Dartmouth IGERT  
Dickey logo
IGERT photo



IGERT students complete a core curriculum that integrates departmental graduate requirements into an interdisciplinary framework for studying polar environmental change.

IGERT curriculum objectives include:

  • Training in the central topics of polar science and engineering
  • Exposure to cross-cutting technologies that allow for interdisciplinary polar science
  • Understanding the human dimensions of polar science and development of skills to communicate polar science to different groups
  • Awareness of traditional ecological knowledge and its implications for the ethical conduct of scientific research in Native communities
  • Foster a lasting community among IGERT students

The Dartmouth graduate programs participating in IGERT are ecology and evolutionary biology, earth sciences, and engineering.


BIOL 138 / EARS 128. Introduction to Polar Systems

BIOL 138/EARS 128 Syllabus

Polar are increasingly under threat from human-accelerated climate and environmental change. This course examines current polar science that has relevance to critical environmental issues and policies for the high latitude regioregionsns. Topics are viewed through the lens of individual disciplines and then as crosscutting interdisciplinary problems. The course provides a foundation on topics such as ice core interpretation, declining sea ice and changes in ice sheet dynamics, alterations in the terrestrial and marine carbon cycles, and climate change impacts on polar biodiversity. The later portion of the course focuses on the development of a group interdisciplinary research project.

BIOL 138 is a core course in the IGERT Polar Environmental Change graduate curriculum and includes instructors from several disciplines.

BIOL 148. Polar Science, Policy, and Ethics

BIOL 148 Syllabus

This course examines the connections between polar science and the human dimensions of rapid environmental change in the Arctic. The differing ways of understanding environmental change from the standpoints of western science and traditional knowledge information will be viewed as drivers of policy formulation. The ethical responsibilities of researchers who work with Indigenous peoples are considered essential to the process of applying science in meeting the needs of communities adapting to climate change. Governance frameworks and key stakeholders in the Arctic region will be identified and compared with the legal system governing Antarctica. The course will emphasize team learning and the development of science communication skills as an important part of the policy research process.

BIOL 148 is a core course in the IGERT Polar Environmental Change graduate curriculum and includes instructors from several disciplines.

The Greenland Field Seminar

Greenland Field Seminar group

Students use Greenland as a field laboratory to examine scientific, cultural and political issues that span the circumpolar region. In additional, we use this course to train students in science communication.

The Greenland Field Seminar is taken in the summer of the first (preferred) or second year when students are developing their dissertation research. The seminar introduces the large scientific and social issues in the North starting with course work at Dartmouth then moving to Greenland for a first-hand case study. The seminar begins with preparatory instruction at Dartmouth around the themes:

  1. Northern Peoples in Transition
  2. Changing Greenland: Scientific Evidence
  3. Politics, Policy and Resource Management

Coursework is followed by approximately four weeks in Greenland featuring field work in terrestrial ecosystems near Kangerlussaq, an introduction to ice and firn research on the Greenland ice sheet at Summit Camp, and a policy workshop in Nuuk, Greenland's capital and site of the University.

Greenland Field Seminar blog


In consultation with an advisory committee, IGERT students typically take three courses from at least two of the following areas: engineering sciences, biological sciences, earth sciences, physics, and toxicology. The following is not a complete listing of courses:

Engineering Sciences:

  • Behavior of Materials
  • Methods of Materials Characterization
  • Cold Regions Science
  • Cold Regions Engineering
  • Topics in Environmental Science and Engineering
  • Environmental Fluid Mechanics
  • Intermediate Thermodynamics

Biological Sciences:

  • Scientific Integrity and Research Ethics
  • Ecology and Evolution
  • Genes and Gene Products
  • Advanced Topics Seminars

Earth Sciences:

  • Mathematical Modeling of Earth Processes
  • Climate Change Seminar
  • Isotope Geochemistry
  • Soil Chemistry
  • Geobiology
  • Remote Sensing and GIS


  • Methods of Materials Characterization
  • Optical Devices and Systems
  • Microscopic Theory of Solids
  • Microscopic Plasma Theory


  • Graduate Toxicology



The research scientists participating in IGERT have broad expertise in studying the atmosphere, ice, snow, sea ice, soil, surface and ground water, vegetation and animal populations, along with the human dimensions of environmental change and indigenous cultures.

The Dartmouth IGERT trains students to understand the cascading response of ecological and physical systems to climate change, and the linked human social, economic and political effects. Our research training is coupled to a coordinated core curriculum and focuses on three components of Arctic or Antarctic systems responding to rapid change in climate:

  • The Cryosphere – glacial ice, snow, sea ice systems
  • Terrestrial Ecosystems – biogeochemical linkages between the soil, plant, and animal system
  • Human Systems – policy making in political/social systems and the consequences of polar contamination

Field Research

Field research

The challenges of climate change require a problem-based science relevant to the needs of society and policy makers. Greenland is an ideal training ground for students to experience the convergence of science, policy and indigenous issues of the North. Thanks to the Dickey Center for International Understanding and its Institute of Arctic Studies, Dartmouth has academic, research, governmental, and cultural ties with Greenlandic institutions and Inuit leaders who support the IGERT Greenland Field Seminar.

The field seminar includes many invaluable Greenlandic collaborators. IGERT partners with the University of Greenland (Ilisimatusarfik) faculty and students on presentations to the academic and local community in Nuuk, the capital of Greenland. (Dartmouth's Institute of Arctic Studies also has an informal exchange program with Ilisimatusarfik for undergraduates.) The Inuit Circumpolar Council, a non-governmental organization representing 150,000 Inuit people worldwide, provides information on local and national political issues. Aqqaluk Lynge, the Chair of ICC, has been a Dickey Center Visiting Fellow and an invaluable Greenlandic advisor to the IGERT program. The Self-Rule Government of Greenland also has provided IGERT fellows with unprecedented access to Greenlandic perspectives on the immediate and long-term effects of climate change on Greenland.

IGERT faculty have broad expertise in studying the atmosphere, ice, snow, sea ice, soil, surface and ground water, vegetation and animal populations, as well as the human dimensions of environmental change and indigenous cultures. While the Greenland Field Seminar is an essential part of the Dartmouth IGERT program, students have also joined field research taking place in other polar regions, including northern Alaska and Antarctica. Faculty research is funded by sources such as NSF, NASA, NOAA, DOD, DOE, NIH, private foundations, and corporations.

Professional Development

Dialogues in Polar Science and Society: A Seminar Series

Lonnie ThompsonIn collaboration with Institute of Arctic Studies at Dartmouth's Dickey Center for International Understanding, IGERT students have the opportunity to discuss major issues in polar science, policy and communications with national and international leaders in the field. The seminar series offers students the rare chance to broaden and deepen their understanding of climate change and polar science through one-to-one and group discussion with visiting polar scholars.

Past speakers have included: Lonnie Thompson, Terry Chapin, Wallace Broecker, Stephanie Pfirman, Eric Post, Robert Bindschadler, Sheila Watt-Cloutier, Richard Harris and others.

Travel and Exploratory Grants

mosquitosFunds are available on a competitive basis for use in pilot research, conference and workshop attendance, and laboratory or field site visits. Proposals are reviewed by IGERT faculty.


Competitive Proposal Workshop

In the third or fourth years of study, experts in proposal preparation discuss how to prepare successful research proposals. Students are required to develop a research proposal with an interdisciplinary element. IGERT faculty serve as consultants during the period students are preparing proposals, which is critiqued by 2-3 referees.

Annual Symposium

A yearly symposium provides faculty and students a chance to present their work and learn about research occurring in other departments.

In 2011, the Dartmouth IGERT joined with three other IGERT programs in Alaska and Kansas for a collaborative symposium held in Juneau, Alaska, March 22-24, on "Understanding Rapid Environmental and Social Change in the Arctic: Bridging Traditional Knowledge and Interdisciplinary Science across IGERTs."


Annual Retreat

top of moose mtn A yearly retreat and mini-symposium offers students a chance to discuss their research, critique the program, set goals for the following year, as well as get to know each other better. Students from the preceding Greenland Field Seminar lead a discussion with incoming students and faculty about their experiences and what they learned in the field.



Community Outreach

Greenlandic interviewIGERT students are encouraged to serve as mentors to Dartmouth undergraduates who have an interest in polar science. Mentorship provides IGERT students the opportunity to serve as role models and to practice their teaching and communication skills. IGERT students also have made presentations at the U.S. Cold Regions Research and Engineering Lab and to high school science classes and community groups locally and in Greenland. These outreach experiences help science and engineering students develop communication skills that are essential to interacting effectively with experts outside their field, policy makers, and the general public.

Listen to IGERT Fellows being interviewed on Greenlandic Radio.

Related Links:
Dartmouth Graduate Studies Office
Department of Biological Sciences
Department of Earth Sciences
Thayer School of Engineering