Toolik Users Forum
August 1, 2005
Brian Barnes, Donie Bret-Harte, and Mike Abels represented the IAB Toolik Management Team, Station Manager Chad Diesinger and Scientific Liaison Adrian Green attended. Donie Bret-Harte recorded these notes, in consultation with others who attended the meeting.
Adrian Green asked about the status of the cabinet and plumbing upgrade for the wet and dry labs. Mike Abels noted that it was in the budget request to VPR last year, but was cut from this year's budget. Adrian noted that the plumbing upgrade is the highest priority for users of the wet lab, and asked whether the request could be made again to VPR this year. Chris Crockett was out of camp for this User Forum, but seconded this request after he returned. IAB will make sure that the plumbing request receives a high priority in this year's upgrade request to VPR. The cabinets were felt to be less essential than the plumbing, though desirable.
Scott Houghton commented that the DI water system in the wet lab has run dry twice in one week. When the system goes dry, air gets into the pump, and it is hard to get the system started again. Scott noted that the current barrel that feeds the DI system is opaque, so it is hard to see when the water level gets low, and the wet lab supplies DI water to much of the camp. He suggested that a translucent barrel with larger capacity would help solve the problem. Adrian agreed that this would help. Lab 2 has a similar DI system, and might also benefit from a translucent barrel. However, Jim Laundre has a system worked out, and it was suggested that Scott consult with him when he arrives in August, before proceeding to change anything. Scott did replace the wet lab DI barrel with a clean 105-gallon tank in the week following the User Forum, and this was very popular.
Scott commented that ultimately, a water distribution system from the water treatment unit to the labs would be the best solution, but this is not likely to happen soon. Brian Barnes commented that Dan White suggested that a distribution system with arctic pipe would be one of the next steps in the water upgrade plan, and will be in the VPR request list for this year. Over the long-term, it is hoped that Toolik's water needs could be satisfied with a well.
Scott asked whether Toolik could request a 24 x 40' shed next to the shipping/receiving tent, for storage of scientific freight during the summer and overwinter. Such a shed could accommodate 40 pallets inside, with space for the pallet jack to maneuver. Scott sees a strong need for storage of scientific equipment and freight that isn't currently being met. For example, Steve Oberbauer had a pallet of scientific equipment stored in the small Weatherport next to the shipping/receiving tent, and it was difficult to access it because the pallet jack could not go into the tent. Similarly, Bill Fitzgerald has a lot of equipment that is needed for only a few weeks, and needs to be stored the rest of the time. Right now there is insufficient storage space, even with the new Conex that was recently purchased. Tyler commented that a shed might help solve the problem of storage for the materials that are currently stored under the labs.
Adrian asked whether the shed would be movable, and Scott responded that it could be put on skids and moved with the loader. Peter Ray asked whether the shed could substitute for the Conexes that are being purchased. Scott thought it could, and that scientists would appreciate Toolik staff helping them with storage, so that everything from one project would be kept together shrink-wrapped on pallets. Someone asked whether scientific equipment couldn't be stored in the shipping/receiving tent over the winter. However, the furniture from the residence WeatherPORT tents is stored in there now, which takes up much of the space, and some space needs to stay open to store the utility vehicles (4-wheeler and mule).
Mike Abels expressed his concern that such a shed might make the proposed Science Support Building obsolete. Several people commented that the SSB is much more than a storage structure, so a shed would not make it obsolete. There is a strong need for more lab space at Toolik in the relatively near future, which would be satisfied by the SSB. (Right now lab space needs are being accommodated in 3 temporary tents, in addition to the permanent structures. The former shipping/receiving storage tent was turned into a lab tent this season, so is unavailable for storage.) In addition, the warehouse space in the SSB needs to stay open to accommodate vehicles and snowmachines for winter operations and staging, so it can accommodate only limited storage. Brian Barnes suggested that Scott make up a drawing of what he has in mind for the shed, for further discussion and community input.
Adrian asked whether projects have designated storage space in the new Conexes. Mike replied that they do. The newest Conex is planned to go between the wet and dry labs, to accommodate users in those labs. The GTH group will have overwinter storage in lab 5 (large tent) which will stay up overwinter. Adrian asked when the new Conex is expected to arrive. Mike said there is no definite ETA, because it depends on finding one that doesn't leak. The new Conex did arrive a couple of weeks later, and was put into place on 8/22/05. Scott asked that scientists label their boxes with name and date before stashing them in the Conexes. Mike asked whether pre-printed labels would be helpful, but Scott thought labeling with a Sharpie would be fine. There was some discussion of the need to clean out the current Aquatics Conex, which is so full that it is impossible to find out what is in it. It was suggested that at the March 2006 LTER meeting, a time for cleaning it out be agreed upon when most groups are in camp. Once it has been cleaned out, Scott will put shelves in it so that it will be easier to access.
There was some discussion about the dishwashers. Scott commented that he spends an inordinate amount of time fixing them, and asked whether industrial dishwashers might not be more appropriate for the loads at Toolik during peak season. Mike explained that these dishwashers were selected because they use very little water, and because they had to fit under a sink. Allison Warden commented that the current dishwashers are also very hard on the backs of the kitchen staff because the trays of dishes have to be lifted out; most restaurant dishwashers have rolling trays, and kitchen staff members do not have to lift the racks out of the dishwasher when they are full of dishes. A 3-phase restaurant dishwasher would cost in the $10,000 to $12,000 range and would use more water, according to Mike. However, it would likely be much more reliable. Mike will look into dishwasher options.
Also with regard to kitchen operations, Peter commented that the new sandwich bar is nice, but is not big enough for more than 2 people to make sandwiches at once. The situation could be improved by adding a cutting board surface over the tray shelf on the salad bar, which is right next to the sandwich bar. Mike will go to A & W and see what is available. Another tray might be available for that model that has a cutting board surface. He requested that Chad or Scott send him the model number for the salad bar, the length of the tray, and the preferred width. Mike asked how the new Arctic entryway on the dining hall is working. The entryway is working very well, and the hand-washing sink receives a lot of use. The entryway is often used as a staging area for groups going into the field, as well as being used before meals.
Allison Warden commented that she is the only Inupiat person in camp, and receives a lot of questions as to Inupiaq names and history, which she doesn't always feel qualified to answer. She suggested that an Inupiat person be invited to give a lecture here about history and names. Donie Bret-Harte commented that Roosevelt Paneak used to give occasional Talking Shop lectures, and they were very popular, but unfortunately he passed away this spring. Allison suggested that her uncle James in Anaktuvuk Pass, who was a teacher of Inupiaq language, might be a good person to invite. Brian agreed to invite him to come some time next season. Allison also commented that it would be nice to have more Inupiat workers in camp.
Adrian asked about how to dispose of a dead computer monitor. It can be sent to UAF surplus, if the MBL barcode is removed first. There is also a scintillation counter that needs to be disposed of, but that is more complicated because of the radioactive source. John Hobbie and Mike are consulting with Susan Henrichs (Radiation safety officer at UAF) to come up with a plan.
Scott asked whether there was an artist-in-residence this year. Mike responded that there are several possibilities, but the timing hasn't worked out for this season.
The discussion turned to the sauna. Sauna mats have been ordered and put down there, and Tyler has also ordered 3 gallons of paint with grit for the stairs and dock. Users commented that the handle of the door is also too hot, and requested some insulation, such as an oven mitt, for it. Also, the handle has broken off the stove. Scott agreed to fix the stove. Scott also commented that fishnet over the stairs might improve traction in icy conditions. Brett is getting some for Scott to try out. Scott and Mike will survey conditions at the sauna and fix anything that needs fixing. Painting the dock and steps was completed as of 8/19/05, and an oven mitt was installed on the sauna door handle.
Adrian noted that several people have asked her about whether Toolik could have a clothesline, so that clothes could be dried outside when the weather permits. She suggested that it be put behind the wash-up trailer, where there would be minimal dust. Scott commented that some clothesline had been ordered, but he didn't know what its intended use was. Mike Abels commented that industrial strength clothespins would be needed, so that laundry would not be blown into the lake.
Peter Ray commented that there is a population of Gentiana prostrata, a relatively rare plant, behind the washup trailer. He is concerned that it might be obliterated when the SSB is constructed. Mike and Brian felt that it is located far enough away from where the SSB is going that it shouldn't be a problem. However it is close to where the grey water tank is going to be replaced. Scott agreed to fence it off so that the VPR crew would not inadvertently cover it up with dirt when they replace the grey water tank. Oivind suggested that a sign be put up, so that people would know that it was a protected plant.
After the User Forum, a number of other comments were received. Jim Laundre commented that the some of the outhouses are so full of liquid that splashback is a problem. The smell is also bad, especially when it is hot out. In addition, he suggested that the truck washing area be moved over to the space between the wet lab and the shower module, so that the gravel at the edge of the pad would not be so saturated. Christie Haupert, Greg Goldsmith, and Meredith Trainor commented that it would be nice to get recycled paper for the printers and FAX machine in camp. "New Leaf" recycled paper can be ordered in bulk, and is not significantly more expensive than regular printer paper. Simone Lang, who is an visiting graduate student from the Netherlands, commented that it would be nice to have an account that international travelers could use to purchase postage and other small items, as sometimes international credit cards are not accepted. Accounts can be set up with IAB, but there is a 26% overhead charge on items purchased in this way.
Peter Ray commented that the herbarium space in the GIS office is really too small for serious work, especially when GIS staff are present. As discussed at the last User Forum, the plan is to move the herbarium into the old wash-up trailer once the shower module addition is completed. Peter pointed out that this would be preferable to putting the herbarium into the SSB, because allowing it to freeze during the winter minimizes the need to fumigate the specimens to prevent insect damage.
Paul Overduin and Julia Boike, who stayed at Toolik with their children, aged 2 and 4, had a number of comments regarding children at Toolik. They commented that the printed material on the web site might not be adequate for parents who had not been to Toolik before. Paul noted that the facilities at Toolik are designed for adults, not for children. He accepted this, but thought that new parents might not realize that Toolik is a potentially hazardous environment for small children, without much accommodation for their needs beyond the community center. He suggested that an orientation booklet ("Your child at Toolik"?) be prepared that would include 1) a map of camp showing where children are allowed, 2) potential hazards such as the lake and the open railing on the deck of the dining hall, 3) what chemicals (e.g. cleaning supplies) children might be exposed to, and 4) state explicitly that the camp does not provide high chairs, child-sized silverware, low sinks, child-size life jackets, etc. Paul suggested that a fence be put around the back door of the community center enclosing a sand box, so that children could play outside in good weather without being able to run all around the camp pad. He also suggested that the community center be equipped with a supply of water (perhaps from a 5-gallon jug), as it is hard to clean up small children in there now, and asked that the electrical outlets in the community center be plugged with covers so that children can't put their fingers into them. Paul and Julia suggested that it would be easier if families with children could eat in the community center, rather than in the dining hall. They suggested that weatherport tents used for family housing be put behind the community center and away from the other tents, so that other residents would not be disturbed if the kids made noise. Finally, they commented that staff and users be encouraged to talk to the parents if there are problems with the children's behavior, and that staff and users should also feel free to speak to the children if they are doing something that is not appropriate.
The suggestion box contained 1) a request for baked macaroni and cheese, 2) a request for new shower curtains in the shower module, and 3) a request that cottage cheese be always available with the salad bar. The food suggestions were passed on to the cooks.
Persons who attended the forum or gave comments afterwards that were included in these notes:
- Mike Abels
- Brian Barnes
- Julia Boike
- Donie Bret-Harte
- Chris Crockett
- Chad Diesinger
- Tyler Freeman
- Greg Goldsmith
- Anya Goropashnaya
- Adrian Green
- Christie Haupert
- Scott Houghton
- David Johnson
- Franzisca Kohl
- Simone Lang
- Jim Laundre
- Paul Overduin
- Peter Ray
- Oivind Toien
- Meredith Trainor
- Allison Warden
- Julia York