The FY 2002 Budget Request for
U.S. Polar Programs is $276.57 million, an increase of $3.31 million,
or 1.2 percent, over the FY 2001 Current Plan of $273.26 million.
(Millions of Dollars)
| FY 2000
| FY 2001
| FY 2002
|U.S. Antarctic Logistical Support
|Total, Polar Programs
The U.S. Polar Programs Activity supports most of
the polar research funded by the National Science Foundation. The
Arctic and Antarctic are premier natural laboratories whose extreme
environments and geographically unique processes enable research
not feasible elsewhere. For example, polar ice forms an integral
part of the Antarctic Muon and Neutrino Detector Array, and the
cold, dry environment and high altitude at the South Pole render
certain astrophysical telescopes uniquely effective. These instruments
probe the distant reaches of the universe, while environmental observatories
detect and monitor effects of climate change on extreme terrestrial
and marine ecosystems. Polar researchers are also monitoring and
analyzing recent changes in the Arctic ice cover and the West Antarctic
Ice Sheet to better understand the potential impact of these changes
on global climate change. Other projects supported by Polar Programs
analyze the chemistry of ice cores as a record of global climate
history; utilize astrophysical observations to determine the evolution
and structure of the universe; examine the effects on marine life
of increased ultraviolet light resulting from ozone depletion; and
elucidate adaptation mechanisms of organisms and ecosystems to harsh
Polar regions also offer unusual opportunities for
environmental research, both because polar ecosystems are so sensitive
to small changes in the environment and because polar regions provide
information about past environmental changes, serving as bellwethers
for potential future change.
Highlights of recent research supported by Polar
Programs include the following:
In the Antarctic, the high-risk, international
Cape Roberts Project yielded impressive results related to the long-term
evolution of the Antarctic climate and ice sheets, marine life,
topography, and tectonics. The recorded Antarctic changes help to
explain some of the puzzling major changes in global climate on
timescales of millions of years.
The mapping of the Arctic Ocean floor using
the NSF-developed Seafloor Characterization and Mapping Pods (SCAMP)
mounted on the nuclear submarine USS Hawkbill is a good example
of using innovative tools and, as a result, developing new databases.
The resulting data sets of high-resolution and narrow-beam bathymetry
as well as chirp sub-bottom profiles will revolutionize Arctic Ocean
modeling, and have driven the development of advanced visualization
techniques and multi-dimensional Geographic Information Systems.
A cooperative program with German investigators
to sample basalts, peridotites and related rocks along 600 km of
the Gakkel Ridge in the central Arctic Ocean. The Gakkel Ridge is
a fundamental component of the Arctic Ocean system. Thirty percent
of the seafloor of the Arctic Ocean has been generated there, but
very little is known about the rock types of the Arctic Ocean crust.
How the mantle below the Arctic Ocean is related to the mantle beneath
the rest of the world and how it may have been influenced by nearby
continents are basic geological questions that can only be answered
by a study such as this one. The polar mantle may be very different
from the equatorial mantle and the Gakkel Ridge is our only opportunity
to sample this part of the earth's interior.
An interesting example of important research
focusing on Life in Extreme Environments is the discovery of bacteria
actively metabolizing at -17°C in snow at the South Pole. This
result indicates that life can exist at lower temperatures than
previously believed. This evidence for the resilience of life exposed
to heavy doses of UV radiation, extreme cold, and darkness has important
implications for the possibility of life elsewhere in the solar
The discovery of viable microbes in Lake
Vostok accretion ice provided the first evidence that Lake Vostok,
a large subglacial lake located 4 km beneath the East Antarctic
Ice Sheet, might support a microbial community.
NSF is one of twelve federal agencies supporting
Arctic research and logistics. The Foundation provides interagency
leadership for research planning as directed by the Arctic Research
Policy Act of 1984. NSF also supports university research to increase
our knowledge of the region, to improve understanding of Arctic
phenomena, and to enhance stewardship of natural resources. Funding
in the Arctic includes research and logistics support for work conducted
in that remote region.
Funding for the Arctic Research Commission, an independent
federal agency, is also included within funding for Polar Programs.
NSF is charged with managing all U.S. activities
in the Antarctic as a single, integrated program. The U.S. Antarctic
Program (USAP) implements national policy to maintain Antarctica
as an area of international cooperation reserved for peaceful purposes,
to preserve and pursue unique opportunities for scientific research
to understand Antarctica and its role in global environmental systems,
to protect the relatively pristine environment and its associated
ecosystems, and to assure the conservation and sustainable management
of the living resources in the surrounding oceans. Funding for the
USAP includes research and the science support directly linked to
research projects, as well as support for the broader operations
and logistics infrastructure that makes it possible to conduct science
on the remote and uninhabited continent.
In FY 2002, Polar Programs will support research
and education efforts related to broad, Foundation-wide priority
areas in Biocomplexity in the Environment, Information Technology
Research and Learning for the 21st Century.
Biocomplexity in the Environment (BE): Funding for
BE in FY 2002 totals $1.41 million. These funds will contribute
to NSF's centralized competition; provide preliminary support for
Study of Environmental Arctic Change (SEARCH), a broad, interdisciplinary
multi-scale program with a core aim of understanding the complex
suite of recent and ongoing environmental changes; and fund initial
efforts related to Antarctic sub-glacial lake characterization and
study at Lake Vostok.
Information Technology Research (ITR): Funding for
ITR in FY 2002 totals $1.09 million. Priorities include continued
development of remote operation capabilities and accessible information
systems for polar data.
Learning for the 21st Century: Funding for this priority
area in FY 2002 totals $1.10 million. Polar Programs support enhances
the partnership between rural college campuses in Alaska and U.S.
research institutes through interactive distance courses, labs,
and workshops. Support is also provided for the Graduate Teaching
Fellows in K-12 Education (GK-12) Program and the Interagency Education
Research Initiative (IERI).
U.S. Polar Programs' support for ongoing and new
activities contributes to NSF efforts to achieve its strategic goals,
as well as to the administration and management activities necessary
to achieve those goals.
(Millions of Dollars)
| FY 2001
| FY 2002
|Administration & Management
Across its programs, OPP will provide support for
more than 2,000 people in FY 2002, including students, researchers,
post-doctorates, and trainees. Support for programs specifically
addressing NSF's strategic goal of "People - Developing a diverse,
internationally competitive and globally-engaged workforce of scientists,
engineers and well-prepared citizens" totals $3.50 million
in FY 2002. Moreover, about 31 percent of the funding for research
grants - approximately $23 million in FY 2002 - provides support
for researchers and students, including about 645 post-doctorate,
graduate, and undergraduate students.
Innovative efforts in Polar Programs include use
of new technologies such as interactive video; efforts to improve
scientific literacy and education in Alaska; and contribution to
development of a geosciences curriculum for undergraduates (GLACIER)
relating geoscience disciplines to polar and global phenomena. Continuing
activities also include support for the Antarctic Artists and Writers
program; Scouting in Antarctica; Live from Antarctica, a project
linking researchers to classrooms; curriculum development activities;
and Teachers Experiencing the Antarctic and Arctic. Polar Programs
also supports the following Foundation-wide programs: Integrative
Graduate Education and Research Training; Model Institutions for
Excellence; ADVANCE, Research Experiences for Undergraduates, and
the GK-12 Fellows Program.
Support that enables discovery across the frontier
of science and engineering, connected to learning, innovation, and
service to society increases by $1.40 million in FY 2002, to a total
of $72.41 million, an increase of 2.0 percent over FY 2001. Only
fundamental research that can be uniquely or best undertaken in
the polar regions is supported. This Arctic and Antarctic research
addresses the solid earth, glacial and sea ice, terrestrial and
marine ecosystems, the oceans, the atmosphere and beyond. Research
on the solid earth is integral to understanding our planet's plate
tectonics, the evolution of life in Earth's distant and recent past,
and the interactions of Earth's crust with the overlying ice sheets.
Glacial and sea ice studies elucidate aspects of biologic productivity
and global climate processes. Marine/terrestrial biota studies examine
systems from extreme environments that are relatively unaffected
by humans - they are therefore ideal for documenting the long-term
effects of human activities. A major focus of ocean studies is the
role of polar regions in generating nutrient-rich, cold currents
that influence global ocean circulation. High latitude magnetic
field and upper atmospheric studies provide unique views of near-earth
space physics. The dry, cold atmosphere at the South Pole, its 9,300
foot elevation and six month continuous night permit astronomical
studies not feasible elsewhere. The search for Antarctic meteorites
enables fundamental advances in knowledge about the origin of our
Support includes $1.42 million for two Long Term
Ecological Research (LTER) sites in Antarctica which are part of
the U.S. LTER network. On the Antarctic Peninsula, the LTER near
Palmer Station focuses on marine research, with field support from
the leased research vessel Laurence M. Gould. At the LTER in the
Dry Valleys near McMurdo Station, researchers study polar desert
oases and permanently ice-covered lakes and their unique microbial
systems. Activities at these sites involve researchers, graduate
students and undergraduates from universities across the United
OPP also provides research and operational support for Toolik Lake
Field Station, a sub-Arctic LTER in Alaska. Toolik Lake Field Station
provides a logistical base for ecosystem studies of Arctic tundra,
lakes and streams. This LTER is supported in cooperation with NSF's
Biological Sciences Activity.
In FY 2002, Polar Programs will attempt to address
Foundation-wide concerns about grant sizes by increasing the average
size and duration of awards. These efforts will contribute to increasing
the efficiency of the Foundation's merit review process and achieve
greater cost-effectiveness for both NSF and the university community.
Research in the polar regions is also supported through
provision of research support, special facilities, and logistics.
A substantial portion of Polar Programs' funding is used for maintaining
Arctic and Antarctic research facilities, stations, and camps, often
requiring long-term commitments. Funding for Tools in FY 2002 totals
$197.31 million, a 0.3 percent increase over FY 2001. Research support
includes costs typically awarded directly to grantees in other areas
of NSF - technicians, field safety equipment, laboratory costs,
transportation of scientists and their cargo, and instrumentation
and equipment - but handled centrally by Polar Programs when it
is more cost efficient to do so. In FY 2002, both the physical infrastructure
and communications will continue to be upgraded. Both scientific
and operational needs for enhanced computing and communications
will be met by equipment upgrades. Remote sensing, data retrieval
and handling, and automated observatories will be developed.
Support for Arctic research, through Polar Programs
and other NSF Activities, includes support for Arctic field stations
and large instrument facilities in Alaska, Greenland, and the Canadian
Logistics resources such as airplanes,
helicopters, and access to icebreakers and field camps are provided
to researchers participating in approximately 130 projects in
remote sites in Alaska, Canada, Greenland, Arctic Scandinavia,
Russia, and the Arctic Ocean.
Toolik Field Station on the Alaskan North
Slope, one of the focal points of U.S. polar terrestrial research,
is operated by the University of Alaska, Fairbanks (UAF). NSF
is working cooperatively with UAF on the operation of Toolik
Field Station to enhance its management and long-term development
of the infrastructure. Scientists from over 50 institutions
work at Toolik annually. In 2002 continued improvements are
expected to be made to the living conditions in the camps, following
last year's improvement to laboratories and communications capabilities.
The Barrow Arctic Science Consortium (BASC)
operates a wide variety of facilities, including laboratories,
workshops, and an airfield from which to operate small research
aircraft and pilotless aerosondes imaging sea-ice and the tundra,
to support up to 40 projects operating in the region. BASC also
manages an Environmental Observatory at Point Barrow, Alaska,
and plays a critical role in linking Arctic science to regional
communities on the North Slope of Alaska.
Automated stations on the North
Slope of Alaska support studies of carbon dioxide and methane
fluxes from the tundra.
Leased facilities at Kangerlussuaq,
on the west coast of Greenland, provide a support hub for research
on the Greenland icecap and the coastal tundra. Leased facilities
at Thule Air Base in northwest Greenland support terrestrial/icecap
field programs in northern Greenland and on the drifting ice
of the Arctic Ocean.
NSF's Summit Field Station on the Greenland icecap operates
as a year-round international site for a variety of atmospheric
and geophysical measurements. NSF is developing partnerships
with the Danish Polar Center and the European Union for continued
operation of the site.
Polar Programs supports Long Term Observations
in the Arctic. For example, a new monitoring site in the central
Bering Strait is being set up on Little Diomede Island to collect
biological, chemical, and physical data on the transport of
nutrient- and organic-rich waters of north Pacific origin into
the Arctic Ocean through this narrow strait. The station will
be operated as a collaboration between the Little Diomede Inuit
community and scientists at major U.S. universities. The station
will be housed in the community and maintained daily by local
technicians trained by the science team.
FY 2002 will be the second year of support
for NSF researchers on the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Healy. Current
plans call for approximately 160 days of ship time. The Healy
has the capability to support a broad range of research, including
physical oceanography, ocean-ice-atmosphere interactions, marine
sediment coring, petrologic biogeochemical surveys, and long-term
observational programs to track environmental change.
The research vessel Alpha Helix, part
of the U.S. Academic Research Fleet, enables oceanographic research
in the northern high latitudes. Primary support comes through
NSF's Ocean Sciences Subactivity, with contributions from Polar
Programs. In addition, other vessels such as the Tiglax, owned
and operated by Alaska's Department of Fish and Wildlife, will
be used to support work along the Aleutian chain.
Following pilot courses in FY 2001, up
to three field safety and first aid courses will be offered
to the science community in an effort to improve individual
field teams' field operations safety.
Additional hand-held global satellite
telephone communications will be provided for individual investigators
working in remote regions. This is particularly important as
there is no centralized programmatic communication and control
system in the Arctic.
In the Antarctic, funds for science support, operations,
and logistics make research possible by providing all the infrastructure,
instrumentation, and logistics necessary for scientists from all
disciplines who travel to Antarctica for their research. This support
includes forward staging facilities in New Zealand and South America,
as well as the home ports or headquarters for the military and civilian
contractors in the United States. Facilities include:
A year-round facility at McMurdo Station
on Ross Island that functions as the logistics hub of the USAP.
It is the southernmost port and the largest of the three Antarctic
permanent stations. Research on glaciology, geology, geochemistry,
geophysics, biological studies, and long term ecological research
is conducted at the Albert P. Crary Science and Engineering
Center in McMurdo and in the immediate vicinity. During the
austral summer McMurdo is the gateway to the interior of the
continent, including Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station and USAP
major deep field research camps.
A year-round facility at the Amundsen-Scott
South Pole Station. Research supported by the station focuses
on understanding earth systems and on the origin and evolution
of the universe. Disciplinary studies include meteorology, astrophysics,
aeronomy, atmospheric chemistry, astronomy, and seismology research.
A year-round facility at Palmer Station
on Anvers Island in the Peninsula area near South America. This
facility is primarily a marine biology laboratory and is one
of NSF's long-term ecological research sites, focusing on biological
and marine ecosystem research.
Helicopters and fixed wing aircraft necessary
to provide transportation of people and cargo to and within
the continent; all support for outlying field camps; and search
and rescue operations. Some aircraft are owned or leased by
NSF, and others are provided on a cost-reimbursable basis by
the Department of Defense. Leased Twin Otter aircraft are specially
outfitted with a unique suite of integrated instruments for
gathering airborne geophysical data for research projects over
Two leased research vessels -- the R/V
Nathaniel B. Palmer, a research icebreaker designed to operate
year-round throughout the Antarctic Ocean, and the R/V Laurence
M. Gould, which supports research in the Antarctic Peninsula
area and provides the logistics support to Palmer Station.
A Polar Class U.S. Coast Guard icebreaker
for opening the channel to McMurdo Station for the single annual
fuel tanker and single annual supply ship that are provided
on a cost reimbursable basis by the Military Sealift Command.
Operations support by a civilian contractor
that operates and maintains the stations, provides engineering
and construction, manages the USAP logistics system, manages
contracts to complement USAP airlift, and provides science support.
Air traffic control, meteorology services,
and electronic equipment maintenance support by the Department
Administration and Management
Administration and Management provides for administrative
activities necessary to enable NSF to achieve its strategic goals.
This includes $3.35 million for the cost of Intergovernmental Personnel
Act appointments and contractors performing administrative functions.
Number of People Involved in Polar Programs
| FY 2000
| FY 2001
| FY 2002
|Total Number of People
Polar Programs Funding Profile
| FY 2000
| FY 2001
| FY 2002
Number of Requests for Funding
Dollars Requested (in thousands)
Total Number of Awards
Median Annualized Award Size1
Average Annualized Award Size1
Average Duration (yrs.)1