Robert Max Holmes, Ph. D.
Woods Hole Research Center
"The Carbon Balance of the Terrestrial Arctic: Permafrost, Fire, and the Role of Rivers"
With its vast stores of ancient organic matter, the fate of permafrost in the Arctic is a critical but underappreciated element in the future trajectory of Earth’s climate system. This presentation will explore the potential magnitude of carbon loss from thawing permafrost, and consider the possible impacts of wildfire on the fate of carbon in the Arctic. The role of changing river discharge and chemistry on the terrestrial carbon balance of the Arctic will also be addressed. The presentation will be pan-arctic in scale, reflecting the fact that the vast majority of the Arctic landmass is outside of the United States. It will also feature discussion of the Polaris Project (thepolarisproject.org), which for the past eight years has engaged undergraduate students and others in global change research in the Siberian and Alaskan Arctic.
About Dr. Holmes...
Dr. Holmes initiated and led the Arctic Great Rivers Observatory project, studying the Arctic’s six largest rivers (Ob’, Yenisey, Lena, and Kolyma in Siberia; Yukon and Mackenzie in North America). This project assesses the impact of a changing climate on hydrology and biogeochemistry of the pan-Arctic watershed, including the fluxes of nutrients and organic matter to Arctic ocean. Dr. Holmes' recent focus is in that fate of the vast quantities of carbon currently locked in Arctic permafrost that might be released to the atmosphere as permafrost thaws, exacerbating global warming.
Committed to engaging students in Arctic research, Dr. Holmes leads teams of students to the Arctic tundra each summer through the Polaris Project. After seven years of expeditions to the Northeast Science Station in Cherskii, Russia, the Polaris team spent this past summer conducting research on the Yukon Kuskokwim Delta in Alaska.