Top of the world: UTEP Group Travels to Arctic for Climate Change Research

From left, Vanessa Lougheed, Ph.D., and the students in her Aquatic Ecology Lab – Christina Hernandez, master’s student in environmental science; Francisco Reyes, who graduated in December with a bachelor’s degree in environmental science; and Christian Andresen, Ph.D. candidate in environmental science and engineering – take a break from their work revisiting historic research sites last sampled in the 1970s. Their goal was to determine how arctic tundra pond environments have changed with climate warming during the past 40 years.

“How many people get to be in the presence of a polar bear, witness the traditions of the arctic indigenous people or see the frozen ground you walk on top of thaw and deteriorate? I remember reading about the arctic tundra, the permafrost, the sea ice and the freezing temperatures when I was a child, but to grow up and have the opportunity to live there and witness such a rapidly changing world is humbling and life changing.”

Francisco Reyes, ’11 (B.S., environmental science)

“With modern scientific studies documenting drastic environmental changes, it is no surprise that the Arctic has been the focus for scientific research in the past few years. I personally have had the opportunity to be a part of some of this research and experience firsthand some of these changes and the effects it has had on the local arctic tundra plant communities in northern Alaska. Being able to live among the native Alaskan communities and learn their culture has also had a tremendous impact on me.”

Sergio Vargas, Ph.D. candidate in environmental science and engineering.