Thursday, June 27, 2013

A second day out Kougarok Road...

This morning we drove back out the Kougarok Road to begin our day. The drive was not as long as yesterday; we reached our destination after 64 miles. According to Guido, this was his Site 5 and it also represented a drained lake basin similar to the one we previously worked at further down the road. This feature, however, was smaller with a more abrupt transition from upland to basin. The transition area was dense with woody shrubs, while the basin was wet and contained a variety of sedges and grasses.

Guido established this site not too long ago and, unlike the other sites, this one is instrumented with a tripod-mounted weather station where air and soil temperatures are monitored, along with radiation and relative humidity. Data is logged, stored, and then uploaded via a satellite weekly. There is also a 4.5 meter borehole nearby that allows an accurate record of temperatures below-ground to be obtained. This is important when working in these environments. In looking at this installation, one cannot help but see that all wires and cables are housed within flexible conduit. This protects the cables from being chewed on by rodents and foxes. Damage like this can be a big problem for remote instrument locations, and we have experienced instrument failures in Barrow for just this reason.


Once we got our bearings and examined the general area, we laid out transects like yesterday. We had a good routine and everyone knew their job. Victoria set up vegetation plots and conducted plant composition surveys; Jenny and Santonu started gathering data with the ASD specroradiometer; Guido and Dan marked all locations with dGPS; and Rich and I harvested the vegetation plots. Harvesting the small plots was a little harder than it was yesterday thanks in large part to the presence of woody shrubs, mostly Betula.

One thing that was new today was our goal of inserting ion exchange resins into the soil to get a sense for nutrient availability in the various areas along the transect. Rich and Victoria have used a commercial "Plant Root Simulator" or PRS probe for this purpose last year in Barrow with good results and wanted to try them at Site 5 as well. The PRS probes comes with a membrane that contains either an anion or cation exchange resin. Probes are installed in the ground, you then can come back in several months and remove them for analysis. You can specify the nutrients to be analyzed, but we will certainly want estimates of NO3- and NH4+ availability. We will be back later in the summer to recover these probes.

Our trips out the Kougarok Road required us to stop this morning at the Bonanza Express for fuel. Because gas is brought in on barges each year the price of fuel in Nome is generally high. Gas in Barrow is also expensive; slightly more on average than Nome.