Thursday, August 17, 2006

With the assistance of my officemate, I discovered the search function here on blogger. We typed in "Toolik" and up popped several personal blogs dealing with research and life at the station- some of which are quite unprofessional. I've known about the dangers of posting online, but I never really considered it to be a problem. However, we found a blog by an employee of a company that deals with many of us at the station where the employee rants about an associate of ours. Now, if it had been me, I know I would make sure that the person's employer knew about this as well as the camp management. It's definitely over the line. If you are going to post something like that, you'd better make sure you know who is reading your blog.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

My last night in camp, we had the grand opening of the pub art gallery, with the exhibit "Lost Antlers", complete with wine, cheese, and a piece of performance art. We actually had quite the range, from a line up of mosquito repellant (Safety in numbers) to a quite striking post-modern piece made of rebar, a milk crate, and rounded small rocks.

I was packing like crazy, so I took 15 minutes to bring over some silly things, including pages from a Finding Nemo coloring book several of us colored last year. It was a fun event to end the summer with, and I hope it becomes an annual event.

I left Sunday morning and met some really awesome people on the ride south. Met a friend for dinner in Fairbanks and got to see her "new" one room dry cabin. It's got potential. After a three hour nap, I headed to the airport this morning, and spent about 15 hours in airports and planes. Northwest left my bags in Chicago (including a cooler of frozen samples), but I'm home again...

well, on a friend's couch, at least.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Today was my last day of field sampling! We did the second half of the "I-series" where we get dropped off by helicopter and walk back in while sampling. We made pretty good time and were back in camp by 3 p.m. We also saw many more caribou and this small herd passed fairly close by. I was able to catch a tsik-tsik (arctic ground squirrel) watching, on guard, with a mouthful of dried grass (used for winter insulation). The mountains have been beautiful the past few days with the snow they received on Tuesday. It's still been chilly here with some rain, but luckily the sun is peeking through the clouds again.

Later, after lunch, we walked through a large patch of cloudberries, Rubus chamaemorus. Apparently, some other people ahead of us ate most of the ripe ones, but we were still able to sample a few.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Dramatic much?
Have you ever seen anything so beautiful? The package arrived tonight with one of our lab members. The helicopter also broke and everyone is blaming it on me.

Not only are there few people in camp, but everything is the end of the world and in the evenings we just wander around camp, aimlessly... Yup, it must be August.
Please excuse me while I go run down the haul road.

I just found out that a key package was shipped up here on the Lyndon truck. If there is anyway to guarantee that a package won't arrive quickly, it's to put it on a Lyndon truck. The next two days we are scheduled to go sampling on the helicopter with a large group, and I need that package. Now imagine me muttering around camp.
Nice rack.
The past week has been a blur, with many parties and the internet and phones going out for two days (courtesey of lightening storms). There was a bachelorette party, a metal birthday party, a couple of going away parties and a tropical luau. Yesterday I actually got to leave camp in a truck- for the second time this summer. We took a scenic drive up to Deadhorse and while the other three people went on the Prudhoe Bay/ Arctic Ocean tour I sat in the hotel doing data entry and reading the day's newspaper. Usually we get the paper a day late in camp. The drive up was a bit cloudy and we saw lots of caribou (and hunters at every pull-off).

The drive back was sunny most of the way and we did a short scouting trip (in sandals) to the Sag near the D.O.T. station. There were tons of ripe blueberries everywhere! On the way up, Christie gave us a recap of the story Hunted and so on the way back I read the last 20 pages out loud to everyone while she drove. The sun is going down around 11 pm these days (still not sure what time it rises, but I'm guessing sometime around 5 am) so it was still fairly light out when we finally made it back late last night.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Oh to be half-asleep and editing a post from the night before. Here are a few new pictures. These flowers (monk's hood or wolfbane) are by the outlet to my lake. The weather keeps bouncing back and forth between sunny, nice, and warm versus cloudy, cold, and rainy. Typical Toolik.

On Sunday, I went hiking with Cody, Ken, and Alexia, desperate to get "out" of camp. We hiked up over this ridge west of Jade and had some fabulous views of the rivers and lakes west of here. On our way back around, we saw a scruffy looking fox who really wasn't that afraid of us, but kept a comfortable distance away. It's been quite the summer for wildlife up here.

In other news, I now have to share the lab with a large research group and might even have to share my room. It's been a nice, quiet, productive summer and I think I'll spending the last week and a half here with my headphones stuck in my ears.

Inspired by David: 326 days at Toolik after this season, 345 days including travel for research in Alaska, plus ~3 weeks of vacation over the years in Alaska = over a year of my life in Alaskan summers.

Monday, July 31, 2006

Stuck in the towers...
The other day I went to use the towers (above ground pit toilets) and it was so stinky that I was in quite a hurry. When I finished, I turned the deadbolt, and it wouldn't budge! I panicked since last year someone actually got stuck for quite a while before they were rescued. After what seemed like an eternity, I realized that the lock was already open- I had forgotten to lock the door in my rush. Such a dork...

Friday, July 28, 2006

Cody eats fish smoothie

What scientists do for fun, or at least after losing a bet. And to think, I've actually had daquiris made in that blender...

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Holy crap! I was almost run over by a pair of male caribou this afternoon! (There was no fence between us). I was headed to the porch for some reading and I heard some running behind me. Simone yells my name and I see the caribou headed straight for me. They veered away, but I stood practically pinned next to the truck until they passed by and regretted not bringing my camera with me. There are stray caribou all over the place today, and apparently the main herd is still hanging out by Jade. I'm a little nervous about walking back from sampling by myself tomorrow. They can run so fast over the tundra!

EDIT: David got some good pictures of them.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

A herd of caribou passed by the west side of Toolik today! It's the first time I've seen so many in one place, and I know it doesn't compare with the herds in ANWR. Luckily, I had just finished setting up my experiment for the day and was able to join the rest of the lab in taking a boat to the other side of the lake to get a closer look.
See if you can see them in the above picture full size- they are near the saddle in the center.

We also saw some new flowers, argued over berry identification and found this beautiful mushroom.

See, I do work too. Taken by Luke on July 18th while I was setting up an experiment.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Fiesta! In celebration of a birthday here, we made several pinatas. There was a caribou (pictured), a muskox head, a hot air balloon, and a penguin (because despite all the marketing, there are no penguins in the Arctic). I also made some maracas. We also had Mexican food for dinner with tres leches cake and this time they even made proper rice and a double batch of guacamole!

After the party, I went on a canoe trip with a lab mate. We spent some quality time with the pair of yellow-billed loons that live on Toolik and we saw one of the first sunsets of the summer. The yellow-billed loon, Gavia adamsii, is the largest and rarest of the loons. They have spindly little legs and generally stay on the water most of the time, diving for food.

The sunset was all the sweeter because yesterday was the first day in a very long time that has been sunny! We're expecting clouds and rain by tomorrow, so I'm enjoying the blue skies while I can.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Here's another picture of the wolf- a very classy shot taken by our head cook.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Finally! Some pictures to share. Here are the higlighters we used to decorate ourselves and the lab under blacklights (picture taken by a labmate).

This is the wolf that's been hanging around the camp- I saw him on a different day, this picture was taken by a labmate on their way back from a hike. We're not sure if the wolf brought down the caribou, but it sure looks content.

And last, but certainly not least, here is the fabulous "burning man" bonfire we had last night. It was a great deal of fun.

EDIT: the burning man was successful! The sun came out on Monday, and has so far stuck around on Tuesday!

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Today was my 13th trip, and 25th day, for an intensive thrice a summer synoptic sampling trip. To celebrate, I took many tundra naps and tooks lots of pictures of pretty flowers. This one is a harebell, Campanula rotundifolia.

These flowers had several flies crawling on them, answering the question of the dominant pollinators up here. There are all kinds of flies of different shapes and sizes. Unfortunately, I'm no naturalist, so I can't even guess the identification. The flower is possibly a Bistort.

Again, we had looming clouds, with periodic rain. We've had very strange weather this year- short spurts of rain or snow, usually lasting less than a day. Here is another bistort, Bistorta bistortoides or maybe Valaria capitata.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Yesterday we went a little bit upstream of "my" lake to do some bacterial habitat sampling. Check out the looming storm- it was right on top of us just a few minutes after I took this picture. There's nothing like being in the middle of nowhere with thunder and lightning! It passed over us quickly though, and those of us who thought to bring rain suits stayed fairly dry.

Last night I presented some of my research to camp and was followed by a Canadian grad student who does terrestrial microbial work. Now I'll be able to go back and fill in the proper names to some of the flowers I've been photographing all summer. This one is a yellow arnica, Arnica angustifolia.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Today I went on a survey sampling trip with my advisor, collaborator, and a high school teacher. We spent the day hopping from lake to lake in the helicopter. The day started off pretty cold- my fingers still hurt. It cleared up a bit into a gorgeous day, but it was windy at the higher altitude we were sampling at. I'm going to sleep well tonight!

Here are a few more pics of some of the lakes we visited:

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

The finished product... Amanda was the evil ground squirrel that was later unmasked by the gang. I assume you can guess the other characters.
Unfortunately, the helicopter crew beat us out for best float, but we had too much fun to care. There were quite a few ingenious costumes including lake sampling equipment (rubber raft, secchi disk, syringe, net, etc.), sauna rules (no talking shop, no boats, don't use Adrian's towel, etc.), and the Queen of the Lake (Codi as the mermaid queen on a litter with lobsters, fish, plankton).

Monday, July 03, 2006

Fourth of July is tomorrow. Every year, each lab decides on a theme and dresses up in costumes. Then there is a parade with much fanfare and "awards" given out. I've been told that I will be Velma. Apparently our lab is on a mystery kick, since last year we did Clue. Time to dig out my turtleneck and knee-highs!

Friday, June 30, 2006

I ended up taking a picture on my way to bed: Here's a view from my lab at ~2:15 am.
As I was walking back to the lab amid some late night sampling, I looked around and thought how I should take a picture to share with you how much more tolerable it is to work late nights when it's still light out at 12:30am. However, when I got to my lab, I discovered that not one, but both of the doors had been accidentally locked. I tried kicking on the doors in the hopes that someone was still up, to no avail. So I went on a 20 minute man-hunt to find the night owl assistant manager to let me in. I finally tracked down which fine trailer was his. However, now I am in a race to finish my incubations and filtrations so I can get some sleep tonight! At least tomorrow's field day is starting at a reason time- I don't think I'll be in bed before 2 am. In short, maybe I'll take a picture late tomorrow night instead.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

A brief photo history of my summers above the Arctic Circle:

Summer 2005: So damn dry that I had trouble setting up experiments in lake inlets and outlets. Highlights included lots of crazy costume parties including an "all women" bridal shower. Went swimming in the Arctic Ocean again- this time in nothing but my Tevas.
Summer 2004: Much warmer. Highlights included an overnight trip to the base of "Mystical" in ANWR. Yes, it is that buggy. Probably my favorite summer up here.
Summer 2003: Still pretty cold and snowy. Hiking trips to China Valley and the top of Jade Mountain.
Summer 2002: Slipped on an icy boardwalk and sprained my wrist. Super snowy and cold! Visited Atigun Gorge several times and went swimming in the Arctic Ocean.
Here is one of our beautiful sunsets over Toolik Lake (from August 2004). We won't see the sun set up here until the end of July- the sun is just circling overhead right now. Personally, I no longer have a problem sleeping any time of day, despite the light. No insomnia for me! People come up with various solutions to cover up windows to keep the light out or just work so hard that they fall asleep anywhere. When I first started working up here I became so trained to sleeping whenever it was dark, that I had quite a problem when we drove down to Fairbanks and went to see a movie! I was out like a light.
Some more tundra flowers! Moss campion, Silene acaulis. These little ones are found on a heathy hillslope in very large areas.

These are Arctic Avens, Dryas integrifolia.
The summer growing season is so short here that flowers often change so quickly that you might see entirely different flowers the next time you go out in the field! This year we should see some different plants- last year was so very dry and this year has been quite wet so far. At least that means there will be water for me to sample this summer!
Here are a couple of pictures from a nearby aufeis at Galbraith Lake. We went for a short hike there on Sunday and played around all of the ice formations. It was actually sunny and gorgeous out. I'll have to post some more realistic pictures of our field site so y'all don't think I'm on vacation up here in the middle of nowhere!

Aufeis is German for "ice on top" and forms from streams or springs causing ice to form over existing ice. In the summer up here, this ice melts back partially to reveal very cool formations as well as bridges of ice over the running stream. Needless to say, the water there is very cold- and my feet were pretty sore when I attempted to wade barefoot over some pretty sharp rocks. Still haven't figured out why injuries hurt more when you're already freezing.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Tundra flowers. White arctic mountain heather, Cassiope tetragona.

I arrived at the field station on June 17th, just as the sun started to shine for the first time in at least a week. I'll be up here doing research until mid- August. A short 8 week stint this time around. Well, shorter than previous summers at least.

After our adventures around Anchorage, we took the train northward, spending the night in Talkeetna on our way to the fair city of Fairbanks. We were lucky to see McKinley and the observation deck provided fabulous views.

Here's my mom holding a really big chunk of ice that fell off of Aialik Glacier (Kenai Fjords N.P., near Seward, Alaska).

I have a bit of catching up to do, so there will likely be numerous posts in these first few days (although I am starting a really big experiment tomorrow).

Butchart Gardens in Victoria- Tibetan Blue Poppy and a crazy Peony.