Monday, August 6, 2012

NGEE Arctic Synoptic Survey Team Rolls into Barrow - Cathy Wilson

The NGEE team continues its intensive summer field campaign in August with the arrival of the vegetation dynamics and hydrology teams. The Oak Ridge National Laboratory team of Rich Norby, Joanne Childs and Colleen Iversen joined Victoria Sloan, our NGEE Barrow Summer resident, for intensive leaf area and root inventories. I am joined by NGEE Barrow first timers: Jeff Heikoop, Brent Newman, Marvin Gard and Garrett Altman from Los Alamos National Laboratory to install biogeochemistry sampling test beds at our field plots, and to perform a synoptic survey of water chemistry from the polygon to regional scale.

Dave McGuire and Eugenie Euskirchen from University of Alaska, Fairbanks are here providing insight on the linkages between observations and modeling, and Barrow native Reynold “RJ” Aveogna is providing local knowledge about the BEO and surrounding environment while keeping watch for bears. RJ also has an uncanny ability to find equipment that the LANL team has lost. His tally so far includes my Blackberry and lens cap, and a handheld GPS. Thank you RJ!

The biogeochemistry test beds include a range of subsurface saturated and unsaturated water chemistry sampling technologies to determine the most effective way to obtain dynamic in-situ water chemistry samples from within the active layer. After two days of field work the LANL team has completed the installation of 13 drive point samplers for the synoptic survey and the saturated sampling components of two test beds.

We’re using the runoff pathway data that Anna Liljedahl and I collected during snowmelt in June to select sites for both the test beds and the synoptic survey. The hydrologic status on the BEO has gone through a dramatic transformation over the past 2 months, from highly inundated to relatively dry, except for the soggy troughs.

Plot D, situated in a drained thaw lake basin which was completely flooded in June is now saturated but with very little standing water.

The LANL team was joined by NGEE collaborators Adina Paytan and PhD student, Alanna Lecher, from University of California Santa Cruz on Thursday. They are collecting water chemistry samples with an emphasis on Radium and Radon to investigate shallow groundwater linkages between terrestrial systems, lakes, and oceans. Some of their sample sites overlap with NGEE plots and the regional scale synoptic water chemistry and isotope survey, and have the potential to provide highly synergistic hydrologic flow path data. The uppermost organic-rich portion of the active layer is very porous and transmissive, which enables Adina’s crew to pump 50 to 100 liters of soil water from a small soil pit through a filter to capture Radium and Radon in sufficient concentrations for their study.  Collaboration had an immediate practical outcome for NGEE when the LANL team borrowed one of Adina’s battery operated bilge pumps to clear fast flowing soil water out of an auger hole so we could install a piezometer more effectively. Thank you Adina!

Rich and the vegetation crew are also being very productive, though they look a little bleary-eyed from spending all day in the field and all night in the lab. The two teams met up for dinner last night at Northern Lights where we caught a glimpse of the Olympics coverage while discussing observations. Victoria was asked to do a interview at the local radio station, KBRW, but due to the tight vegetation team schedule, I filled in for the 7:30am program and provided an overview of the DOE SC TES project with an update of the many activities being undertaken by the National labs, UAF and our collaborators. I also did a “shout out” on the air to our wonderful UMIAQ logistic providers. I am now the proud owner of a KBRW coffee mug and pin.
So far the field conditions have been quite good, and we are grateful for wind, drizzle and a bit of cold weather since this is keeping the mosquitoes away. Wildlife sitting by the NGEE team include: humongous mosquitoes, a beluga whale, snowy owls and lemmings. We hope to see walrus and may get a chance if the ice blows into shore with a storm on Saturday. Lodging in the new Herman House location is very comfortable, and just a block from the grocery store. As with every visit to Barrow, the folks at UMIAQ are incredible!