Julie Brigham-Grette's research team pose for a photo in a small boat off Svalbard, a Norwegian archipelago in the Arctic Ocean

Watch: Julie Brigham-Grette Leads Oceanographic Climate Studies in Svalbard, Norway

Julie Brigham-Grette, professor of Earth, geographic and climate sciences at UMass Amherst, is an internationally renowned expert on climate evolution in the Arctic. Since 1991, she has participated in nearly a dozen field expeditions to remote regions of Arctic Russia.

Her most recent trip, to Svalbard, a Norwegian archipelago in the Arctic Ocean, included her research assistant Xander Kirshen ‘22, doctoral candidate Kelly McKeon ‘21 and Mark Goldner, a teacher at Heath Middle School in Brookline, and is documented in this video.

The research project, supported by a grant from the National Geographic Society, is recording the devastating impact of warming Atlantic Ocean water on Svalbard. 

“We’re seeing the complete transition of a major ecosystem,” she says. “The warm water was not in the fjords prior to 2005; we had normal sea ice cover.”

Brigham-Grette's research will be shared with other scientists studying the area at other times of year to present a complete picture of the ecological changes. 

“What happens in the Arctic doesn’t stay in the Arctic,” she says. “What’s happening at the higher latitudes will in fact impact the entire globe.”

More information on Brigham-Grette’s research can be found on her website.

Lake El’gygytgyn

Research led by UMass Amherst scientists including Brigham-Grette and published in March 2022 in the journal Climate of the Past, was the first to provide a continuous look at a shift in climate, called the Mid-Pleistocene Transition, that has puzzled scientists.