POLER Research Group

The Polar Observatory Lab for Ethnographic Research (POLER) is a research group of scholars and technicians interested in remote sensing in extreme conditions. While the Arctic has been identified as a site of critical importance in the ongoing search for answers to grand challenge questions of climate change and ocean acidification, the extreme conditions and current technological capacity are not always commensurate, leading to broken machines, lags in technology, needs for redundancy and for human intervention.

This research centrally asks: how do current regimes of maintenance, calibration and quality control address the significant challenges of remote sensing in extreme environments?

To answer this question, this research group is engaged in a multi-sited ethnography to capture and theorize these barriers for robotics and sensors in extreme conditions, applicable to both terrestrial and extraterrestrial (see: NASA Ocean Worlds) commitments to remote sensing. This work currently centers two specific US-based laboratories who perform sensor-based research in the Arctic.

Because of pandemic conditions, data collection includes remote interviews on video and audio-based platforms (e.g. Zoom, GoToMeeting) as well as remote observations using Go Pro technology, acting in places where the researchers would have previously observed in-person in traditional ethnographic data collection.

Primary Research Team

Stephanie Jordan, Media and Information, Michigan State University

Madison Hall, Fisheries and Wildlife, Michigan State University