Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Toolik Lake...

Scientists from around the world know the significant role that the Toolik Lake Field Station has played in the study of Arctic ecosystems. Research began here in 1975 with Toolik Lake formally joining the Long-term Ecological Research (LTER) network in 1987. There are many LTER stations in the United States; two LTER sites are located in Alaska with the second site located outside Fairbanks. The overarching goal of the Arctic LTER on the North Slope is to gain a predictive understanding of land, streams, lakes and their many interactions. More recently this has involved investigations that target controls on terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems by physical, climatic, and biotic factors.


Rich and I arrived at Toolik Lake last night and immediately received a safety and operations briefing by the station camp co-manager. We were assigned lodging for the three nights that we will be here. We will occupy Tan Dome #6 which sleeps six. These are simple Weatherport structures that can be easily set-up and moved between locations (e.g., remote deployments). There are many of these wooden floor tents at Toolik Lake, along with a few conventional trailer-style dormitories. In picking a roommate it helps to know who snores. Fortunately it was pretty quiet last night.


In addition to housing there are a number of other supporting facilities at Toolik Lake. For example, shipping and receiving, maintenance, computing and data services, community meeting space, bathrooms and showers, a helicopter landing zone, and a dining hall. The dining hall offers around the clock food service, as well as a gathering space for scientists throughout the day. If breakfast this morning is any example of the interactions that occur among faculty and students, life and scientific exchange of information at Toolik Lake is an exciting one.


Gus Shaver and others are giving us a great overview of research being conducted at Toolik Lake. Long-term observations and experiments abound; Gus and his colleagues have invested time and energy in setting up ecosystem warming and nitrogen fertilization studies. We will visit some of those experiments after lunch today. It will be great to have this background information as Gus accompanies Rich and me to our NGEE Arctic sites in Barrow later in the week.