Photo credit: Mark Hebblewhite, University of Montana

Note from leadership:

Since the last newsletter this past summer, the progress of ABoVE has continued to march forward.  Much of this is due to the maturation and, in many cases, completion of Phase 1 projects while Phase 2 projects either ramp up or expand their ongoing research.  At the time of the last science team meeting in La Jolla last May, there were some 135 peer reviewed publications reported by ABoVE projects.  Since then these numbers have risen to more than 200 publications reported by 107 projects, including 21 ABoVE affiliated projects.  Quite a few of these publications are in top tier journals, including two recent papers in the journal Nature reporting on the loss of legacy carbon from boreal forest soils due to the 2014-15 “megafires” in the Northwest Territories, and a synthesis project reporting on larger than expected pan-Arctic soil respiration outside of the growing season.  The ABoVE Focus Collection of publications in the Environmental Research Letters also continues to grow, with some 44 publications currently in print or forthcoming covering a wide range of research across the study domain. 

ABoVE also continues to broaden its impact via increased sharing of data sets through the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) Distributed Active Archive Center (ORNL DAAC). Currently there are 100 published ABoVE data products stored at the ORNL DAAC, each with a unique DOI number for citation.  These data sets will inform research for years into the future, well beyond the duration of ABoVE (currently set to run through 2025).  We have not yet compiled an impact factor associated with these many journal and data publications, partly because most are so recent, but we will begin tracking in the near future.  This is yet another reason to properly acknowledge NASA ABoVE support in your relevant publications and to report those publications on the ABoVE website for your specific project(s). 

Much of this progress, and more, is reported in regular tag-ups of the Working Groups Leads, and a good bit of it was also presented at the Fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union in San Francisco last December.  ABoVE teamed with Polaris (NSF) and others to convene the largest set of sessions within the Biogeosciences section. The sessions, which were entitled The Resilience and Vulnerability of Arctic and Boreal Ecosystems to Climate Change contained 40 presentations across 6 oral sessions as well as another 15 eLightning talks and 38 poster presentations, many by members of the ABoVE Science Team.  It was a lively exchange of ideas and progress updates that will undoubtedly stimulate further collaboration, coordination and advancements of multi-disciplinary synthesis activities under the umbrella of ABoVE research and applications. Research highlights from ABoVE were also presented on the Hyperwall at the NASA booth in the Exhibition Hall.

Peter Griffith presenting on the Hyperwall at AGU 2019.
Photo credit: Genevieve de Messieres, NASA GSFC

We are also working in collaboration with the Yukon Government to plan a meeting in Whitehorse this spring.  One of the goals for this meeting will be to discuss opportunities for both ABoVE researchers and others to use the airborne data collected in the region, learn about activities from Canadian and Indigenous partners, and explore areas for possible future collaborations.  If you are interested in participating, please contact Libby (

The 6th meeting of the ABoVE Science Team (ASTM6) will be held in Fairbanks, Alaska from May 11th-14th, 2020 followed by a 1.5-day meeting being coordinated by the Alaska Fire Science Consortium (AFSC). The AFSC workshop is being designed to facilitate direct interaction of ABoVE scientists with resource managers in the domain.  Planning for ASTM6 and the AFSC workshop are underway and organizing committees have been formed for both.  If you are interested in participating in either, or even if you have suggestions but don’t necessarily want to participate in the committees, please let the ABoVE leadership or other members of the organizing committee know. This includes possible field trips to research sites and facilities.  Details on both meetings will be forthcoming over the next few months but mark your calendars now to avoid conflicts.

 We hope each currently-funded project will be represented by one or two members. Additionally, we ask that you identify the names of stakeholders who may be interested in participating in joint refinement of data products arising from research to inform management efforts. The organizing committee with consider these and extend invitations as space permits.  

There will also be a special ABoVE session at the Canadian Symposium on Remote Sensing, Yellowknife, July 13-17 2020. We encourage ABoVE team members, especially those whose research addresses the Canadian portions of the ABoVE domain, to participate.

We look forward to seeing you in Fairbanks in May, if not sooner!

Scott, Chip, Peter, Libby, Liz, Mike, and Hank

Fieldwork Report
Go Iwahana

A team of students and researchers from University of Alaska Fairbanks conducted the last field campaign during the second half of August 2019  for the project “Quantification of Thermokarst and Carbon Release in Ice-Rich Permafrost Regions (PI: Go Iwahana),” a NASA ABoVE phase one project. The target area around the Dalton highway and the Anaktuvuk River Fire on the North Slope, about 70 miles north of the Toolik Field Station (TFS), Alaska, had experienced miserable cold weather with dense fog and sleet most of our field days. Despite the harsh flight conditions, our helicopter pilot found windows for our necessary shuttles to the survey sites, and the GIS support team of TFS successfully flew over our research area by UAV with multispectral sensors. In the results of our three-year field-oriented project, we obtained precise measurements of ground surface displacement due to both seasonal frozen ground dynamics and thermokarst development at various tundra landscapes underlain by highly ice-rich permafrost. The data will serve as a ground validation for airborne (UAVSAR, AirMOSS) and satellite SAR Interferometry measurements of permafrost terrains, where we foresee an intense and irreversible land deformation in the near future under the projected warmer climate.

Student assistants walking back to the camp in the tundra.

TSF GIS support team is flying a survey drone.

Iwahana (TE 2016) Project Profile

Fieldwork Report
Katey Walter Anthony

The goal of the field trip was to ground truth methane megaseeps that we thought we were detecting using satellite imagery. In September, Peter Anthony and I traveled with a guide from Ukpeaġvik Iñupiat Corporation (UIC) to Sukok Lake using snow machines. There was no snow, so it was a challenge, but we made it. We camped on the soggy shore and used a small boat and motor to travel several miles across the lake to the targeted site. There we found bubbling gas seeps. They fell along a straight line, indicating the potential for a fault. We collected samples using submerged bubble traps (bottom right photo). I expect the gas will show thermogenic CH4 as the other seeps in Sukok Lake do.



Miller (TE 2016) Project Profile

Fieldwork Report
Kathleen Orndahl

Northern Arizona University (NAU) PhD student Kathleen Orndahl (along with a small army of collaborators and assistants) spent her summer in Alaska and the Yukon conducting field work in the range of the Porcupine Caribou Herd. This work is supported by NASA ABoVE projects “Mapping and modeling attributes of an arctic-boreal biome shift” (PI: Goetz, Phase 1 and 2) and is coordinated with other ABoVE projects including “Animals on the move” (PI: Boleman) and “Fortymile caribou herd habitat relationships” (PI: Hebblewhite). By the numbers, we visited 33 sites across remote stretches of the Canadian Arctic and the Fortymile region in Alaska and the Yukon. The crew returned to Arizona with 304 gigabytes of drone imagery, over 1,500 liters of harvested vegetation biomass, and plant cover and height data from 330 quadrats. Sometimes, however, the numbers fall short. Our team actually created an extensive database of plant biomass harvest data across a range of arctic ecosystems: from scarce spruce woodland, to cottongrass tundra, to semi-barren ridgelines. This database will form the backbone of Orndahl’s PhD work. Biomass data are tedious to collect (particularly in the High Arctic) so these data will be a significant contribution to a relatively sparse existing database. We advanced new techniques to use drones to estimate plant cover and, importantly, biomass in areas that are hard to access. The crew also took the first steps towards understanding, specifically, how caribou impact vegetation and how this might in turn impact caribou populations and inform management and conservation strategies.

Equally important, we connected with people. This work would not have been possible without collaborators from organizations and communities all over the Arctic: the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Environment Yukon, Parks Canada, the Gwich’iin Renewable Resources Board, the Canadian North Slope Wilderness Management Advisory Council and community members from the Inuvialuit and Gwich’iin towns of Aklavik and Fort McPherson. The organization names help provide context, but most important are the actual humans that helped along the way: providing logistical support, field help, advice, and sometimes just a laugh over dinner at camp.

Katie (left) and Rachel (right) carefully recording vegetation species, cover, and height on line transects. Photo credit: Aerin Jacob

Using an iPad, Katie (left) and Rachel (right) monitor the drone as it completes its flight in a cottongrass tundra. Photo credit: Aerin Jacob

Goetz (TE 2018) Project Profile

Sites and Products for ABoVE – please update!

In order to plan a coordinated campaign, ABoVE investigators have asked to know where and when each other are working, and what data products are being created and archived. There are tools on the ABoVE website (and tool tutorials) so that investigators can update their information. See an overview of the ABoVE data workflow here.

Update Your Sites and Measurements! 
ABoVE investigators who conducted fieldwork this summer should update their data collection events using the ABoVE Sites and Measurements Tool. View our video tutorial.

Update Your Data Products! 
ABoVE investigators should use the ABoVE Project Profile Update Tool to create metadata records describing planned data products for publication, integration, synthesis, and modeling. View our video tutorial. There are currently 275 products listed in our database (

Archive Your Data! 
Archiving (and thus publishing) data is an essential part of science team membership (see ABoVE Data Policy). All data products created with NASA funding will be archived at a NASA archive center (e.g. ORNL DAAC). When you submit data, ORNL DAAC staff will perform quality checks on the data, write documentation, and assign a permanent DOI and citation to your data, allowing you to track its re-use. A guide to publishing data is available, as is information on Best Practices for Data Management. Start your submission to the ORNL DAAC today.

Data Usage
Published ABoVE data archived at ORNL DAAC have been accessed a total of 15,281 times by a total of 4329 unique users (identified by IP address) since January 2015. A total of 100 field, airborne, and modeled data products from ABoVE research are now available from the ORNL DAAC. Browse ABoVE data at the ORNL DAAC. As a reminder, the LVIS data collected for ABoVE are available from NSIDC DAAC and UAVSAR data are archived at the Alaska Satellite Facility.

Currently there are 100 ABoVE data products archived at the ORNL DAAC

Recently-published ABoVE data:

Browse ABoVE data at the ORNL DAAC

See all archived ABoVE data at NASA Data Centers in the Earthdata portal

NASA Stories and Media Coverage

ABoVE has been getting a lot of attention in the Media and NASA's news team. Check out what has been covered!

View NASA Stories

View Media Coverage

New Phase 2 Projects

19 New Phase 2 ABoVE Projects

View Projects

New Publications

50 New Publications in 2019

View Publications

Science Cloud Data

Multiple large data collections available

Go to Data

Data Products

29 New Data Products

View Data Products

ABoVE Jobs

Multiple job openings with ABoVE Projects. If you would like to post a position, email

View Job Openings


View ABoVE Meetings and Events