Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Wrapping Up...

My day was pretty straightforward in terms of science. One more day of research and I would be heading back to a warmer climate. I had plenty of miscellaneous activities, however, to keep me busy for today.

Although I had laid out more than 800 meters of trail mat in the last few days, the teams that would come to Barrow later this summer might need more than what I had delivered. Therefore, while the hydrology and subsurface science teams continued to conduct their research, I managed to gather up an additional 100 meters of trail mat and put it in the back of our pickup truck. Transport out to the BEO was easy enough, as was moving mat from the turnout on Cake Eater road to the control shed on the BEO. I organized a stack of mat behind the shed. It should be available for others on our team to use this summer. The vegetation dynamics group would be the most likely to use additional mat, as they would want to access specific areas for their research especially as they developed new process representations of plant functional types and their incorporation in advanced climate models.

Larry wrote a blog yesterday highlighting the work of our hydrology team. Anna, Cathy, and Sasha have been doing a great job. Just to echo the comments of Larry, this team has done a superb job of drilling water wells, installation of sampling tubes, and then having a network for those in place across polygonal ground so we could begin to characterize gradients in water depth and flow paths during spring snow melt in another month.

One of the side benefits of installing these water sampling wells was the opportunity to acquire soil samples, especially when using the SIPRE coring device. These were often intact cores that allowed a close analysis of soil texture and ice content. Cores extracted from polygon margins often showed evidence of ice-rich regions presumably ice wedges that underlaid low-centered polygons. Although it was often difficult to withdraw intact cores using this approach, we did on occasion obtain permafrost samples that were rich in ice content which varied across the tundra.

Finally, having now spent just two days with my colleagues from LBNL and UAF, it is clear that they are a highly interactive and collaborative group. I sensed this last fall when I joined them for field sampling and I got the same feeling this year. This team talks about data, results, and interpretation of data every chance they get. This is what makes them such a fun group; the NGEE Arctic project is highly integrated and personalities are what makes this a great collaborative activity.

Trips like this one to Barrow reminds me why I got into science in the first place; to ask interesting question about how complex systems function and how that complexity drives ecosystem-scale dynamics. We are eager to share these field experiences with modelers on our team. It is at this stage that things promise to get interesting and where the rewards will be greatest.