Toolik Users Forum
July 20, 2004
Brian Barnes, Mike Abels, and Donie Bret-Harte represented the Toolik management team, facility supervisor Rich Flanders attended. Donie Bret-Harte recorded these notes, in consultation with others who attended the meeting.
Brian Barnes gave a brief overview of the Toolik development plan (the development plan is continuing, and the science support building is the next large capital project). He also discussed IAB's application for renewal of the Co-operative Agreement that currently funds the base costs of the TFS operations. He commented that user comments play an important role in setting the directions for TFS activities at the annual steering committee meeting. This year, the Steering Committee meeting will take place in San Francisco, in conjunction with the AGU meeting. IAB will also be seeking funding to hold a Science Vision Workshop, in order to discuss the priorities for expanded science support with members of the scientific community. We hope that members of the Toolik user community and scientists with experience at other field stations will participate. Bruce Peterson commented that the Toolik GIS facility has turned out to be incredibly useful to his research, in ways that he did not originally foresee. He felt that IAB should consider expanding scientific support even if not all members of the science community are unanimous in their support, though support from the community is obviously needed to make it work.
There was much discussion of the internet and phone systems. TFS had just experienced a week without phone or internet service, due to equipment failure after several intense electrical storms. Bruce Peterson suggested that it would be very helpful if IAB could manage a list of primary/emergency contacts for people who are in residence at the station, and send out a message from Fairbanks to those people, telling them what has happened, if the internet goes down here. Now that TFS normally has such phone and email access, people are not expecting to be out of communication, and their loved ones worry. The list could be compiled each year from the emergency contacts already listed in the on-line reservation forms. Mike Abels agreed to generate such a list.
Ken Irving wondered whether TFS could acquire another phone system, such as Starband, so that there is communication redundancy if the internet goes down. This is particularly important now that we are dependent on the regular communications system for all supplies. The analog phones that were formerly in the winter lab are no longer available. Mike Abels noted that new equipment will allow redundancy within the T-1 line, but that analog phone service to TFS is expected to disappear once Alascom completes its sale of the phone lines and equipment to Alyeska. There is some possibility that GCI will operate the phone system for Alyeska, and could continue to serve TFS. However, we cannot count on this. Mike also said that acquisition of a Starband system is in progress, but will not be complete until the end of the summer. Chris Crockett wondered what short-term options were available now for phone service when the internet is down. Rich Flanders commented that there is an analog phone in winter quarters which is available, although it also was not working well during the recent period when the internet was down. Brian Barnes commented that since UAF has satellite phones, TFS should go ahead and use them in a case like this, as well as for emergencies. There are currently 4 satellite phones in camp, and anyone who needs to use one should see Rich. Rich commented that both of the normal phone systems (internet and analog in the winter quarters) are now fixed and working.
Brian asked how people felt about the food, and Chris Crockett commented that the cooks are doing a great job; the food is refreshing (but so good that it makes you fat). Bruce Peterson commented that overall camp is running quite well right now; the service is good and the staff is helpful. It is easier on the staff when there are fewer scientists; it was fairly stressful for them when there were more than 100 people, even though the staff continued to do a good job.
There was discussion of shipping and receiving. Users commented that shipping seems to be somewhat slow right now; was that because of the fires along the Dalton Highway? Rich commented that the Dalton is open right now, but not much freight is coming into camp because it is the middle of the season. Anyone who has outgoing freight should contact Rich, and he will schedule a southbound truck. Chris Crockett and Suzanne Randazzo commented that overall, shipping and receiving are working well this year, and they received all the freight that they were expecting. Chris commented that the label system seem to be working well, and the overflow tent for shipping/receiving is making a big difference in keeping the incoming freight organized.
More on-site overwinter storage is a high priority for users, because a number of the labs are not very usable in the shoulder season because they are filled with items stored over the winter. This was also noted at the last user meeting. Mike commented that one Conex has been set up near Lab 3, and another one is coming. They will be equipped with shelving and lights. Mike and Rich do not want the new Conexes to get like the current Aquatics Conex, which is stuffed so full of equipment that it is basically not usable. A number of users commented that this is partly because the current Aquatics conex has no interior shelving, and because there are too many groups that are trying to use it. Additional Conex space, with shelving, should alleviate this problem. Some groups do need to clean house, as well.
Rich asked that Adrian Green and Chris Crockett give him information on requested cabinet upgrades for the wet and dry labs so that plans could be developed at the end of the season. He wondered whether more small drying ovens, balances, and shaker tables would be needed. Chris commented that his highest priority for the wet lab would be to get running water and a grey water tank installed, because there is so much glassware that needs to be washed and rinsed with DI on a regular basis. DI rinses currently go into the HAZMAT waste. Plumbing and interior upgrades for the wet and dry labs are not in the budget for this year, but they are planned for inclusion next year. Chris and Rich will get together before the end of the season to finalize plans for cabinets in the wet and dry labs . The new water system should be on-line soon, but the distribution system through camp may take longer. Barrels for lab water (for making DI water) can be filled at the water treatment trailer, then hauled around to the labs as occurs now. Users were excited to hear that TFS will soon be able to generate lab quality water on-site.
Mike asked how the new HAZMAT system is working so far. Molly Marvel has been on break, and her replacement does not have as much training on HAZMAT issues, but she will be coming back soon. Chris Crockett commented that right now there are plenty of HAZMAT barrels, and the HAZMAT processing system is going well. Bill Krause will bring more barrels and signage. Suzanne commented that the dry lab needs a sign about how to dispose of waste, even though the sink there is not hooked up. Chris commented that the wet lab needs a pump funnel, similar to the one that is used for DI, in order to pump waste into larger containers. By the time these notes were written, Scott Houghton had made a large waste funnel for wet lab users, in conjunction with their siphon system, and this was working well.
Trash was discussed. Rich reminded users to keep the aluminum recycling containers clean and free of trash. Scott Houghton suggested that it might be helpful to color-code the trash cans, for instance by painting the burnable trash cans red, and painting the aluminum recycling containers blue. Users thought that this would be helpful. Rich reminded users that juice boxes should be put in the burnable trash. The new incinerator, which should produce less particulate pollution since it has a double-burning system, should arrive later this season.
Brian told everyone that Arden Bement, the acting Director of the NSF, and Steve Jones, the new chancellor of UAF, will be visiting TFS on August 19.