Toolik Users Forum
August 12, 2009
Donie Bret-Harte and Mike Abels represented the Toolik Management Team. Chad Diesinger, Station Manager, attended.
The second User Forum coincided with the IAB-CPS-NSF upgrade meeting. Most of the participants in the upgrade meeting attended the user forum, but once again, relatively few scientists attended. Chad conveyed that again, people felt that things were generally going well, so there was no need to provide comments in this venue. Jim Laundre commented that the User Forums are nice and useful, but there is less to comment on, since things have improved so much over the last few years.
Elissa Schuett commented that the staff has been very helpful this year, and she appreciates it. Anja Kade expressed her appreciation for Brett Biebuyck’s help and patience in scheduling the NSF Science Support Trucks. Angie Allen appreciates the great food. She commented that one person she knew gained 12 pounds and split open her pants. Angie also commented that the GIS services this summer have been great. She really appreciated the training and use of GPS units, and the maps of the thermokarst that were generated. Peter Ray commented that the staff is very helpful, and solve problems quickly. Anja agreed, and commented that they are friendly, also. Renee Crain commented that TFS is coming along well, and it is nice to have continuity in the staff. Chad agreed, and said that recruitment has been easier in the last few years.
Angie commented that Lab 3 is extremely crowded this year. More lab space is desperately needed. Chad commented that Labs 2 and 4 were also extremely crowded this year, and Donie agreed. There were more researchers this year, and not enough space to accommodate all of their needs. Chad commented that assigning lab space and modifying space assignments during the summer was extremely challenging. Donie commented that more lab space is on the list for upgrade requests.
Jim Laundre commented that it would be nice to have another tent lab like Lab 5 for overflow lab space. We now have more needs than can be met with Lab 5. The “Pub” tent, which was used as overflow lab space for the Thermokarst project, is not warm enough, or big enough.
Christie asked people what they thought about the idea of developing a common-use equipment lab, where all of the TFS common-use equipment would be kept. Right now, common use equipment is located in all the different labs around camp. Sometimes this leads to conflicts, when people come into others’ assigned space to use the common-use equipment. It is also a struggle to decide where to put any new pieces of equipment that are acquired, because bench space is at a premium. Angie commented that some folks like having new pieces of common-use equipment housed in their space. She was thrilled to have the new microscope located in her lab. There was no consensus on what should be done.
Common Use Equipment:
Elissa Schuett commented that there has been lots of need for flow meters to measure discharge this year. The LTER owns several, but one broke and they have had to double up. It would be very helpful to have a common use flow meter. She will send the specifications to Christie Haupert.
Angie Allen commented that the common use microscope that was purchased last year has been very helpful. It is good quality, and has helped her a lot. She would like to thank Christie Haupert for getting it up here and setting it up, and for locating it in lab 3.
Angie would also like to thank Brett Biebuyck for helping her obtain bear fences in Fairbanks. Jay Burnside commented that CPS has extra bear fences, which could be borrowed if need be. Feel free to contact them.
Elissa commented that the DI system in wet lab is working very well this year. The under-the-counter RO systems produce water that seems to be of better quality than that provided by the other system. The wet lab DI cartridges have not had to be changed yet this summer, while last year they had to be changed three times. Now we just have to figure out how to take care of the system over the winter. She also commented that it is very nice not to have to deal with changing the blue RO supply barrels. A student of Dan White’s at UAF is comparing the water generated by the old and new systems as part of his master’s thesis research. Christie and Jason have been in touch with him over the summer, and we hope to be able to report on the results of his study next year.
Elissa would like to thank Brett and Joe for their help with the MBL trucks over the winter, and their maintenance in Fairbanks. Everyone loves the Lizard, Husky, Cadillac, and Turtle. The Aquasaurus gets used the least, but the aging MBL truck fleet still gets a lot of local use, especially for Sunday hikes.
Several people commented that it would be better to be able to use the new NSF support trucks for the Sunday hikes, as they are newer, safer vehicles. It is fantastic being able to use them for long-distance travel between Fairbanks and Toolik, and for accessing research sites near TFS. However, right now, their use is restricted to science support. The MBL trucks have no restrictions, so they get heavy use for recreation, and also are used by drivers under 25, who cannot drive the NSF trucks. Mike Abels commented that driving on the Haul Road is probably the most dangerous thing that scientists at TFS regularly do, and Alyeska does not allow underage drivers on the Haul Road. Renee commented that there is a wear and tear factor to consider before turning the NSF trucks loose for recreational purposes. Mike McKibben will look into the insurance issues for the NSF trucks, to see whether it would be possible to use them for recreation and still have reasonable insurance coverage.
Jim Laundre asked about upgrading the common-use boardwalks that run out to the various research sites. How much upgrading can be done in a year? Jason Neely replied that it depends on what type of boardwalk is built. Plank-style boardwalks are cheap, and 5000 feet of them could probably be constructed over two years. It was generally agreed that plank-style boardwalks are acceptable, even preferable, if the planks are wide enough. The matted boardwalks constructed in Barrow have gotten mushy over time, and are no longer very functional. The new boardwalks constructed with cross-wise 1 by 4 inch planks are nice, but perhaps more than is needed.
Peter Ray suggested that the boardwalk that runs up to the LTER plots south of the lakes could be repositioned to make the path more efficient. Right now, it comes over the crest of the hill to the north of the small kame, then cuts back to the south to access the new LTER plots. The area near the crest always drifts in during the winter, and the total distance for the boardwalk would be less if the boardwalk ran on the side of the hill below the crest, toward the new LTER plots. It was suggested that Peter should serve on the boardwalk committee, and he agreed.
Peter also commented that the existing boardwalks need to be leveled every year. The newest ones are in particular need of leveling. Jim commented that it is really a two-person job to do the leveling, unless a handy-man jack could be kept out in the field to be available for this task. Currently CPS levels the boardwalks once per year.
Anja commented that the orientation for the Arctic Field Science course has been very good, and made the students feel very welcome. She would like to thank Chad.
Elissa asked about the availability of walkie-talkie radios. Where are they located, and how do you check them out? Chad said that there are 8-10 available for use by scientists. With the new radios, you can call another individual radio, rather than paging all of them. Talk to the camp manager to check out the radios.
Hazardous waste disposal:
Elissa commented that the waste barrels provided in wet lab were mostly very small this year. Big barrels have finally arrived, but it would have been nice to have them earlier. Brett Biebuyck explained that usually Bill Krause (UAF Environmental Health and Safety) supplies the waste barrels, but this year IAB had to buy them, and it slipped through the cracks initially.
A discussion was held about residential housing at Toolik. Renee asked about the type of accommodations, and why people picked them. Angie and Elissa stay in tent city, in their own tents. Angie had stayed in Weatherports before, but wanted to try tent city. Elissa likes tent city because the view is nice. However, she moved back into the weatherports when she got sick. She feels that Weatherport accommodation is adequate. Jake Schas commented that he likes living in tent city because he likes to be outside; a house is just a place to store his stuff. Christie and Faye like living in the Winter Quarters dorm this year. It is more comfortable than the weatherports, and quieter, because the neighbors are considerate. Randy lives in a weatherport currently. One challenge of the Weatherport residences is the noise, particularly if you are near the dorm tents that are used by classes. It is hard for people to remember that they are in a tent, not a room, and that sound carries really well. Many scientists are quite happy with the weatherports, but others prefer dorms. Chad and Scott spoke of the advantages of having private housing in cabins, and what a difference that has made to their peace of mind.
Quality of Life:
Anja commented that the Arctic Science Field Class members have been cold in the weatherports. Some of them didn’t bring adequate sleeping bags. She appreciated Chad’s help in moving the students into warmer accommodations when they opened up. Angie commented that there used to be a lot of extra sleeping bags in the Cottongrass entryway, but now they are all gone. Will IAB get more? Chad responded that IAB had bought a bunch of extra sleeping bags, but they were used a lot more this year than last year, so they weren’t always available. More will be purchased.
Angie asked how TFS is doing with space heaters, as there was a shortage last year. Chad responded that IAB had purchased more and better space heaters this year. The space heaters that were purchased last year didn’t last very long, and he is hoping that this year’s batch will do better.
Angie commented that it would be nice to have instructions in the labs as to how to turn on the heat when it gets cold. Chad responded that we could provide those instructions. Faye commented that she is happy to turn on the furnaces, but didn’t realize that it was needed. Chad said that Shelby had turned the furnaces on.
Peter commented that the teaspoons and soupspoons are all mixed up in the baskets in the dining hall. That can make it hard to find the small spoons that fit into yogurt containers. Renee suggested a spoon sieve. Randy suggested color-coding the handles.
The following suggestions were received from the suggestion box:
- Pretzels would be great! I like the small thin ones – thin sticks are best. I love your oatmeal bake. You guys are AMAZING!!
- Make that summer salad more often. It was fantastic (7/14).
- Tonight’s dinner (8/2) was AMAZING – the best so far, and I have been here forever…
Food comments were forwarded to the cooks.
Persons who attended or gave comments afterwards: