Thursday, April 18, 2013

Sensitive tundra, sustainable science...

While the rest of the team continued to sample permafrost on the BEO, I had another task for today. I have mentioned before that NGEE Arctic is conducting research in Barrow as guests of the local community. This is their land, and although it is set aside for research by a native village corporation (UIC), we want to be good stewards of the tundra in and around where we have our field plots.

Last year we placed trail mat across the tundra to provide protected walk-ways within and among our many field areas. Tundra vegetation is sensitive to repeated foot traffic and the trail mat serves to protect arctic plants from multiple trips to and from our plots throughout the season. The trail mat did a great job of limiting our impact on the local environment. We did notice that wet areas, especially as our walk-ways went through water-filled areas like polygon troughs and centers, needed a little extra protection. We therefore decided to build a few wooden boardwalks that could span these wet areas and limited the negative impacts due to foot traffic in these areas.
I purchased wood last fall from the local hardware store here in Barrow and stored it for the winter in our sea-land container. Yesterday evening, all the wood was moved to a large UMIAQ building and today I began building a few sections of board-walk. 

The task went fairly quickly with my job being one of basically aligning the three 10 foot-long supports and then nailing the 2x4 cedar walk boards into place. It took the better part of the day to assemble six of these walk-ways and I'll do more tomorrow. We will be able to load these onto the wooden sleds we have been using and move them to the field with snow machines. We will place them in areas where we know they will be useful, people visiting Barrow in June after snow-melt can hand-carry them into their final position. This will provide an efficient and cost-effective way of protecting sensitive tundra so we can conduct our research as good stewards of the land.