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Elena Sparrow

Dr Elena Bautista Sparrow

Dr. Elena Bautista Sparrow is a soil microbiologist at the International Arctic Research Center (IARC) and School of Natural Resources and Agricultural Sciences at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks. She is the U.S. Partner Coordinator for Alaska, working cooperatively within the University of Alaska statewide system. Dr. Sparrow is responsible for recruiting GLOBE schools, training GLOBE teachers and mentoring GLOBE students throughout Alaska. She is also the Principal Investigator for the GLOBE Earth System Science Project (ESSP) focusing on Seasons and Biomes.

Dr. Sparrow was born and raised in the Philippines, in the Tropics, and transplanted to the Arctic in 1976. She obtained her undergraduate degree in agriculture, majoring in soil microbiology, from the University of the Philippines and her graduate degrees in the United States. Dr. Sparrow worked in the International Rice Research Institute in the Philippines for several years, as a soil microbiologist, and her research has included soil microbial ecology — for example, investigating the effect of oil spills on soil microorganisms and their activities — and soil nutrient cycling.

Dr. Sparrow is also involved in climate research. She studies the effects of climate change on microbial processes linked with release or uptake of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and methane. She is fascinated with microbes because they can adapt to extreme environments and are very active even at very cold temperatures. Changes in climate have been of higher magnitude in the Polar Regions and these changes also impact humans living in these regions. Climatic changes within the Polar Regions affect the rest of the world because the whole Earth system is inter-connected through atmospheric circulation, ocean circulation, and through cycling of energy, water and biogeochemicals.

Changes in seasonal events such as budburst, green-up and green-down, fresh-water ice freeze-up and break-up, and mosquito phenology can be indicators of climate change. Dr. Sparrow has been instrumental in incorporating the use of GLOBE measurements in the Seasons and Biomes ESSP, where students in GLOBE schools organized by biomes are using GLOBE protocols on atmosphere, soil, hydrology, land cover/biology, and phenology in addition to new GLOBE protocols. Currently, her climate research is focused on vegetation phenology and Earth system science as well as on science education. She is also leading efforts in using GLOBE and Native knowledge/observations in locally relevant environmental studies for students in rural Alaska.

GLOBE appreciates the generous help of Dr. Sparrow and many other scientists, teachers, students, partners and policy makers with our international effort to engage students worldwide in research about climate. To learn more, visit the GLOBE Student Research Campaign on Climate.