Monday, May 7, 2012

Everyone Knows Their Job

Having now been in Barrow for a few days, each member of our team has fallen into a routine of field measurements or has at least narrowed the scope of activities that need to be completed. There are individuals and/or small teams scattered across the tundra doing everything from hydrology to site establishment. Our corner of the Barrow Environmental Observatory (BEO) is a hotbed of research right now and that looks to continue for the next 10 days as we will soon be joined by Susan Hubbard (LBNL) and her team. That will bring our number to 9 people.

But I'm getting ahead of myself...

Today, while Cathy and Sasha were busy installing water sampling wells (that will be the focus of an upcoming post), Anna has taken the opportunity to evaluate an automated snow depth probe that she brought with her from the University of Alaska Fairbanks. The probe itself is a long slender rod that is equipped with a sliding base plate. As the rod is inserted to the base of the snow layer, a sensor detects the depth with centimeter resolution. The sensor is connected to a data logger so that data points can be quickly saved. There is an additional button that, when pushed, logs the location of each measurement via a high-resolution GPS unit that Anna wears on her back. This series of steps is repeated across a 75 x 75 m core plot within our measurement areas. She has logged well over 4000 points in the last 2 days. Spatial maps of snow depth complemented by LiDAR imagery and topography will be pretty amazing.

My job of laying trail mat has been a daily activity since we arrived in Barrow. We want to protect the fragile tundra from foot traffic and trail mat is one way to do that. You can imagine that walking directly on the tundra would damage vegetation and soils so trail mat will confine our steps to specific protected areas.

Several days ago I posted a few pictures of the transport of trail mat to our field site using a sled towed behind a snow machine. This has worked surprisingly well. We can haul upwards to 225 individual mats on a single sled. We off-load those at one or more locations and then use a smaller sled to move mats to specific areas. My technique for placing trail mat in long straight paths is better than it was a few days ago.

I should be done installing trail mat tomorrow and can then turn my attention to helping others. The geophysical survey group from LBNL and UAF arrive tonight. It will be good to see them in action. We had a similar field geophysical campaign last fall and have had several good publications drafted from those studies already. Anna and Sasha will continue to install water wells and I will highlight pictures of those activities later in the week.