About the Crew

chris polashenski

Chris Polashenski

Research Geophysicist/Adjunct Assistant Professor

U.S. Army Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory/Dartmouth College 

Chris co-leads SAGE (Sunlight Absorption on the Greenland ice sheet Experiment) with Zoe Courville and has been responsible for organizing the field expedition – so whatever misadventures happen along the way can probably get blamed on him.

Chris hails from the fields and forests of northeastern Pennsylvania, and more recently New Hampshire, and Alaska. He is driven by an insatiable curiosity about how natural systems work, a love of remote places, and a fascination with the people and wildlife of the Far North. Chris studied in Dartmouth College’s Polar Environmental Change IGERT program, and has worked since 2011 as research geophysicist for the Army Corps of Engineers Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory (CRREL).

At CRREL Chris’ research program focuses on understanding changes occurring in the Arctic sea ice cover and ice sheets, then helping to incorporate this new understanding into predictions of future changes. Much of his work is based on field measurements, which Chris greatly enjoys collecting. Field campaigns have taken him to Greenland, Canada, Norway, and Alaska, operating from research stations, a variety of aircraft, snowmobiles, and an icebreaker. The challenges of collecting data in the harsh Arctic environment require constant equipment development and adaptation – which means Chris gets to satisfy his engineering twitch by ‘tinkering a bit’ in the tangled mess of wires and circuit boards that lines the side of his office.

When not collecting measurements or soldering electrical components together, Chris likes to canoe, hunt, fish, ski, swim, berry pick, hike, and otherwise be outdoors, particularly with his partner Norah and free-spirited beagle, Tracks. He also loves building things (and taking things apart), gathers, grows and processes most of his own food, and satisfies his childhood dreams of driving tractors by ‘helping’ around Norah’s farm.


Photo by Chris Linder www.chrislinder.com

Photo by Chris Linder

Mike Stewart

Antarctic Expedition Leader/1600 ton Ship’s Master/SAGE Field Technician 

Mike works throughout the year in support of research and education in the polar regions.

In the north, he is Captain of R/V Kittiwake, bringing scientists, naturalists, and filmmakers to remote areas of the Alaska Peninsula and Aleutian Islands. The Kittiwake is a wonderful homemade Alaskan operation where the crew, engineers, owner, guides, and cook are like family. Mike’s partner, Zandra, often runs the galley out there.

In the southern hemisphere, Mike works as one of the Expedition Leaders for the Dutch vessel Bark Europa. She’s a 102 year old sailing ship that journeys to the Antarctic Peninsula, Weddell Sea, and across the Southern Ocean.

When not at sea, he spends as much time as possible out on the land in Alaska! Skiing, skijoring, snow camping, hiking and harvesting from the wild are the center of activities with a treasured set of friends. Mike and Zandra keep an old 1930’s era log cabin as their home. They love the spirit of the north, and have built their lives around it there.

z_pit_cropZoe Courville

Research Mechanical Engineer

U.S. Army Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory

Zoe is the co-leader of the expedition along with Chris Polashenski.  This is the fourth polar traverse she has helped with or participated in.  Her other traversing experience has been conducting science as part of the Greenland Inland Traverse in 2010, assisting the crevasse detection effort for the South Pole Overland Traverse in 2010-11, and digging snow pits (many snow pits) as a science member of the Norwegian-American Scientific Traverse of East Antarctica from South Pole to Troll Station in 2008-9.  This is her 8th trip to Greenland.

Zoe studies the physical properties of polar snow—any physical property of polar snow, from density, to light reflection, to heat conduction, to gas movement, with a wide range of applications.  Her most recent work focuses on the near infrared reflection of snow, and the extent to which snow grain shape and size affects the amount of radiation reflected.  This project is the extension of an extensive field campaign at Summit Station in 2011 which examined the interplay of chemistry, snow grain size and shape on the albedo of surface snow, with collaborators Jack Dibb at the University of New Hampshire and Mike Bergin at Georgia Tech. Jamie Schauer at the University of Wisconsin has joined the team this year to analyze the samples we will be collecting.

Zoe is excited to return to Summit Station, her home away from home, after a bit of a break to start a family.  In addition to her science work at the station, Zoe is part of the Summit Station Science Coordination Office (SCO), which advocates for the needs of the science community in the interior of the Greenland Ice Sheet.

When not digging snow pits, Zoe spends most of her free time running after her impish 18-month old son Teague, and insisting everyone look at baby pictures.  She loves knitting, and cross-country skiing, running and hiking in the hills of Vermont where she lives with Teague and her husband Mike, who is holding down the homefront while Zoe is away.

Nate StewartNathan_SAGE bio photo

Marine Biologist/ Boston University Faculty Lecturer/ SAGE Field Technician

Nate is a cold water marine biologist and scientific diver by training. His research broadly focuses on the relationship between habitat complexity and animal resource selection in sea ice and seafloor habitats in Arctic and Subarctic Alaska. He joins the expedition from Boston where he teaches classes on change and resilience in the Arctic, evolutionary ecology, invertebrate biology, and coral reef dynamics.

When not underwater, Nate spends as much time as possible in the mountains with his wife, Michelle, and their Tibetan mountain dog, Trokpa. Although their shared academic lives keep their minds anchored in New England, Nate and Michelle’s hearts lie in the Colorado Rockies where they own a small cabin nestled in between a pair of mountain parks. Nate is an avid alpine climber and ski mountaineer and has climbed extensively in Alaska and traversed numerous mixed routes alongside Michelle in Iceland, the Faroe Islands, Himalaya, and southern Greenland.

In addition to sharing nearly identical DNA with his identical twin brother, Nate and Mike share an intense passion for exploring, researching, and immersing in the social, ecological, and geophysical dimensions of high latitude systems.

4 thoughts on “About the Crew

  1. Pingback: Putting a conversation on paper: Carl Benson in Witness the Arctic | Dartmouth IGERT - Polar Environmental Change

  2. If you ever see Mike Stewart again, please tell him I discovered something after looking back on some pictures he will be very much interested in. This was during our cape to cape on the Bark Europa 2011. Can’t find Mike! Thanks so much

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