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> Down the Valley--10-15 kilometers, What we are doing, why we are sampling
John_Sode
post Jul 26 2005, 01:45 PM
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July 19, 2005

**Interested readers should also see Patrick's guest posting following this post**



The trip begins. Today we follow the Green River from its origins in the snow pack to its terminus at Baffin Bay. Along the way we will collect water samples and measure the river at strategic points along the way. Strategic points are places where significant impacts in water quality have been found in previous studies. These studies provide a starting point for our investigation.

We’ve identified the major strategic points in advance—source pools, springs, major tributary confluences, lakes, major geologic changes, sudden vegetative changes, and dovekey nesting sites. We suspect that the dovekeys- a type of high Arctic bird are a natural nutrient source. By providing fertilizer through their droppings the birds may have transformed Green Valley from a barren abyss into a lush paradise. As the birds fly up and down the valley between their nesting and feeding grounds their droppings, containing the remains of marine organisms, fertilize the valley much like bat guano fertilizes cave systems.

Many different studies are underway today. Some groups are examining plant life while other groups are examining the soil’s composition. Still other groups are measuring soil and rock movements by establishing GPS sites. Our group is studying water quality. Some of our major goals include:

1) Sampling pH to determine substrate contributions
2) Sampling pH to determine snowmelt levels and establish comparison baselines
3) Monitoring stream flow to determine discharge levels and baselines
4) Sampling for ammonia and nitrates—organic nitrogen sources
5) Collecting water samples to extract nitrogen for isotopic testing—this will help us determine the source of the nitrogen


Nitrogen is the main focus of our study since nitrogen is a limiting element in many high Arctic ecosystems and must be coming from somewhere outside the ecosystem to sustain Green Valley. This nitrogen also may transform the river’s pH levels if nitric acid forms and runs into the river. If nitrogen appears in our samples, subsequent lab work is scheduled to determine the isotopic (different forms of the same element) composition of the samples. This information will help us determine the N source since terrestrial (land), atmospheric (air), and marine (ocean) samples often have different signatures just as different individuals have different figure prints.

The pictures below show the

snowmelt headwatersAttached Image

a headwaters springAttached Image

our group heading across the headwater snowpackAttached Image

dovekeys flying through the valleyAttached Image

sampling the waterAttached Image

a mountain springAttached Image

a mountain lake on Green RiverAttached Image

and an alpine meadow surrounding the high mountain lake.Attached Image


We arrived back at camp around 9PM, about 13 hours after we boarded the helicopter early this morning. After a welcome dinner we secured our tents and went to sleep, knowing full well that an Arctic storm was brewing over the horizon.
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