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Arctic Field Season COVID-19 Update for 2023

May 30, 2023

This announcement summarizes the mitigation protocols for COVID-19 that apply to researchers utilizing services from NSF’s research support contractor, Battelle Arctic Research Operations (Battelle ARO) during the 2023 field season. For 2023, quarantines and PCR tests prior to travel are no longer required. Vaccination against COVID-19 is required in some locations. All travelers should follow the good practices listed below. Mitigation protocols will be updated as needed and are posted on the Battelle Arctic Gateway.

It remains a priority of the Arctic Sciences Section 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 the state of COVID-19 and the availability of vaccines against the disease, the Arctic Sciences Section has decided to move away from quarantines and PCR testing while still implementing appropriate prevention and response measures.

Projects are responsible for the costs incurred by a COVID-19 outbreak in their project, including additional costs for accommodations or commercial flights. NSF has no obligation to provide additional field time if COVID-19 or other issues prevent the project from accomplishing its goals.

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 working in or near any other communities or research facilities are asked to follow good practices to prevent the spread of COVID-19, many of which are outlined below.

Researchers are encouraged to reach out to their cognizant program officer and the regional contact for their fieldwork to discuss potential 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 ( or Kate Ruck ( Please reach out to Greg Huey ( at Battelle ARO with questions about following these protocols.

Vaccination Status and Travel for Fieldwork
Researchers must be fully vaccinated and boosted with the bivalent booster available since September 2, 2022 or newer for travel to Toolik Field Station in Alaska and for all travel to Greenland. Toolik Field Station will collect proof of vaccination through their online reservation system. Travelers to Greenland will provide proof of vaccination through the medical services subcontractor, University of Colorado Denver, Section of Wilderness and Environmental Medicine, Department of Emergency Medicine (CU-Anschutz) Medical Center (, as part of their pre-travel declaration. The Arctic Sciences Section encourages people to be vaccinated against COVID-19 to reduce incidents of COVID-19 and prevent serious infection.

Researcher travel to Toolik Field Station, Alaska
Leadership at Toolik Field Station (TFS), operated by the University of Alaska Fairbanks, worked with the Arctic Sciences Section and Battelle-ARO to develop protocols that no longer require quarantine but focus on personal responsibility for COVID-19 safety and mitigation. The strategy includes requiring travelers to be vaccinated or have proof of exemption from their home institution and a negative rapid antigen test the morning of departure for the station. See the Toolik website for specific requirements.  

Researcher travel to Summit Station, Greenland
Quarantine is no longer required for travel to Summit Station, Greenland. Travelers to Summit Station are required to be vaccinated and boosted. Testing prior to departing home and prior to traveling to Summit Station is required. Individuals that contract COVID-19 will be isolated and treated for symptoms until they recover and can return to work or travel.

Researcher Travel to Pituffik Space Base, Greenland
Researchers will follow Greenland travel protocols prior to entering Pituffik. Personnel should submit vaccination status to CU-Anschutz (, then test at home and during layover(s) prior to boarding the flight to Pituffik Space Base. 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 Pituffik Space 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. Suggested elements of a protective plan are included below. Research team members are responsible for their own medical care and medical evacuation costs, or other costs incurred due to illness 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 should follow good practices to avoid contracting or spreading COVID-19. These include the following:

Prior to departure from home

  • Implement 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
  • Ensure you have a protective plan in place with your employer and/or field team
  • Test for COVID-19 before travel
  • Procure sufficient rapid tests for yourself and/or team members for the duration of the deployment
  • Initiate a medical record with CU-Anschutz to enable the telemedicine services to provide better medical input if needed

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 of food or water

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

In the event of contracting COVID-19

  • Isolate for 5 days or longer if not symptom-free
  • Mask for an additional 5 days following isolation
  • Reach out to CU-Anschutz ( for input (required)
  • Reach out to CU-Anschutz or other physician to determine if an anti-viral is appropriate
  • Ensure travelers are COVID-19 free prior to commercial or military airlift to return from the field
  • Seek medical care if symptoms are more than mild

Elements of a Protective Plan – Develop a document that covers, at a minimum:

A. Mitigation strategies (e.g., vaccination status, mask wearing, physical distancing, single rooms, testing prior to deployment)

B. Travel strategies (e.g., strict social distancing, testing prior to deployment, wearing masks on planes, quarantine/restricted movement upon arrival)

C. On-site strategies (e.g., mask wearing, distancing, restriction of movement, meals)

D. Interacting with members of the community/research station

E. Contingency travel plans for weather, cancelled flights, etc.

F. Safe return travel protocols

G. 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)

H. What to do if one or more people contract COVID-19 or have a close contact with someone who has COVID-19

I. Description of the review and approval of the protective plan

J. Confirmation of informed consent among all members of the field team, including students and members from different institutions/organizations

K. Statement of acceptance of risk

L. Signature of institutional representative with authority over COVID-19 mitigation plans

Relevant Websites

Battelle Arctic Research Operations:

Alaska travel information:

Greenland travel information:

Toolik Field Station COVID-19 Information:

Air Mobility Command coronavirus travel requirements & information advisories:

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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