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REVISED Arctic Fieldwork Update: COVID-19 Mitigation 2022

May 19, 2022

**Vaccination requirements have been updated to reflect changes in Greenland vaccination requirements.

This announcement summarizes the mitigation protocols for COVID-19 that applies to researchers receiving support through the National Science Foundation's (NSF) Arctic research support contractor, Battelle Arctic Research Operators (Battelle ARO) during the 2022 field season. These mitigation protocols will be updated as needed.

The goals of NSF's Arctic Sciences Section remain to protect the health of program participants and to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the Arctic, particularly to communities and research stations, while assisting researchers to meet their original project goals to the extent possible given constraints imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Arctic Sciences Section continues to utilize the science-based public health guidelines issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and to respect international, state, local and tribal concerns about researcher travel. Researchers must follow the COVID-19 mitigation protocols developed by the Arctic Sciences Section in collaboration with medical experts and other stakeholders.

The Arctic Sciences Section is focused on preventing COVID-19 from entering research stations, where an outbreak would impact large numbers of people, research projects, and station operations. The particular focus is on Toolik Field Station in Alaska and Summit Station in Greenland. All researchers should develop a protective plan described in the ‘Responsible Conduct of Fieldwork’ section below to ensure effective mitigation measures are in place and the funded research institution has informed consent regarding the planned fieldwork. The imposed travel restrictions for Toolik and Summit form a part of that protective plan for projects in those locations. Quarantine and testing requirements are outlined below and are available from the Battelle ARO website. Researchers working in or near any other communities or research facilities are asked to follow good practices to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Some of these practices are outlined below.

The Arctic Sciences Section will continue to review and modify the mitigation protocols throughout the field season as needed. Researchers are encouraged to reach out to their cognizant program officer and the regional contact for their fieldwork to discuss impacts or make requests to mitigate COVID-19. For work in Alaska or on ships, contact Frank Rack (, and for work in Greenland or other locations, contact Renee Crain ( Please also consult the website for the Arctic support contractor Battelle Arctic Research Operations or contact them at

Vaccination Status and Travel for Fieldwork
The Arctic Sciences Section encourages people to be vaccinated against COVID-19 to reduce incidents of COVID-19 and prevent serious infection. Researchers must be fully vaccinated and boosted for travel to Toolik Field Station in Alaska and for travel with the Air National Guard to Greenland. Toolik Field Station will collect proof of vaccination through their reservation system ( Travelers to Greenland will provide proof of vaccination if required through the medical services subcontractor, University of Denver Medical Center, as part of their pre-travel declaration.  

Researcher travel to Toolik Field Station, Alaska
Leadership at Toolik Field Station, operated by the University of Alaska Fairbanks, worked with the Arctic Sciences Section and Battelle-ARO to develop protocols that enable the station to support up to approximately 100 people on site. The strategy includes ensuring people are COVID-free prior to traveling to Alaska with quarantine and testing in Fairbanks before traveling on to the station. The duration of strict social distancing at home prior to travel is 10 days, reduced from 14 days in prior years. The quarantine duration in Fairbanks is 8 days, reduced from 10 days in 2021. Detailed instructions for preventing the introduction of COVID-19 to TFS are on the Battelle ARO website and the TFS site

Researcher travel to Summit Station, Greenland
To prevent an outbreak of COVID-19 at Summit Station, the Arctic Sciences Section is maintaining quarantine and testing in New York and Kangerlussuaq, Greenland. Anyone traveling with the Air National Guard to Greenland will quarantine and test in New York to ensure everyone on the aircraft is COVID-19 free upon arrival in Greenland. For an added measure of risk management, travelers to Summit Station will quarantine and test in Kangerlussuaq. Travelers arriving via commercial air will undergo quarantine and testing in Kangerlussuaq prior to traveling to Summit Station. Travelers going to other destinations may travel onward upon arrival in Kangerlussuaq. Travelers who can eliminate a layover in Kangerlussuaq en route to their final destination are encouraged to do so. All travelers should physically distance from others and wear masks while indoors and should follow the guidance provided when visiting other communities.

Researcher Travel to Thule, Greenland
Researchers will follow the protocols put in place by Thule Air Base. These are adjusted in response to emerging situations on the base which can include restriction of movement, mask wearing, or other measures. Current information is available on the Battelle ARO website.

Responsible Conduct of Fieldwork – Developing a Protective Plan
All researchers must comply with travel restrictions imposed by their institution and federal/national, state, regional, local, and tribal governments or operators, such as Hilcorp Inc. that control access to sites around Prudhoe Bay, Alaska or Air Mobility Command (AMC) that operate flights to Thule Air Base. Researchers are responsible for developing a protective plan for their field team to verify informed consent that is approved by leadership at their institution. This plan ensures the awardee institution is aware of and accepts the risks of the fieldwork. The protective plan should outline the procedures the team will use to avoid contracting COVID-19 and include measures for managing an outbreak of COVID-19 in the field team. Suggested elements of a protective plan are included below. The Arctic Sciences Section may request to see a copy of the signed plan. Research team members are responsible for their own medical care and medical evacuation costs in the event they test positive for COVID-19 or become ill or injured. Medical evacuation insurance for planned fieldwork is an allowable grant cost.

Remote Sampling
Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, many projects have found ways to conduct fieldwork remotely in collaboration with people who can service instrumentation, collect samples, or collaborate in other ways. For example, on-site staff are available at Toolik Field Station and Utqiaġvik, Alaska, and Summit Station, Greenland, to support a limited amount of fieldwork. Community members in the Arctic may also have capabilities to support fieldwork. This is an option that can be explored through discussions with NSF program managers and Battelle ARO project managers.


Good Practices During Travel
All travelers are asked to follow good practices to avoid contracting or spreading COVID-19. These include the following:

Prior to departure from home

  • 10 days of strict social distancing prior to travel – prepare for field deployment, but avoid large gatherings
  • Wear a mask when interacting with people outside your household
  • Test for COVID-19 before travel

During travel

  • Wear an N95 or KN95 mask
  • Remain physically distanced from other people as much as possible
  • Keep mask up except when taking bites or sips

Upon arrival at last city/town before fieldwork

  • Test for COVID-19
  • Consider quarantine or restriction of movement for 5-7 days with additional testing prior to fieldwork, particularly if working in a community
  • Wear masks and physically distance when interacting with people outside your group

Elements of a Protective Plan

  1. Mitigation strategies (e.g., vaccination status, mask wearing, physical distancing, single rooms, testing prior to deployment)
  2. Travel strategies (e.g., strict social distancing, testing prior to deployment, wearing masks on planes, quarantine/restricted movement upon arrival)
  3. On-site strategies (e.g., mask wearing, distancing, restriction of movement, meals)
  4. Interacting with members of the community/research station
  5. Contingency travel plans for weather, cancelled flights, etc.
  6. Safe return travel protocols
  7. Other situations the project needs to plan for (e.g. how to manage new team members joining the group, how to interact with pilots/other support personnel)
  8. What to do if one or more people contract COVID-19 or have a close contact with someone who has COVID-19
  9. Description of the review and approval of the protective plan
  10. Confirmation of informed consent among all members of the field team, including students and members from different institution/organizations
  11. Statement of acceptance of risk
  12. Signature of institutional representative with authority over COVID-19 mitigation plans

Relevant Websites

The U.S. National Science Foundation propels the nation forward by advancing fundamental research in all fields of science and engineering. NSF supports research and people by providing facilities, instruments and funding to support their ingenuity and sustain the U.S. as a global leader in research and innovation. With a fiscal year 2023 budget of $9.5 billion, NSF funds reach all 50 states through grants to nearly 2,000 colleges, universities and institutions. Each year, NSF receives more than 40,000 competitive proposals and makes about 11,000 new awards. Those awards include support for cooperative research with industry, Arctic and Antarctic research and operations, and U.S. participation in international scientific efforts.

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