Thursday, May 3, 2012

Planning Ahead, Getting the Job Done

Everyone who travels to Barrow as a participant in the NGEE Arctic project is expected to have done two things before their trip. The first is to have outlined a scope of work that can be traced to tasks in our proposal. It is critical that we know what needs to be done prior to our arrival in Barrow. Barrow is not the place to begin thinking about the science question you want to address. The second is to have a thoughtful and thorough work plan that identifies what must be accomplished and who needs to tackle specific tasks in order to deliver on expectations. Susan Hubbard and her LBNL geophysical science team set a good example for how this should be done last September, as did David Graham and his ORNL permafrost sampling team during a trip to Barrow just last month.

It is now my turn to put a work plan into action. It is my goal to spend the coming week laying out GeoBlock trail mat across our field plots on the Barrow Environmental Observatory (BEO). Our team had previously developed GIS overlays of the BEO and located our field plots across a series of low-, high-, and transitional polygons. Because the tundra is so sensitive to foot traffic, a network of boardwalks and trail mat are a good way (and probably the only way) to limit damage to tundra vegetation and to the surrounding landscape. This is an important component of our site establishment plans and these mats need to be installed prior to the arrival of our vegetation team in June.

The resolution of the aerial and remote-sensing images we are using in support of our site establishment activities is amazing. We have made especially good use of the high-resolution LiDAR images that were provided by Craig Tweedie from the University of Texas at El Paso. Craig and his students have conducted research for many years in the Barrow area. With help from Garrett Altmann at LANL, we have optimized the placement of these protective walkways, leveraging to the best of our abilities wooden boardwalks in the vicinity of our field plots. Although it will not be a trivial undertaking, we should be able to access each of our plots with the addition of 700 meters of new trail mat. Note the spatial detail provided by LiDAR images of low- and high-centered ice-wedge polygons in the area of our field plots. This is a great illustration of patterned ground in the Arctic.

We landed in Barrow at 7:35pm Alaska time, just a little more than 16 hours since I departed Knoxville this morning. Larry and Cathy picked us up at the airport, we gathered our luggage, and then headed off to our lodging for the week. Over the last 6 months, we have grown accustomed to Hut 163, a bunkhouse-style housing unit that sleeps 8 people. It has a small kitchen, a 250 gallon water tank that gets filled upon request, and a heating system that takes the chill off the 10F temperatures outside. Our NGEE Arctic home away from home...

And last, but not least, Craig and I verified that pallets of trail mat were ready to be moved out to our field plots tomorrow. I love it when a plan comes together.