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> The second day in the field, Real work at Toolik
Tom_Crumrine
post Jun 18 2005, 02:58 PM
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18 June 2005

It is 6:30 am and I am waiting for breakfast and everyone else to awake. It is much cooler today--a wind has been blowing hard since about 2 am. It was strong enough to give a constant flutter to the walls of my weatherport as I slept. It is nice to work when it is cooler and windier though. The mosquitoes tend to be less intense on days like this.

Our 9am start time throws me off a bit since I am usually awake and doing something by 5:30 or 6. I think of 9 as first break time. When I woke up this morning I noticed one of the arctic ground squirrels that inhabits the camp checking out the lake. These animals are all over the place digging holes and watching us wander around camp all day. Pretty amazing that such a small mammal can make it through the winter in a place like this. We learned the other day that as they hibernate their bodies go to a temperature of almost 0 Celsius. Every 3 weeks or so, during the hibernation, they warm back up to almost their regular body temperature for a while and then they go back down. If you inhibit this in the lab--they can't survive. People are researching why they need to do this warmup since it takes energy that is in very short supply, but is also essential to their survival.

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Yesterday we worked in the plots for the entire day. From what I gather working at weeding the plots will be one of the main things we do. It is tedious but important to the project. Yesterday Meredith and I worked the entire day to finish a 2x3 meter plot and didn't get it done--the moss is pervasive even though it has already been removed in 8 other years. The tundra grows very slowly but moss seems to have a pretty good time of it.

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As you can see sometimes you need to have a little nap after weeding for a morning. Here Joe lays down for a little in the middle of our lunch break. You can't blame him after 3 hours of pulling moss this size--I think anyone would be tired.

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This is my favorite moss shown beside a sharpie marker. We pull up bags and bags of these from each plot. We also pull up about 5 other types of moss all with different shapes and colors. As you paw through the grass looking for the moss you feel like you are searching through a dogs hair looking for ticks. I know that is not a pleasant analogy but it is the same feeling. You look and look by pulling back layer after layer of grass and sedge and tussok. You look on the bottom, the side, the top and then you look back to an area that you thought you had done--and you see more moss. I really respect Donie's husband Peter for his persistence in doing this. He showed me how to do this the other day and his ability to spend hours carefully looking through the plots is impressive. I try to be as careful as possible but I think Peter touches every living thing in his section to check out what it is.


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In this photo Greg, on the left, and Joe illustrate what it is like to work on one of the ladders. [They call them ladders and I realize that they are scaffold planks but I'm not one to come in and change their lingo. From old pictures it seems like they used ladders in the first year--how painful would that be? Thinking of scaffold planks makes me realize that this is my second straight summer working on scaffolds. Last summer I painted a barn and was on them all day every day too. I guess I'm in a phase of life where my summer work needs to be confined to a 2.5 foot by 12 foot space.] Greg and Meredith have both done this type of work before so they are more used to it than I am. Last year Meredith did a similar thing but with grass and Greg worked in Panama surveying and tagging every plant in small plots. The removal acutually isn't that bad. It might not seem believable but it is fun to search around through a mini forest of moss and tussock looking for just the right piece of moss. The hard part for me is reaching down from the ladder. It just puts a pain in my neck that is hard to get rid of.

Its Saturday so it is that last work day of the week. Tomorrow we have off. I hope to go for a hike but I don't know if I will have the energy.
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