Toolik Users Forum
June 20, 2005
Donie Bret-Harte, Mike Abels, and Rob Brookes represented the IAB Toolik Management Team, Station Manager Chad Diesinger and Science Liaison Gus Shaver attended. Donie Bret-Harte recorded these notes, in consultation with others who attended the meeting.
Users commented that, in general, things are running well so far this year. Mike Gooseff commented that he was impressed with how quickly things have changed, and gave kudos to Chad and Toolik management.
Heather Adams asked about the status of two on-going projects, the cabinetry/plumbing in the wet and dry labs, and the purchase of a bench-top autoclave that was requested last year. Mike responded that bids were received for the autoclave, an autoclave order has been placed with Fisher, and the autoclave should be here soon. The cabinetry/plumbing task was scoped by VPR, but is not tasked for completion this year due to budgetary constraints at NSF. It is still in the queue, and may be tasked next year.
Gus Shaver asked about the rate for userdays for foreign scientists with grants to work at Toolik, and whether those userdays could be supported directly from foreign countries via a purchase order. In the past, foreign scientists working at Toolik have been here as the guests of funded U.S. scientists, with userdays paid from U.S. grants. Mike responded that from the IAB perspective, there is now only one userday rate for everyone, and that there is no problem with UAF processing a PO from a foreign institution. However, it was agreed that it would be best to check with Simon Stephenson regarding support for foreign scientists at Toolik.
John Hobbie asked whether IAB management could notify the LTER and other PIs as soon as it is known when visitors such as the Arctic Research Commission plan to come to Toolik. These visits are often planned with fairly short notice, but the more notice, the easier it is to prepare. Mike agreed to cc John Hobbie and anyone else who wishes to be notified.
John Hobbie asked whether IAB is planning to move to year-round power and a heated camp next winter. Mike responded that the continuous-run generator has been fitted out, and that IAB will try to run it next winter, sending Chad up every 6 weeks to change the oil. Continuous power and heat will enable continuous communication via the T-1 line. John suggested that the LTER might try to run non-critical instruments over the winter this year for testing purposes. Rob, Mike, and Donie agreed that this would be a good idea.
Boat scheduling was discussed. IAB has two camp boats, one for staff use with the water system, and one that is available for science. The Arctic LTER also has several boats for science use. Chris Crockett schedules the use of all science boats through the wet lab. Molly Marvel covers the basics of boating safety in her lab/driving/boat safety class. Chris felt that the existing boats (MBL and IAB) are adequate to handle current demand. Chris commented that the new boat ramp is working well. Ken Fortino asked whether there was a way to mark the channels across the lake, to avoid the shoals. Mike agreed to purchase buoys if desired, and Ken and Chris agreed to put them out. This was done following the meeting.
Cassie Conley commented that it would be nice to post summaries of funded research projects on the web site or on the picture board. Mike agreed to post the abstracts of funded projects on the web site. Ken asked whether the web site could include a link to "frequently asked questions" and instructions as to who to ask about which topic, with email addresses. Gus seconded this suggestion. It was suggested that IAB might implement a general Toolik email address for questions/comments that could be checked by multiple IAB staff. It was felt that there might be problems assuring personal replies, though. Mike agreed to add email addresses and frequently asked questions to the web site.
Ken Fortino commented that although shipping is working very well this year in general, he has had some trouble with his stuff going to different labs. Tyler Freeman commented that staff members have had some problems determining who is located where, because Roosevelt Paneak knew the most, and he has now passed on. Cody Johnson and Donie offered to generate a list here of individuals and their projects that could be sent to Brett at IAB to help in coding packages. It was also suggested that the reservation form be altered to provide project names from a drop-down menu, to make them more consistent, which would also help make the reservation system more efficient. Mike commented that he will provide another sticker for labeling freight to be held in the shipping/storage tent if Brett is unsure about where it should be sent. Users agreed that this would be helpful.
A number of comments about food were received. Users commented that the food is quite good, and they appreciate that most things are made from scratch, not pre-fabricated. Greg Goldsmith suggested more healthy snacks such as granola or nuts in addition to candy bars, and commented that having some snack items and cereals in bulk would cut down on burnable trash. Mike commented that for some perishable bulk items, such as milk, Toolik only has enough population during peak periods to use these items efficiently. Also, restaurant suppliers do not always have all of the items that we want. Peter Ray commented that it would be nice to have hot cereal more often, but that he didn't want to pester the cooks. The idea of a suggestion list for food was discussed, but it was felt that it would be best to talk with the cooks directly, or put suggestions in the existing suggestion box. Several suggestions for individual food items were received in the suggestion box and passed on to Laura after the meeting. It was suggested that the cooks make the first pot of coffee in the morning, and instructions posted so that the coffee would be made more consistently. Also, it was suggested that the orientation for new users include the instruction that "if you take the last cup of coffee, you make a new pot." These suggestions were implemented following the meeting. Mike commented that IAB is working on a plan to reorganize the coffee area to reduce congestion and increase the area available for making lunches in the morning. This was well-received.
Grey water and black water were discussed. Chris Crockett asked Chad to explain the new policy of putting toilet paper in waste bins rather than into the tower tanks. Chad explained that it is customary in most places with outhouses to burn the toilet paper to reduce the volume of waste going into the outhouse. Putting toilet paper in the waste bins reduces the volume in the tanks, makes it that less water has to be put in order to reduce the smell, and reduces the chances of splashback. Reducing the volume saves a lot of money, as it costs $0.75 per gallon to process water in Prudhoe Bay. The staff will burn the waste paper in the incinerator. It was suggested that an explanation of the reasons for the new policy be posted in the outhouses. This was implemented following the meeting. Heather commented that people doing laundry in Cottongrass generated a lot of water that frequently cause the grey and black water tanks to fill up prematurely. She requested signs to ask that people not do laundry in Cottongrass, and that non-residents not use the flush toilets and brush their teeth there. The washing machines in Cottongrass were intended for fringe season use only. Chad agreed to post signs and disconnect the washing machine in Cottongrass during peak season.
There was some discussion of the new field trip safety sheet. It was felt that the sheet was cumbersome to fill out every day. Molly has ordered a new white board that people could fill out each day with the number of people going out of camp, their destination and method of getting there, and when they are overdue. We will try this board for a while and see how it works. The log system for Sunday hikes will not change.
Some comments were received via the suggestion box. In addition to the individual food suggestions that were passed on to Laura, one comment asked whether it would be possible to move the incinerator to the south side of the pad. Due to its power requirements, this would be difficult. The incinerator seems to be smoking more than usual; Tyler will monitor it over the next week, and a technician will be brought in if it is malfunctioning. A second comment noted that the front entry door catches in the north wind and stays open. It was suggested that the hinges be moved to the other side. This suggestion was passed onto Scott for consideration.