Monday, April 15, 2013

Time to Begin Again...

My alarm clock went off at 4:30am Sunday morning. I loaded my bags into the car last night, so all I had to do was take a quick shower, grab a granola bar on the way through the kitchen, and I was off to the airport within 30 minutes. Had it not been for leaving my Blackberry on the kitchen table, all would have gone precisely as planned. Thanks to some last minute heroics and creative driving across town by my wife, Denise, I was reunited with my primary means of staying in touch while away from the office. And just in the nick of time; the airplane doors were closed, latched, and we pushed back from the gate bound for Chicago, Seattle, Anchorage, Fairbanks, and onwards to Barrow on the North Slope of Alaska. The 2013 field season for the NGEE Arctic project had officially begun!

Those of you who might be new to this blog or to the NGEE Arctic project...welcome! Our goal in this DOE-sponsored research is to develop, through field and laboratory studies and modeling, a process-rich understanding of Arctic terrestrial ecosystems in a changing climate. We are focusing primarily on critical feedbacks to climate that arise due to permafrost thaw and degradation, and associated carbon cycle dynamics. Our team is committed to delivering new insights that support improved climate prediction. This is the second year of what we anticipate will be a decade-long investigation of Arctic ecosystems and how important physical, chemical, and biological processes are changing with warmer temperatures. We have a large, multi-disciplinary team of scientists from four DOE national laboratories and several strategic universities working to address the many facets of this question.

This week, my colleagues from ORNL, LBNL, University of Alaska Fairbanks and I will be collecting permafrost cores from the Barrow Environmental Observatory (BEO). David, Taniya, Ken, Craig, Larry, Bob, and I will use a sled-mounted hydraulic drill rig to sample cores to a depth of one meter. We did this last year with great results and hope to have similar success this year as we collect cores across ice-wedge polygons and drained thaw lake basins of several ages. Taniya is new to the project, having joined us as a post-doc last fall, so this will be her first trip to Barrow. Once cores are transported back to ORNL, Taniya, Beth, Liyuan, Baohua, Tommy, and David will conduct controlled temperature studies using the cores and relate CO2 and methane flux to soil carbon quantity and quality, geochemistry, and microbial community composition. A subset of samples will go to scientists at LBNL for additional characterization and analysis by Susan, Janet, and their teams in geophysics and microbiology, respectively.

I am looking forward to being back in Barrow and working in the field with a great group of scientists. It is still winter in Alaska so we will have to be aware of the cold, wind, wind chill, visibility, driving conditions (e.g., trucks and snow machines), and other safety-related issues. As always, we appreciate the assistance that we receive from Marv, Karl, Eric, and others with UMIAQ. They provided logistical support to our project last year and we look forward to working with them again in 2013.