Expedition Science

What is science? It’s not just a class at school, or a choice of major in college. It is a process of understanding the world around you. Applying this process of science to the subject of the Earth’s climate, think about it like this:

What do we observe?
…accelerated polar ice melting… increasing temperatures globally… increasing acidity of the ocean…

How do we study these effects?
…networks of remote ocean chemical sensors… satellite data… launching radiosondes into the atmosphere…

How does this impact us?
…sea level rise… potential extreme weather patterns… loss of animal and plant habitats

What can we do to help the Earth’s climate?
…”greener” technologies… renewable energies… personal choices like reduce, reuse, recycle

On this expedition, we will put this process into action every day, and you can follow along with us on the blog, and maybe even start to wonder about what you see around you.


Nansen and Amundsen Basin Observational System
Map of Expedition
Click to learn more about what this map means!


Here are some of the major fields of study that we will be exploring on our expedition. Like many areas of science, there are distinctions, but also a lot of overlap. So to understand “the big picture,” many people with different backgrounds and skills will be needed – because each person contributes their own piece of the puzzle.


The five warmest years over the last century occurred in the last eight years… adding CO2 to the air is like throwing another blanket on the bed. - Dr. James Hansen, Scientist, NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, and Professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Columbia University’s Earth Institute


Climatology is a branch of the atmospheric sciences that is also closely related to oceanography, biogeochemistry, and other areas of the Earth sciences. It attempts to describe climate and analyze the causes and effects of climatic changes and their practical consequences. It is concerned with variables such as temperature, moisture, atmospheric pressure, ocean circulation, and wind speed, as well as a detailed examination of the relationships between these variables.


Physical Oceanography

“Our planet is invested with two great oceans; one visible, the other invisible; one underfoot, the other overhead; one entirely envelopes it, the other covers about two thirds of its surface.” – Matthew Maury, Oceanographer, 1855


Physical oceanography is the study of the evolving patterns of ocean circulation, fluid motion, and other characteristics like temperature, salinity and chemical composition. Researchers study the ocean at scales from centimeters to thousands of kilometers, which helps us understand microturbulence to global circulation. Scientists use a combination of theory, observation, and computer simulations, and take into account dynamics of global climate and human use of coastal regions.


Atmospheric Science

In fact, the thickness of the Earth’s atmosphere, compared with the size of the Earth, is in about the same ratio as the thickness of a coat of shellac on a schoolroom globe is to the diameter of the globe. That’s the air that nurtures us and almost all other life on Earth… Now that atmosphere, so thin and fragile, is under assault by our technology. - Carl Sagan


Atmospheric science encompasses a wide range of disciplines, including clouds, climate change, satellite remote sensing, radar meteorology. Researchers do everything from tracking ozone recovery and quantifying pollutants such as aerosols, ozone, and carbon monoxide, to developing state-of-the-art atmospheric models.  This work incorporates direct observation and instrument use, lab study, and computer modeling teams – as well collaboration between these teams, to improve understandings of our atmospheric conditions.



Earth Systems (ESS2):
Middle School (grades 6 – 8)
High School (grades 9 – 12)

Earth and Human Activity (ESS3)
Middle School (grades 6 – 8)
High School (grades 9 – 12)

Ecosystems: Interactions, Energy, and Dynamics (LS2)
Middle School (grades 6 – 8)
High School (grades 9 – 12)

Engineering Design
Middle School (grades 6 – 8)
High School (grades 9 – 12)


Meet the Science Standard
(Florida Next Generation Science Standard, that is, for middle and high school grades)
The scientific theory of the evolution of Earth states that changes in our planet are driven by the flow of energy and the cycling of matter through dynamic interactions among the atmosphere, hydrosphere, cryosphere, geosphere, and biosphere, and the resources used to sustain human civilization on Earth.


Post your question or comment below, and I will reply!

60 Responses to Expedition Science

  1. Twanisha Terry says:

    Is global warming negatively impacting the species in the waters off of the Arctic? Student Of L.E.O.M.H.S

    • lindsay says:

      Hi Twanisha, that is a big question. What we do know is that the chemistry of the oceans in general is changing because, for example, excess carbon dioxide in the atmosphere being absorbed into the ocean. As the ocean becomes more acidic, marine animals, especially ones with shells, will be more affected. But scientists are still researching all the effects of increasing temperatures too. Thanks for the question, and please tell Ms. Gilbert that all of you asked such great questions, and I hope you all continue to follow along and enjoy the adventure!

  2. Ashley Vega says:

    Hello Lindsay, I am a student of Ms.Gilbert at L.E.O.M.H.S My question for you is How has your diet changed while in the Arctic?

    • lindsay says:

      Dear Ashley, they feed us really well on the ship. We get 3 prepared meals a day (mainly soup, bread, meat, and pasta or potatoes), plus a snack. They also allocate us 1.5 liters of water a day.

  3. Trinity Carmichael says:

    Are there any tricks you have to help you keep warm in the frigid temperatures of The Arctic? Student of Ms.Gilbert at L.E.O.M.H.S

    • lindsay says:

      Hi Trinity, the trick to dressing in the Arctic is layers. You wear a base layer shirt, a thick shirt or jacket like a fleece over that, then a big jacket or parka that is rated to withstand water, wind, and cold. Then boots, hats, gloves, scarves, pants (also in layers sometimes). But the ship is heated, so you have to take off a few layers inside! P.S. The Sun is up ALL the time (it’s summer here now too), so another important thing is sunscreen!

  4. zaira largaespada says:

    Hello my name is Zaira i’m in Ms.Gilbert class in LEOMHS I wanted to ask you a question.

    What happen if someone gets severley injured or sick on the expedition?

    • lindsay says:

      Hi Zaira, there is a clinic onboard the ship, so if you got sick, there is a doctor (you would have to take someone with you who speaks Russian though, because the doctor only speaks Russian.) If it was a medical emergency, I’m not certain, but depending on the life-threatening nature of the case, and depending on your location, the ship could head toward land or maybe see if another ship was nearby who could help, or if you were near enough to land, a helicopter could come and land on the ship. But let’s hope we don’t have to deal with anything like that.

  5. Derlin says:

    Hello Lindsay I am a student at LEOMHS and was wondering what has been your favorite and least favorite part about this arctic expedition? Thank you!

    • lindsay says:

      Hi Derlin, it’s hard to pick my favorite thing, because there is too much! I love that I get to see and appreciate a place that very few people get to see, and I love that I get to share with you and the public to help everyone learn about it. My least favorite part is harder to pick, because I’m not sure what it is!

      • Derlin says:

        Thank you so much for your feedback Lindsay. Your blog is really great and thanks for taking the time to respond.

        • lindsay says:

          Dear Derlin, thank you so much for the note. I really appreciate it, because I’m trying hard to answer everyone, and I’m glad that people are enjoying it, because I am!

          • Derlin says:

            Hey Lindsay! Studying so many different variables and their effects must be a difficult task. Which instruments are most commonly used? Also what has changed the most since the beginning of the exploration?

          • lindsay says:

            Hey Derlin! Nowadays, when scientists need to figure out something that has a lot of variables involved, the biggest tools you use are a computer and your brain. For example, some of the scientists here are working on computer models to figure out all of the causes and effects related to climate. The problem is, there are a lot of causes, and a lot of effects, and they are all connected! Like, trying to predict the levels of sea ice for a given year, you need to know about atmospheric conditions (but that is already several variables – wind, humidity, storms, time of year, temperature), and ocean conditions (currents, saltiness, temperature), and even sea ice itself (what were the levels like last year, how did ice levels respond to certain atmospheric and oceanic conditions? You brain can get overwhelmed quickly, but you have to know how to input all these variables, and it may take even a computer hours or days to run a simple model. But you still need to first hand observations as well, which is why we’re here now! I’d say the main way exploration has changed is technology – using things like moorings and CTDs to take direct measurements of the deep ocean, satellites to monitor global conditions, all of this helps in exploring the Arctic.

  6. Jonathan Rodriguez says:

    Hi Lindsay, I’m in an honor physics class and I would like to know how concepts of physics were used on your ship? Did you have to make any calculations using your equipment? Did you have to account for wind resistance or anything?

    • lindsay says:

      Dear Jonathan, yes, physics is everywhere (literally) on the ship. When we deploy instruments into the water, we need to think about things like pulleys, weight, tension in the cables, wind, and water current . For experiments, we have to calculate temperature, pressure, and salt content for different depths in the ocean, and then send signals to the devices to take samples of water at those depths. When we put buoys on the ice, they use sonar to send signals from below the ice, to measure the ice thickness. And when we look at ice (which is a good measure of the climate in many ways), we can see layers and colors, which have to do with light and optics and also where and when the ice formed. Then of course there is putting all of that information into models to analyze the data. Check the blog in the next day or so and you’ll see a physics challenge for everyone.

      • Jonathan Rodriguez says:

        Thank you very much more the response, I look foreword to hearing more about your trip.
        Another question (not so science related); what’s it like sharing a space with people for that long? Do you ever get time for some peace and quite around the busy ship?

        • lindsay says:

          Hi Jonathan, I’m glad that you’re still following along! You are very correct, the ship is a busy place, with the scientists running their experiments, and the summer school students working on their projects, meals, laundry, presentations from scientists and students and me – all of that is a lot of work, but it’s so exciting to be here, that I think no one minds. I was given my own cabin, so I have a place to go if I need a few minutes peace and quiet. (But I’m so busy that hardly happens anyway!) Other people though, have to share a cabin with a roommate, but everyone seems to be getting along well!

          • Jonathan Rodriguez says:

            That’s great to hear!
            Another question; I really love chemistry and I am really curious as to how it is used on the ship? Do you have a teams of chemists analyzing samples of ice or anything? I’d love to know more about this.

          • lindsay says:

            Lindsay says:
            September 16, 2013 at 8:59 pm (Edit)
            Hi Jonathan, you would love it here, because chemistry is one of the main areas of experiments on the ship! There is a lab onboard with chemists and biologists and other scientists in it, day and night (because different people work day and night shifts, so every minute is covered). One amazing operation that we have done over 70 times since being on the cruise is called a CTD cast. If you didn’t read about it on the blog (you can search the blog for “CTD” to read more and see pictures), here’s the basics: CTD stands for conductivity, temperature, and depth. It has is made up of several instruments that can measure the temperature, salinity, and pressure of water at different depths, as well as current. It also has grey bottles that take water samples at several depths. We send all of these instruments down together on a cable, nearly to the bottom. In some cases, we have gone down 3,800meters! On the way back up, each grey bottle snaps shut at a different depth, taking a water sample. When it re-surfaces, the scientists take the samples, and measure for dissolved oxygen levels, nitrates, phytoplankton growth, salinity, and more. Since we have done this so many times around the ocean, they can find out about how all of these things affect the ocean on a large scale. Cool, right?!

    • Jonathan Rodriguez says:

      Wow that is really awesome! So what kind of conclusions have you guys come up with from these water examinations? Also, does any individual on board set up and execute their own tests and experiments or are all the experiments done as a group?

      • lindsay says:

        Hi Jonathan, actually, the answer to your question is actually “both!” When the water samples came up, everyone worked together to gather the samples into bottles prepared by each scientist, or each group of scientists, that wanted to do a specific experiment with the water. That way, everyone had their samples ready to go. So even though people might be running different experiments on the same water, all of those experiments tell you different things about the water. So they all will work together after they get home, to share their results!

  7. Manuela Ruiz says:

    What kind of material do you use for measuring the hight of the snow speed falling ?

    • lindsay says:

      Hi Manuela, I think you are asking how we measure how fast snow accumulates, so for that, we have something on one of the buoys that we set out on the ice called an acoustic depth profiler, that is at the surface. It sends out a sound signal which bounces back off the surface of the snow. Since we know the speed of the sound wave and how long it takes to bounce back, we can find how high the snow is from minute to minute.

  8. Leonardo Maya says:

    Hi Lindsay! I am a student of Ms. Gilbert’s class, at Law Enforcement Officers Memorial High School. I was wondering, have there been any noticeable adaptations the wildlife in the area has acquired, and why has it become adapted in such a way?

    • lindsay says:

      Dear Leonardo, well the problem is that animals here have not been able to adapt to the relatively quick changes that are happening with the climate. For example, in the last few decades, the amount of Arctic sea ice has decreased, and last year was a record minimum. For polar bears, they use the ice as hunting grounds to find dinner in the ocean. With less and less ice, they will have a harder and harder time finding food. So I hope that we (individuals and governments) can all make better decisions about the environment, like conserving energy and recycling (which we can do), and making better climate policies, such as regarding greenhouse gas emissions (which governments can do).

      • Leonardo Maya says:

        Thank you for your response Lindsay!
        I would also like to know; if you were to encounter an animal that is in distress, are there any protocols you and the team would take to help the animal? If so, how would you go about reintroducing it into the wild again?

        • lindsay says:

          Hey Leonardo, thanks to you for commenting and writing in great questions! We do not want to interfere with natural processes, so as hard as it may be to witness, if we saw an animal in distress due to natural causes (like if one animal was hunting another), we would not intervene.

          • Leonardo Maya says:

            Hey Lindsay, thank you for replying! What if an animal were to be in distress due to an unnatural cause (such as another ship, if there are any) would you help then? Also, are there any precautions taken by you and the crew to minimize interference with the ecosystem around you?

          • lindsay says:

            Hi Leonardo, yes we definitely have precautions to minimize animal impact – we have people on watch all the time for polar bears (for their safety as well as ours, and also because we all wanted to see them), and we also have radar to tell us the conditions of the ice around us. I am not sure if there is a protocol for the situation you described, because we never saw another ship the entire time we were there. Also, if the ship is moving through ice, it is moving very slowly, and the animals (either on ice or in the water) would avoid us and keep their distance, so you don’t have to worry about the ships harming them.

  9. Manuela Ruiz says:

    Hey Lindsay ! it’s me again, I’m a student of Ms. Gilbert’s class, at Law Enforcement Officers Memorial High School. I have another question for you, from the warm climate in miami how did you adapt to the cold arctic winter?

    • lindsay says:

      Hi Manuela, actually, this is not Arctic winter, this is Arctic summer! :) So the freezing temperatures we have now (mostly around freezing or a little below) are actually the warmest it gets here all year! I have always been a fan of cold weather, so as much as I love Miami, it’s nice for me to be in cold weather for a while. We do need to be safe though, and wear lots of layers (pants, shirts, socks), along with heavy jackets, scarves, boots, and gloves though.

  10. Grethel Calero says:

    Hi Lindsay ,do you think you could of survived most of this expedition by yourself without the rest of your crew?

    • lindsay says:

      Hi Grethel, it’s funny, I never even thought about doing that, because I could all but guarantee it’s impossible. If ever there was a time or place that you need a team effort, it’s on a ship in the Arctic! There are about 60 scientists and students onboard, and about 70 crew, and everyone has a purpose. I have been learning how the ship work and how the science experiments and instruments work, but I could never do it by myself – no could actually! :)

  11. Ernesto Almeida says:

    Dear Linsday:
    I have heard that due to the melting of ice in the arctic there are many animals that have been dying and drowning have you noticed that personally at any point.

    • lindsay says:

      Dear Ernesto, sadly it’s true that the melting of the sea ice has affected some of the larger animals of the Arctic, like walruses, seals, and polar bears. Polar bears need the sea ice, in large part because they use the ice to hunt for food in the ocean. Without the sea ice, they will be less able to find food. And they will also have a harder time being able to swim the long distances between ice floes as well. So there are a lot of sad consequences for polar bears without sea ice.

      • Ernesto Almeida says:

        Dear Lindsay,
        Well in our capability can we help out in the arctic or help the polar bears in any kind of way.

        • lindsay says:

          Hi Ernesto, our capability to help the climate and the polar bears comes on an individual level and a societal/governmental level I think. And a lot of it involves becoming educated about what is actually going on in the climate, and the making smart decisions. And whenever possible, trying to broaden the effects of those decisions by talking to our families, teachers, schools, and even elected officials so that more people make better, more informed decisions. Scientists are out here studying the environment, and I’m learning about it to share it with all of you. Truly, even seemingly “small” changes like recycling or conserving energy in your house or school can add up to a big difference.

  12. Xander Morejon says:

    Hi Lindsay, I wanted to know how much time it would take to figure out how much time it would take for temperatures to change in the arctic?

    • lindsay says:

      Hi Xander, if you’re referring to figuring out the time frame of the Arctic temperature changing by using a model, it depends on the method and model you’re using and how your model defines “change” (like how much does the temperature need to change for it to be considered a significant change). This is a good question, and maybe more complex than you might have thought!

  13. Xander Morejon says:

    Oh i forgot, i also wanted to ask what are the requirements for your line of work?

    • lindsay says:

      Dear Xander, personally, I have Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in science (physics and astronomy), and in my line of work, which is science education, you most likely would need a Master’s degree in a field related to what you’d be doing. If you are going to go into science as a researcher or a professor (a lot of times people are both), then you would also need a PhD in you field as well.

  14. Jennifer Rivas says:

    Hi Lindsay, I Just Wanted To Know Is the Arctic all ice? How large is the Arctic? & How long have people lived in the Arctic?

    • lindsay says:

      Dear Jennifer, the Arctic is not all ice, and the extent of sea ice depends on the season – as summer becomes winter, the extent of sea ice expands, and as winter becomes summer, the amount of sea ice shrinks as it melts. But the overall annual amount of sea ice has been for the most part decreasing over the last few decades, according to satellite images, which is concerning. How large the Arctic is, that is a difficult question, because it depends on the definition of “arctic.” The term actually means more than just the ocean. It technically refers to anywhere with an average annual temperature below 0°C (32°F). By this definition, parts of Canada are actually “arctic!” So even though no one really lives in the Arctic Ocean (except for short times on research ships like this one), people live in places that can be considered “arctic,” like Canada, Siberia, and islands off the northern coasts of North America and Asia.

  15. Manuela Ruiz says:

    Comparing with a sciencetiat we read in class, where she stay is in the Mediterranean Sea, which there the ocean water is more salty and more dense. What’s the water desity of the Arctic ocean water, and is it salty or less saltier?

    • lindsay says:

      Dear Manuela, according to a scientist onboard, Arctic water is colder than the Mediterranean, but the Mediterranean waters are saltier than in the Arctic. Since salt water is denser than fresh water, but cold water is denser than warm water, they are probably similar in density overall. She also mentioned that you can think of being cold yourself – when you’re cold, you don’t move very much, and you try to bundle up and stay close to people. Water molecules are kind of like that too – they stay closer to each other in colder temperatures, and therefore the water is more dense.

  16. Anthony Barreto says:

    Hello Lindsay, i am a student from L.E.O.M.H.S and i had a question for you and your team.what has been the most dangerous part of your expidition? thanks.

    • lindsay says:

      Dear Anthony, the most dangerous part is when anyone gets off the ship and onto the ice. Because whenever this happens, you not only have to be careful of the ice (you have to make sure the ice is thick enough) and weather conditions (fog can come in really quickly), but also of course you always have to be on the lookout for polar bears. They may be adorable, but they can also be very dangerous, and since they are white, and the ice is white, and the sky often cloudy and grey, it’s very important to have someone on watch.

  17. Anthony Barreto says:

    Hello Lindsay,i was wondering how are feeling about the expidition coming to an end

    • lindsay says:

      Hi Anthony, I have mixed feelings about the expedition ending, because I still can’t quite believe I was lucky enough to be here in the first place! I have seen things like Arctic sea ice and swimming polar bears and scientific operations that I never thought I would see first-hand (not to mention the fact that I got to walk on the frozen ocean), that it’s hard to see this end. But I am also looking forward to seeing friends and family again, and having my personal phone and email communication access back again. :)

  18. Grethel Calero says:

    Hi Lindsay , if you had the chance to do this expedition again.. would you? and if yes what would you do differently. :)

    • lindsay says:

      Dear Grethel, I would definitely do something like this again, with zero hesitation! Even though it’s a lot of work, it has been awe-inspiring and I’ve learned so much. But I think the first thing I would remember to do differently next time is to pack better! I packed very well for being outside the ship, with warm clothes and all, but I didn’t pack well enough for all the time I would spend inside the ship, when you want to wear regular clothes – I really miss t-shirts and shorts!

  19. Grethel Calero says:

    At this time in the Arctic, are the polar bears hibernating? or are they awake all the time?

    • lindsay says:

      Hi Grethel, I had to ask one of the scientists, to make sure. Polar bears definitely sleep of course, but I wasn’t sure about the hibernating question. I found out that female polar bears hibernate over several winter months, but only while they are pregnant, but male polar bears do not hibernate at all. Thanks for helping me learn something new too!

  20. Manuela Ruiz says:

    A sciecntist, named Dr.Bower utilizesa device called RAFOS float. Which is a device attached to make the floats “isopyenal,” or density- following, which it helps a specific density as it rises. What do you use to measure for important ocean properties, including pressure, temperature, and dissolved oxygen?

    • lindsay says:

      Hi Manuela, the main instrument we use for that is the CTD (conductivity, temperature, depth), which we lower into the ocean (almost to the bottom), and all the instruments can tell us things like current, salinity, temperature, and even what part of the world that water came from, by its chemical composition. So cool!

  21. Manuela Ruiz says:

    I know your back, but comparing the two climates whats the difference between the wind measurements between the artic and Miami’s hot moist climate?

    • lindsay says:

      Dear Manuela, it’s hard to make a direct comparison with wind, because it can vary by so much in both places, depending on the season and weather conditions. Today for example, winds ranged from between 7 and 12mph in Miami, and in the Arctic, I’m not sure what the extreme was but we actually went through a cyclone with 12 foot waves, so it was pretty windy!

  22. Manuela Ruiz says:

    Another question comparing the Artic Ocean & the Pacific Ocean which is more denser?

    • lindsay says:

      Hi Manuela, density depends on multiple factors in the ocean, like temperature and salinity (salt content). So it depends exactly where and how you are making the comparison. If you are talking about more surface waters, the Arctic is colder than the Pacific (cold water is denser than warm water), but the Pacific is saltier than the Arctic (saltier waters are sender then fresher water).

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