and related disciplines. Such a society would raise the profile of all polar research areas while provid- ing a forum for researchers to establish collaborative, bipolar research programs. Examples of focused biological organizations that provide highly interactive and integrative research venues are the self-organized Drosophila, worm (Caenorhabditis elegans), and zebrafish communities (see representative web sites , , and , respectively). Third, the National Science Foundation's Office of Polar Programs (NSF OPP) administers and manages research for the Arctic and Antarctic separately. Although this approach is logical, it presents challenges to research groups that attempt to conduct integrated bipolar activities. Fourth, proposals that include international components (col- laborators or facilities) face challenges due to NSF policies and consider- ations in the partner nations as well. International research collaborations in the Antarctic, for example, may require negotiation of a memorandum of understanding or other agreement with another nation's research pro- gram, which increases the bureaucratic burden for scientists as well as NSF. Logistic impediments (e.g., funding for stipends and travel, visas, unavailability of ship or aircraft time) also contribute to the lack of inter- change between scientists from different nations. Perhaps NSF could solicit comments from the polar science community through a survey that would identify major impediments to bipolar research and international collaboration. Strategic implementation of cogent suggestions should help to solve some of these problems. Enhancing our understanding of organismal, ecological, and eco- system science through the use of techniques such as genome science will benefit from communication with other areas of biology and Earth system science. Biophysical and biogeochemical coupling addresses questions such as the following:

OCR for page 119
AN INTEGRATED POLAR BIOLOGY COMMUNITY 12 What is the set of natural resources necessary to maintain life? How are organisms common to both polar regions expected to respond to nonlinearities of the hydrologic cycle predicted under climate change? How does snowfall distribution affect the spatial pattern of plant distribution across polar latitudes? Does the biodiversity in hot and cold extreme habitats have similar survival (gene-based) strategies? Clearly, building a mechanism to encourage information exchange and collaboration across a community of scientists within habitats (oceans, soils, aquatic systems, ice), across habitats within each polar region, and across both polar regions should be a high priority. Enhancing data inte- gration, syntheses, and knowledge in turn presents more opportunities for polar studies to be seen as integral for comparisons to other eco- systems and the biosphere. Example of an Integrative Program NSF OPP's Arctic System Science (ARCSS) Program has made admi- rable strides in uniting the Arctic scientific community in a relatively short time, both within the United States and internationally. The ARCSS program was designed to advance the scientific basis for predicting envi- ronmental change and for formulating policy options in response to the anticipated impacts of global change on humans and societal support sys- tems (see web site: ~. To achieve its goal, ARCSS promotes the understanding of physical, geo- logical, chemical, biological, and sociocultural processes of the Arctic system. ARCSS has been successful in uniting polar scientists from vari- ous disciplines by supporting large integrated research projects that are proposed and implemented in response to science plans developed by the scientific community through Science Steering Committees. Furthermore, ARCSS has been particularly good at using web-based and e-mail com- munications to broaden participation and the sense of community. Lessons from that program could benefit polar biology, especially should there be a genome initiative. Working Groups and Workshops Strengthening interactions within the polar community can be accel- erated by providing new opportunities for small amounts of funding for scientific workshops and working groups. Workshops and working groups should consider the basis for understanding the fundamental pro-

OCR for page 119
22 FRONTIERS IN POLAR BIOLOGY IN THE GENOMIC ERA cesses of biology through synthesis of concepts, theory, comparisons, and contrasts. This approach allows teams of scientists that work on the same or many different organisms (thus, many disciplines) within a particular habitat (lakes in the Antarctic, soils in the Arctic, ice shelves), as well as between poles (lakes in the Arctic and Antarctic, and so on), to share information from various techniques and to develop new insights. The National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS) funded by NSF, is illustrative of how a small international working group can address a scientific topic and synthesize data and information. NCEAS has held a series of meetings over one to two years involving different participants. A key activity of these working groups is funding risky projects to address novel scientific questions and to support syntheses that might not be funded through traditional NSF channels. Easy access to data from many sources (bioinformatics for genomes, environmental data) is essential. Statisticians familiar with metadata and other statistical analyses, as well as scientists experienced in geographic information sys- tems (GIS) and modeling are frequently integral to the workshops. A recent NSF review (NSF, 2002) highlighted the success of NCEAS work- ing groups for the advancement of new theory and concepts, integration and synthesis of science, and facilitating communications across disci- plines. Another example is the International Arctic Polyna Programme (IAPP) created by the Arctic Ocean Studies Board (AOSB) to address the physical and biological role of three polynas in the Arctic. AOSB charged a small group of international scientists (the Science Coordination Group) to define the scientific needs and to coordinate the execution of research. International, Multidisciplinary, Integrative Funding Initiatives As genomics technologies begin to be applied to the study of physi- ological mechanisms of polar organisms and their response to physical stress, the need for international multidisciplinary research will likely emerge. The sequencing and analysis of the model plant species Arabidopsis thaliana, carried out by the Arabidopsis Genome Initiative com- prised of scientists from large and small laboratories in the United States, Great Britain, France, and Japan, represented a successful model for col- laboration among international scientists with expertise in genomics, bio- informatics, and plant biology. Although the six research groups secured major funding from agencies in the participating countries (from NSF, the Department of Energy (DOE), and the Department of Agriculture in the U.S.), they are part of a single project. Representatives of the six groups met to discuss strategies for facilitating international cooperation in com- pleting the genome project and to establish a memorandum of under- standing. Two key factors allowed for completion of this project several

OCR for page 119
AN INTEGRATED POLAR BIOLOGY COMMUNITY 123 years ahead of schedule. The first was the willingness of the participating laboratories to work as a team to ensure that the project proceeded as quickly as possible. In many cases this meant that original work assign- ments were revised so that all laboratories were operating at maximum capacity throughout the project. Second, the distributed workload meant that the costs of the project were shared by funding agencies within the participating countries. Development of an integrated, international, and multidisciplinary polar genome initiative is likely to require cross- directorate funding within the NSF as well as funding by other agencies. At NSF, integrative biology and genomic research is funded by the Direc- torate of Biological Sciences, whereas polar research and logistical sup- port are primarily funded by the Office of Polar Programs. Other funding agencies that support genomic research (for example, DOE's Genomes to Life program and the National Institutes of Health's National Human Genome Research Institute) do not provide logistical support for polar research. Thus, administrative coordination across NSF directorates and among funding agencies will be essential to facilitate integrative genomic research in polar regions. Existing multidisciplinary research programs can also be comple- mented by the polar genome science initiative described in Chapter 3. NSF has had great success with the Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER) Network. The network is a collaborative effort involving more than 1,100 national and foreign scientists and students. It promotes syn- thesis and comparative research across sites and ecosystems and among other related national and international research programs over long tem- poral scales. Along with the other 21 LTER sites, research at the Alaska, Palmer, and McMurdo Dry Valleys LTER sites has addressed a range of questions from genomics to ecosystem-level science. The long-term envi- ronmental datasets from the LTERs and information gathered by new genomic technologies allow scientists to determine how organisms may change, adapt, and evolve in response to the changing environment. LTERs also allow comparative genomic studies on organisms in compa- rable conditions at both poles that could answer a number of the research questions outlined in Chapter 2. EDUCATION AND OUTREACH There are several compelling reasons why the flow of information about polar biology to a wider audience should be enhanced. Perhaps the most important is the significant role that polar ecosystems play in global- scale phenomena. Polar organisms, while fascinating examples of adap- tation to environmental extremes, also have a strong bearing on under- standing ecological systems at lower latitudes. In terms of the effects of

OCR for page 119
24 FRONTIERS IN POLAR BIOLOGY IN THE GENOMIC ERA global climate change, notably rising temperatures and changes in ultra- violet (UV) radiation, polar organisms may prove to be "canaries in the coal mine" that provide early indications of how change might be affect- ing ecosystems. For example, because of their sensitivity to rising tem- peratures, polar organisms could offer an early glimpse into phenomena that may occur in ecosystems throughout the world. The diminishing health of polar organisms and ecosystems is already impacting the daily lives and health of the indigenous people of the Arctic. Therefore, it is important to learn more about polar biology and to communicate what is being discovered widely and rapidly. Efforts to educate the public about polar science could be targeted at a wide range of lay and scientific audiences. The key mechanism for reaching nonscientists is the mass media. To reach young people, science texts used in secondary and university-level education have to include information about polar organisms and ecosystems. They should convey both the excitement of the polar environment and the relevance of the polar regions to pressing questions, ranging from insights into how bio- molecules like proteins work, how new types of adaptive traits arise, and how global climate change disrupts the functioning of individual organ- isms and ecosystems as a whole. This same sense of excitement and challenge has to be conveyed to the research community in order to attract to polar science the types of expertise needed and a next generation of creative minds. There are three general target audiences that could be reached through educational and outreach efforts: (1) K-12 and college education, (2) the research community, and (3) local communities in the Arctic region. K-12 and College Students Expand coverage of polar topics in textbooks (or develop textbooks that focus on polar science, broadly defined). Although a text devoted to polar biology might not be suitable for introductory-level classes, upper- division undergraduate classes and graduate seminars might be excellent contexts for presenting the information in such a book or monograph. Use modern educational technology such as real-time distance learning to bring students into close contact with polar biology. Technology exists for transmitting in real time (or recording for later presentation) the field studies being carried out by polar biologists. An example of how this technology might work is provided by the real-time transmission of activities on oceanographic vessels, for example, the activities of manned submersibles and remotely operated vehicles (ROVs). The Monterey Bay Aquarium regularly projects real-time images of ROV activities being conducted by its sister institution, the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research rev . . .

OCR for page 119
AN INTEGRATED POLAR BIOLOGY COMMUNITY 125 Institute (MBARI). Live contacts with the scientists participating in these expeditions have proven to be an exciting and educationally successful mode of communicating science. Develop strategies for bringing teachers and students into thefield. Field expeditions to the Arctic and Antarctic for teachers and students allow them to see first-hand what polar organisms are like, how they interact, and how they are studied. The Teachers Experiencing Antarctica and the Arctic (TEA) program for K-12 teachers is one example of this type of program (see web site ) Web Sites. Web sites could provide attractive, informative, and up- to-date exposure of new audiences to polar biology. A successful model is the web site for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Ocean Exploration program, which featured real-time images and "log" updates by scientists during the first biology exploration of the deep Canada Basin in September 2002. Provision of curricular materials that can be downloaded from a web site could improve the instructional value of polar biology. Polar scientists should be proactive in communicating their discoveries to the media. If the media are to present increased coverage of polar biology, then polar biologists must fully engage existing university and other institutional resources for contacting the media and explaining why their work merits press, radio, and TV coverage or assume that burden directly. Polar scientists should take advantage of NSF's program on "Communi- cating Research to Public Audiences," which provides funds for scientists to disseminate research results, research in progress, and research methods to public audiences through media presentations, exhibits, or youth-based activities (see web site ~. Training and media programs such as the Aldo Leopold Leadership Program also teach academic environmental scientists to communicate to the public and media effectively and offer another means of training scientists and their graduate students to inter- act with the media. The Research Community Develop field courses to encourage doctoral students, postdoctoral-level scientists, and established investigators to work on polar biology issues. The Antarctic integrated biology course that was offered for six years in the Crary Laboratory at McMurdo Station might serve as an appropriate model. One of the many strong points of a course of this type is that the participants comprised a wide range of intellectual interests, such that disciplinary boundaries were surmounted very effectively. It is note- worthy that several of the participants in this course have continued to

OCR for page 119
26 FRONTIERS IN POLAR BIOLOGY IN THE GENOMIC ERA work on polar organisms, in several cases with federal grant support that has been awarded for their new lines of study. Develop workshops to educate scientists about prospects for working in polar regions. Many scientists are apt to regard work in polar regions as logistically complicated, inconvenient in terms of time requirements, and "not worth the effort" involved. To provide an accurate portrayal of what is involved in doing research in polar regions, workshops should be held to familiarize potential polar investigators with the requirements and opportunities for polar work. Included in these workshops should be a statement of the opportunities that exist for winter season work at polar laboratories, notably at McMurdo Station, where excellent research facili- ties generally lie idle during the winter season. Develop small, focused meetings on polar biology modeled after the Gordon Research Conference (GRC) format. Although symposia on polar topics often occur within larger meetings, relatively small meetings focus- ing on polar biology that are attended by scientists at different career stages and from many countries could be an excellent vehicle for educat- ing polar biologists about the activities of their peers. Two examples to build upon are the GRC on Polar Marine Sciences held biannually and a recent symposium supported by the Nordic Arctic Research program that gathered 20 Nordic graduate students with 20 pan-Arctic senior scientists for an educational retreat on Arctic ecosystems in Sigulda, Latvia. Bring potential collaborators to field sites. Principal investigators who are currently conducting polar field research should be encouraged and assisted to bring collaborators to the field sites. At a minimum, such visits would improve the collaborators' understanding of the biology under study. Such visits might also lead to increased involvement of the col- laborators (or their students) in field work. Offer supportfor postdoctoralfellows. A federally funded fellowship program for postdoctoral researchers could facilitate the entry of new investigators into polar research. This program is currently under design at the National Science Foundation. Offer support to new investigators. NSF has an existing program that offers support for new investigators in polar science. Local Communities in the Arctic Region Serve, engage, and respect indigenous communities. In the case of Arctic science, educational and outreach activities must target the indigenous communities that are part of the ecosystem that is being studied. This goal can be reached via specially funded programs for teachers and students in the north, but it can also be facilitated through regular research awards. When a federally-supported research team enters the Arctic to undertake

OCR for page 119
AN INTEGRATED POLAR BIOLOGY COMMUNITY 127 research, one of their responsibilities should include a visit to the local community leaders, and schools where possible, to explain the goals of the funded research and engage in dialogue about the science and meth- odologies involved. For example, when icebreakers enter coastal waters, arrangements could be made for local residents, especially school chil- dren, to visit the ship for an afternoon and witness the ongoing work. This approach has been taken in recent years by the Canadian Coast Guard icebreakers (to the mutual benefits of villagers and scientists) when a research project brings the ship near a local village. For smaller scale projects, individual research budgets could include funds to return to the local community at the end of the study and explain in person how the results may be of interest or importance to local residents. Encouraging local communities to contribute to research activities. This seems a sound approach for communicating what science is being con- ducted and why, and for facilitating the research. For example, engaging knowledgeable residents or talented students in long-term monitoring efforts may prove essential to evaluating the effects of environmental changes on various aspects of arctic biology. In some cases, the research may target local residents themselves as members of the ecosystem under study. As the environmental side of polar genomics develops more fully as we are better positioned to evaluate metabolic expressions in situ with genetic information and tools key issues will also include human residents as top predators. To the extent that local communities continue to depend upon local food sources for their sustenance, the bio- accumulation of contaminants will remain a serious human health problem. If climate warming brings new pathogens to the region, micro- bial genomics will become a critical tool for charting potential solutions. Partnerships between polar genomic sciences and the health and social sciences will increase. Respecting local culture and customs of indigenous communities. Asking local communities for input about research questions and incorporating native knowledge of polar biology can bring surprising rewards scientifi- cally and socially, as documented by Krupnick and folly (2002~. Respect- ing local culture and customs can open the door to sharing scientists' excitement about local biological issues among secondary school chil- dren, which may in turn facilitate entry of some of these students into research or related careers where they currently are underrepresented. Sensitivity to local knowledge and customs of indigenous communities may be a prerequisite to orchestrating some of the long-term monitoring programs discussed earlier and is certainly essential to conducting research that includes the resident as a member of the Arctic ecosystem under study.