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> Thursday, June 15th, 2006, Experiments Galore
post Jun 16 2006, 06:09 AM
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On Thursday, June 15th, I spent my first full day at Toolik Lake Research Station participating in three experiments. I awakened to a temperature of forty degrees. An Arctic front had moved across the area so it was so foggy at our campsite that I could barely see our dining hall or lab area. There was a misty rain falling as well.

After breakfast, we visited the lab to place metal tags with thin wiring through six inch high PVC pipe for an experiment. After we conducted this task, we marched across the tundra to help with a different experiment which the University of Alaska began in 1997 regarding plant species survival. There were various grids on the tundra marked by boards and flags to designate different experiments. We moved a ladder across two boards so we would not disrupt the plant species growth in each plot. We kneeled over the ladder to remove various species depending on each experiment. Some of the plant species were betula, lidum, and vaccinium uliginosum. It is really tedious work especially in frigid temperatures with a slight mist of rain which seemed to chill you to your bones. I wore Gore-Tex clothing so I was not wet plus the standard Arctic footwear –Neoprene Xtra-Tuf boots which are waterproof.
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After lunch, we visited the lab again to string litter bags made of black mesh for an experiment which will begin tomorrow. The litter bags are filled with leaves from various plants collected in the fall of 2005. The scientists want to study how fast the decomposition rate will be in the Arctic for different plants. Decomposition in the Arctic can take four to eight years, whereas, it can take one year in the tropical regions. We will bury the small bags tomorrow if the weather cooperates. Each year, a bag will be removed and weighed plus sent through a process to see how much nitrogen and carbon was lost. This will help scientists decide how much of the nutrients are placed back into Arctic soil each year plus how fast it takes different plant species to decompose.
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Caitlin, Jennie, and Charmagne sewing litter bags

Cool facts about Alaska:

It is common to see cars covered with a blanket in Alaska. This isn’t because Alaskans love their cars. They love for their cars to start at forty below. A blanket traps heat.

You can actually break your hair off by walking outside with wet hair at forty below.

When a car is parked in sub-zero temperatures, square tires can occur after an hour. The tires will return to their normal round shape within a mile of driving.
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