Microbial Communities in the YK Delta 2023

Trisha Atwood leads four scientists in the Yukon Kuskokwim Delta (YK Delta) in a National Science Foundation (NSF) project to study how soil microbial communities influence CO2 and methane emissions from salt marshes.

The YK Delta

The YK Delta is huge. It’s one of the largest wetlands in North America with over 20,000,000 acres. It’s where the Yukon River hits the Bering Sea. Almost entirely rootless, it is grassland, tundra, and about 50% water. The YK Delta is a wonderful habitat for over 200 species of birds visiting every summer in their life cycle of resting, foraging, and breeding.

The Research

Lead principal investigator, Trisha Atwood spent the last three summers in the YK Delta with fellow scientists sorting out the potential answers to the question: How do geese change CO2 emissions? There has been over 40 years of research in the YK Delta by different research groups such as 1) population ecologists interested in water fowl 2) botanists interested in plants and 3) biogeochemists interested in carbon and nitrogen. Their research has given Atwood excellent science to build on.


In “Microbial Communities in the YK Delta 2023” you will see Atwood and scientists perform their experiments in real time despite constantly changing, potentially dangerous, weather conditions. Mud, wind hazardous weather, and basic living conditions don’t deter the scientists. As Lindsay Miller, Masters student said, “I was nervous about living out of a tent with no running water for two and 1/2 months, but it hasn’t been that bad.”


The summer of 2023 was the end of the three-year field research for this National Science Foundation project. The scientists, back in their labs and institutions, are analyzing the data that may give insight into the relationship geese have with the soil microbial communities in the YK Delta.


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Project Summary

Carbon Research in the Arctic