A goal of the Tribal Colleges and Universities Program (TCUP) is to increase the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) instructional and research capacities of specific institutions of higher education that serve the Nation's indigenous students. Expanding the research capacity at these institutions expands the opportunities for students to pursue challenging, rewarding careers in STEM fields, provides for research studies in areas that may be locally relevant, and encourages a faculty community to look beyond the traditional classroom for intellectual and professional growth. This project aligns directly with that goal, and moreover will increase the body of knowledge on the impact of a warming environment on arctic microorganisms.
Ilisagvik College is the only U.S. college located in the Arctic at this time, which provides an advantageous location to collect data on microbial changes. Ilisagvik College will use DNA and RNA extractions from soil samples to test the hypothesis that temperature changes in the Arctic that affect microorganisms is followed by changes in arctic vegetation, which will ultimately affect arctic animals and the subsistence lifestyle of people in the Arctic. Undergraduate students will participate in fieldwork and sample collection, learn about genomics and gene sequencing, soil measurement techniques, and data analysis. In addition, students will experience communicating science at scientific conferences. There will be pre-college programming including presentations by the undergraduate researchers and summer camps on microbiology, where secondary students can learn about STEM careers and become involved with place-based research on topics that may affect their lives.