Concord University and Montana State University operate an NSF Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) site that involves eight students each year in an international geologic field experience in Sisimiut and Kangerlussuaq, Greenland. Students will spend three weeks at a field site on the west coast of Greenland while mapping geologic structures and studying environmental change in the newly established Aasivissuit – Nipisat UNESCO World Heritage site. This unique location will allow the students to learn important field and sampling skills, contribute to an improved understanding of this important location, and make connections with the local communities. Travel expenses to the program and logistic support for fieldwork in Greenland will be provided. Students will receive stipends to support their work while in the field and while completing final analysis, reporting and preparation of publications at their home institutions.
What Will You Learn?
Students will be partners in field-based research problems in structural geology and environmental change and learn a wide variety of technical and research skills. As part of a research cohort, you will also receive career and graduate school mentoring. You will work with the two REU Directors, a graduate assistant, several guest speakers, and a personal research mentor.
Career and Graduate School Mentoring
The REU will include sessions on how to prepare a résumé and curriculum vitae, how to undertake an effective job search in the geosciences, and how to select and apply to graduate programs. You will also learn how to develop strategies for success, develop healthy work and life habits, and set realistic goals.
Technical and Research Skills
As part of the science, you will conduct geologic research using current and emergent technology, including the use of iPads to measure and record data using the Strabo Spot digital data system. Because of the remote location, high-resolution basemaps and air photos of the field sites do not exist. The REU cohort will acquire aerial imagery using a UAV/drone and use photogrammetry to process the images and create SfM (structure from motion) models to use as geologic basemaps. Under the guidance of the REU mentors, students will author, prepare, and present a poster or oral presentation of their research at a geologic conference in the fall following field work. This will likely be at September or October Geological Society of America meetings at Anaheim, CA (2024), San Antonio, TX (2025), and Denver, CO (2026). However, we may go to the December American Geophysical Union conference if it better suits our schedule (Washington, DC, 2024; New Orleans, 2025; San Francisco, 2026).
Field Safety and Expedition Science Training
Safety is paramount. You will receive training on field safety in remote environments, how to engage in complex logistical planning, and how to plan for and safely manage international travel. Although the field site is remote, there is a hospital in Sisimiut which is 1-2 hours away by boat, and we are in contact with outfitters and a dedicated logistical support team who can help with emergency transportation by sea or air.
Greenlandic Culture and Geologic History
The field site is in the newly designated Aasivissuit – Nipisat UNESCO World Heritage Site, an ancient Inuit hunting ground between ice and sea. Participants will have the opportunity to learn about ancient and modern cultures of Greenland from guest speakers and through interaction with students and researchers in Greenland. You will also learn about the long geologic history of Greenland, which stretches from some of the oldest Archean rocks and records of life on Earth, to Quaternary glaciation and a Holocene record of recent climate change.
Location and Climate
The field site is located just north of the Polar Circle. Sisimiut is the second largest population center in Greenland with ~5600 residents. In July and early August, daytime temperatures are in the lower 40s F to lower 50s with lows in the upper 30s to lower 40s. It can be brilliant and sunny, or fogged in and overcast. As we will be working on islands along the coast of the Davis Strait, the afternoon winds and 37˚ F water will keep the climate on the cooler side. The solstice midnight sun will barely dip below the northern horizon by late July, and the bright civil twilight will provide enough light enough to read in your tent all night. The area is not frequented by polar bears or other dangerous wildlife. Mosquitos exist.
Accessibility and the Nature of Field Work
This is a field-based REU which demands outdoor activity and camping. If you have a disability and require accommodation, we would like to work with you to make participation possible. We provide a place to state your needs on the application form.
How much physical activity? (modest)
We camp near the field sites, and we will hike about 2-5 miles/day on tundra. Although distance is limited, walking across irregular tundra can be strenuous. The most demanding activity will be getting on and off a landing boat which requires climbing across the bow onto or from very slick, seaweed-covered rocks. Poor weather can make this more challenging.
How primitive is the camping? (very)
While camping, there are no showers or facilities other than an outhouse tent we will set up for privacy. Some routine work is non-glamorous: we have to manage and pack our bagged outhouse waste ourselves.
Drinking and cooking water will be filtered from nearby freshwater ponds. We will cook our own meals on small camp stoves and food diversity may be limited, although we can accommodate most special diets. Field dinners are usually dehydrated backpack meals.
We will return to town approximately weekly for supplies, battery charging, laundry, and showers. Communication is limited to daily group satellite phone and satellite text messages with NSF's basecamp at Kangerlussuaq while camped at the field sites. Friends and family will be informed of our activities, progress, and health via a daily group email from Concord University. Limited bandwidth wifi access is available during our in-town breaks.
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Statement and Conduct Policy
The REU participants and leaders will create a cooperative, inclusive environment free of any form of harassment, bullying, or discrimination with respect to gender, age, sexual orientation, race, national origin, disabilities, religion, atheism, politics, financial means, educational background, the shape of your body, or other innate or chosen differences.
As part of an NSF-supported Arctic Research field site, professional conduct is mandatory during work and non-work hours. We maintain a zero tolerance policy for sexual harassment or general harassment of any kind. As outlined in the Greenland Guide 2020, participants are required to work cooperatively, treat each other with dignity and respect, follow local or site-specific laws and policies, and contribute to a safe work and living space at all times. The REU Directors will address behavior problems and will remove participants engaged in unacceptable behavior, including harassment, alcohol abuse, unsafe behaviors, or failure to follow site-specific or ad hoc policies and procedures.
Additional information on NSF's harassment policy is outlined in the Greenland Guide 2020 issued to participants, and at NSF. We will read and discuss these policies together and our culture will foster an expectation of bystander awareness and intervention. Clear notification pathways will be provided to all participants. The field is a safe public workplace, just like an office, classroom, or laboratory.