Characterized by vast amounts of carbon stored in permafrost and a rapidly evolving landscape, the Arctic is an important focal point for the study of climate change. These are sensitive systems, yet the mechanisms responsible for those sensitivities remain poorly understood and inadequately represented in Earth System Models. The NGEE Arctic project seeks to reduce uncertainty in climate prediction by better understanding critical land-atmosphere feedbacks in terrestrial ecosystems of Alaska.
Tuesday, June 18, 2013
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.