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 First Day at Toolik Lake View next topic
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Joined: 23 Mar 2004
Posts: 118

PostPosted: Tue Jun 01, 2004 6:18 am Reply with quoteBack to top

My first day at Toolik Lake Field Station has been a busy one. Hahn and Halim of the University of Michigan's Microwave Geophysics Group have been very patient as they try to teach me their routines for the field work. Our team is the first group out in the morning; today the alarm was set for 5:30 AM Alaska time, so we could be at the truck by 6:00 AM. Today the truck had to be moved from the tundra site to the shrub site. The radiometers, the big antennas you can see on the boom or arm of the truck, focus on the the tundra site for 4 days, and then the truck moves to the shrub site so data can be collected there for 2 days, and then back again. It takes a lot of preparation to prepare the truck to be moved, and then set it up again at the next site.

Hahn moves the radiometers from within the truck.

The antennas on the truck collect natural microwaves that are given off by the soil and the plants, and help the scientists learn about the hydrological cycle (water cycle) in the Arctic. Changes in the Arctic can affect the entire Earth. Earlier warming in the tundra, and deeper thawing have made it an important place to study.

Another task that was done before breakfast was to calibrate the antennas. This is done by holding a dark piece of foam with thermometers on it, in front of the antennas to compare the reading of the thermometers to those of the antennas. This is to make sure there is accuracy in how the data that is being collected.

Halim sits on a ladder holding the foam to calibrate the antennas.

At the shrub and wet sedge sites we checked the readings of the thermistors, little disks that were buried in the ground at 2 different depths last August, when the active layer (the layer above the permafrost that thaws during the summer and supports plant growth) was thawed out. Wires connected to the buried disks were attached to stakes above the ground, so we can connect the wires to a voltmeter and collect data about the soil temperature. This task must be done 3 times a day.

Finally, we got to eat. The food here is wonderful, with homemade breads, tasty meats and vegetables, and desserts that look like they belong on a magazine cover. As I prepared to go back to the field site after breakfast, I discovered I needed to shed 2 layers of clothing, as the heat of the sun was quite intense, and it had warmed up. The after breakfast task was to change the oil in the truck generator. Any task on the tundra has to be carried out very carefully; not one drop of oil can be spilled on it. Tarps were placed under the area, and each move was done carefully so no oil would be spilled.

Karen, Halim, and Trevor. Fuel is delivered to the truck.

After this task, I went to our office in Lab #2, where we keep our computers. I answered all of my student emails, wrote a journal entry, and downloaded some of my pictures. Hahn and I ate lunch on the deck off of the cafeteria because it was so sunny and warm. It was the first time I've had a picnic wearing short sleeves while overlooking a lake that is still partly covered with ice. After lunch I worked at the computer a little longer.

At 5:00 we went back to the sites to log the data that was recorded during the day and get the instruments ready for their nightly data collection. After that was dinner, and back to Lab #2 to write another journal entry. It is so light I don't need to turn on a light, but my watch tells me it is 10:10 PM, so I should get to sleep. The alarm clock will be set at an early time again tomorrow.
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Toolik Field Station Lena River, Siberia Svalbard, Norway Summit, Greenland Prince Patrick Island, Canada Healy Icebreaker Caribou Poker Creek Barrow, Alaska