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Policies & Guidelines

Toolik Field Station Extreme Winter Weather Operation Guidelines (download)

Winter Operations at Toolik Field Station (TFS) involve working in unique and often dangerous environmental conditions. Severe cold, high winds, blowing snow, darkness, and limited visibility are just a few variables that can cause a hazardous working environment. This document describes the Winter Weather Operation Guidelines for Toolik Field Station. Adhering to these guidelines will minimize exposure to the most extreme winter conditions and the risks associated with them. It is important to remember that Arctic winter can always be dangerous and the proper training, preparation, equipment, and procedures are essential. Ultimately everyone must accept personal responsibility for their own safety in the harsh Arctic winter. Never work in winter conditions you feel are unsafe or for which you are not adequately prepared.

Limited Camp Functions in Extreme Environmental Conditions

During extreme winter weather events most outdoor operations at Toolik Field Station will be limited to ensure the safety of the community. These include:

  • All outdoor operations, maintenance, science support, and upgrade projects that are not essential to the everyday operation of the station and safety of the community. Examples of essential operations are road maintenance to ensure safe camp access to scheduled arrivals and departures, daily maintenance checks, and emergency repair work.
  • Transportation between Fairbanks and TFS.
  • Personal recreation further than two miles from camp without the approval of the on-site camp manager and the company of at least one partner in the field.

All science users are strongly recommended to limit their activities and follow these guidelines for their field work under extreme environmental conditions.

Extreme Environmental Conditions Defined

Extreme environmental conditions are any combination of meteorological variables that the on-site camp manager deems severe enough to limit outdoor activity. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Temperatures below -45°F
  • Windchill categorized as 5 minute frostbite time as determined by the NWS Windchill Chart (see figure below).

Temperatures below 0°F with substantially limited visibility (This pertains only to activity off the road system, driveway, gravel pad, or Toolik Lake and its tributaries). The on-site camp manager will determine the visibility conditions under which outdoor work can occur.

Windchill Chart

Toolik Field Station Snowmachine Use Guidelines (download)

Toolik Field Station (TFS) operates and maintains a small fleet of snow machines. These machines are available for use by TFS scientists under the appropriate BLM and Alaska DNR permits and through scheduling with TFS staff, as explained below. Station staff also use the snowmobiles on the permit area (gravel pad) for maintenance support functions and off pad for Search & Rescue and science support.

Permits

All snowmachine use in the Dalton Highway Corridor (within five miles of the Dalton Highway) requires a permit from either the BLM or Alaska Department of Natural Resources, or both. It is the sole responsibility of the science user to acquire and possess the appropriate permits for their snowmachine use. Permits can be obtained from the proper land owner, either BLM or Alaska DNR. The minimum condition for any use of snow machines off the pad is six inches of snow on ground that is frozen. Snowmachiners must abide ALL additional stipulations of their specific permits. The only snowmachine use covered by any "TFS blanket snowmachine permit" is use within the TFS lease boundary (the gravel pad) and on navigable waters of Toolik Lake. TFS requires copies of permits before allowing snowmachine travel from the station.

Safety and Training

Proper preparation and training is essential for safely operating snowmachines in arctic conditions around TFS. Station staff will give researchers an orientation on environmental conditions specific to the area around TFS as well as operating protocols of TFS machines. This, however, is NOT a substitute for proper snowmachine and winter training. Training, preparation, and safe operation of snow machines are the responsibilities of each individual and each project, who must come prepared for work in the Arctic. TFS operates under the Toolik Field Station Extreme Winter Weather Guidelines. All winter TFS users must consult these guidelines.

Project-owned Snowmachines

Science users may bring their own project snowmachines to TFS. No maintenance or support for these machines is guaranteed at TFS other than fueling and general maintenance advice. Projects that plan to use their own snowmachines based out of TFS should contact the Station Manager in advance, preferably at the time of their reservation, and communicate their intentions for where they intend to go and for how long.

Toolik Field Station Maintained Snowmachines

The small TFS fleet of snowmachines is available to researchers with the proper permits on a reserved basis. The snowmachines at TFS are ageing, but are maintained in top working order. They are small utility machines, best suited for limited local use. They can pull a maximum of 100 pounds.

Contact the on-site manager to request use of TFS snowmachine. If extensive use is expected (i.e., more than one day of use or critical use on a specific day or time) the station manager should be contacted at the time of making your station reservation to check the availability of the machines. All users of TFS snowmachines will receive an orientation on the operational characteristics of the TFS machines, as well as the environmental characteristics around TFS.

Use of TFS snowmachines is limited to five miles from your starting point within the Toolik Research Natural Area. Use may further be limited by snow and ice conditions, visibility conditions, maintenance issues, group size, and operator experience.

If easier access is afforded to research sites by trailering snowmachines to an alternate starting location, a snowmachine trailer may be available for use. Contact the station manager for availability. TFS also has a limited supply of helmets. It is recommended that you bring your own if you want to be guaranteed a helmet.

Up to four tow-behind utility sleds are also available with reservations – contact the TFS manager.

Procedures for Snowmachine Use Based out of Toolik Field Station

Snowmachine use based from TFS falls into two policy categories: Local Use and Extended Use.

Local Use

Defined: Use within one mile or easy sight distance of TFS (as determined by the on-site manager); operators can easily walk back to camp if they get stuck.

Local use of snowmachines at TFS is treated much like other local TFS field work. If using TFS machines users must first get machines assigned by the on-site manager. Users then get an orientation on the operation procedure of the TFS machines, as well as environmental conditions around TFS. Any other stipulations of use will also be addressed at this time. Once these procedures are completed, when going into the field users must verbally notify the on-site manager of their departure and sign out on the sign-out board. The board is located in Winter Quarters in the winter and in the Dining Hall in the spring. Users must sign back in on the board when returning to camp.

Extended Use

Defined: Use extending beyond one mile or easy sight distance from TFS (as determined by the on-site manager)

Extended use of snowmachines at TFS requires more involved procedures. Users requesting to use TFS machines for extended use, as well as users using their own machines based out of TFS, must first complete the Toolik Field Station Extended Snowmachine Use Form (ESUF) (attached below) and submit it to the on-site manager. The manager will then review the proposed trip plans and communicate any stipulations (if using TFS machines) on use. These stipulations may include mileage and geographic limits due to snow and ice conditions, light conditions, maintenance issues, group size, and operator experience.

The on-site manager must be told before each trip is made, and the sign-out board must be completed on both departure and arrival back to camp.

Other requirements for extended snowmachine use

  1. Mandatory to carry satellite phone and TFS contact numbers (Can be checked out at TFS)
  2. Mandatory to carry a GPS (Can be checked out at TFS)

Dependent Children at TFS (download)

One request from the community of users of the Toolik Field Station is that facilities and policies at TFS be developed to allow PIs with dependent children to bring their children to TFS while doing their research, if they have no reasonable recourse for substitute care. Many young PIs with funded research programs based at Toolik are women who are just starting their families. The Institute of Arctic Biology would like to accommodate their needs for family housing and daycare.

We requested feedback on the issue of family housing from members of the Toolik user community on two different occasions, at the Toolik Steering Committee meeting in December, 2002, and at a User Forum at TFS in July 2003. The feedback we received was that providing a way for PIs who are parents to bring their dependent children to Toolik is a good thing. However, there was a much stronger consensus on the need to provide for infants and small children at TFS than there was on how to accommodate the needs of older children. At the present time, TFS is focusing on providing for the needs of parents with small children.

Policies for parents with dependent children at TFS (0 to 5 years old)

  1. Parents must provide for the transportation of their child to and from TFS.
  2. Parents must provide a plan for 24-hour supervision of their child while at TFS, to be provided by the parent, or by a day care provider furnished by the parent. Supervision includes plans for feeding, recreation, naps, and sleeping.
  3. Day care providers furnished by parents are required to be certified in first aid and infant CPR. Parents must submit copies of this certification to the station management prior to arrival.
  4. Parents shall ensure that their children have had all appropriate vaccinations before bringing them to TFS.
  5. Dependent children are not allowed in the workplace, as per UAF policy (see Chancellor's web page). Laboratories, kitchen, the generator modules, and shop facilities are considered to constitute the workplace at TFS. Children may not ride in university boats or any other mode of transportation, other than the vehicle used to get to and from the station.
  6. Dependent children are permitted in the housing facilities, the dining hall, the outhouses, and the community center/daycare facility. Dependent children may play in the tundra so long as they are not in experimental plots or sensitive areas, and are under supervision. A site map outlining approved areas will be made available.
  7. Dependent children will be housed with their parents in the regular TFS housing facilities. TFS provides mattresses but not bedding. Parents must supply their own bedding and cribs, if needed, for their children.
  8. Parents using the community center/daycare facility must provide their own bedding and crib or nap mat, all toys, disposable diapers (if needed), and any required food beyond what is provided by the regular TFS meal service.
  9. Parents or caregivers are responsible for clean-up of the center, beyond routine sweeping and removal of trash.
  10. TFS will not charge dependent children any fee for the use of TFS. The fee for their caregivers to stay at TFS shall be the same as other science users covered by the co-operative agreement, which is $107.10 per day in field season 2010.
  11. Parents who want to bring their dependent children to TFS must submit a request to the TFS Science Director at the same time as they make reservations for themselves, according to the published deadlines for reservations at TFS, and explain their reasons for wishing to bring their children. Requests will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis and acceptance or denial of each request will be dependent on space availability and the plan for adherence to points #1-9.

Community Center/Daycare Facility at TFS

NSF, CPS, and IAB have setup a facility at TFS that will be suitable for daycare for dependent children. The facility will also serve as a recreational center for other members of the community when no children are present, but children and their providers have priority. The facility will consist of a 20' x 30' Weatherport tent, subdivided into 4 areas intended for use as a restroom/changing area, a napping/nursing/rocking area, an open play/activity area, and an entrance area with cubbies for storage of personal items. TFS staff will be responsible for cleaning the facility and removing the trash, but will not provide other services at the facility beyond routine maintenance.

Protocols for Scientific Liaison

From “Your stay at Toolik”:

Definition of the Scientific Liaison

The Scientific Liaison ("Senior Scientist") acts as a consultant to the camp manager on issues that affect scientists working at TFS. The Scientific Liaison facilitates communication between members of the scientific community and camp staff, and assists in the resolution of disagreements among members of the scientific community, or between scientists and other inhabitants of Toolik.  The Scientific Liaison is available to help members of the scientific community if they don't feel comfortable discussing an issue directly with the camp manager.  It is our expectation that the Scientific Liaison will communicate daily with the camp manager to co-ordinate responses to issues of concern and head off possible conflicts before they become serious.  It is our expectation that the camp manager will inform the Scientific Liaison about staff plans (such as absences from camp) and other information relevant to issues of concern to the scientific community. The camp manager will consult with the Scientific Liaison before making decisions that affect the scientific community. 

Procedures for responding to bad behavior

It is the responsibility of project leaders/PIs to respond first if the behavior of a member of their group is inappropriate or is creating problems at Toolik.  However, the camp manager has the authority and responsibility to remove from camp any staff member, contractor, or member of the scientific community if that person’s behavior creates a serious problem for the community.  Persons will be asked to leave camp immediately if they engage in physical or verbal abuse or assault, intimidation, coercion, threats, sexual harassment, or behavior that endangers the health and safety of oneself or others.  Repeated infractions of camp rules may also result in expulsion from camp if these behaviors are not corrected after being brought to the perpetrator’s attention.  A person may receive formal warnings for minor infractions before being dismissed from camp.  The camp manager, the Scientific Liaison, and members of the Toolik Management Group (Brian Barnes, Donie Bret-Harte, Mike Abels, Brett Biebuyck) all have the authority to issue formal warnings to any member of camp whose conduct is causing problems for the community.  A person who feels he has been dismissed from camp unfairly may contact members of the Toolik Management Group or appropriate University of Alaska officials.  Such grievances will be addressed in a timely manner. 

 

Protocols and expectations for the Scientific Liaison

It is our expectation that the camp manager and the Scientific Liaison will work closely on all matters concerning camp operation.  We hope that most issues can be resolved through communication with the interested parties, the Scientific Liaison, and the camp manager.  The Scientific Liaison should meet with the camp manager for a few minutes each day, in order to exchange information and stay on top of developing issues in camp.  The camp manager will consult with the Scientific Liaison before making decisions that affect scientists, and will share information relevant to the scientific community with the Liaison.  The Scientific Liaison should encourage scientists to bring forth any issues that need to be addressed. 

In general, the Scientific Liaison and the camp manager will take the responsibility for dealing with issues that arise within their respective areas of influence (Fig. 1), but will inform each other as to the issues and what action is taken.  For example, if there is a conflict among the kitchen staff that does not impact the scientists, the camp manager will take responsibility for its resolution.  Alternatively, a conflict involving the scheduling of a shared piece of scientific equipment would be primarily the responsibility of the Scientific Liaison. If a member of the scientific community is behaving in an inappropriate way or causing problems for the camp, the Scientific Liaison should first inform that person’s PI/project leader, who has responsibility for the actions of project members.  If the PI/project leader is unavailable or unable to correct the problem, the Scientific Liaison is authorized to take additional steps, from issuing warnings to dismissal from camp (see below).  Issues that involve both camp staff and scientists should be dealt with jointly by the Scientific Liaison and the camp manager.  For example, if a member of the scientific community asks a camp staff member to procure alcohol, in violation of IAB policy, both the Scientific Liaison and camp manager should reprimand the involved parties.  Collaborative decision-making should be used for issues of dismissal from camp, or dealing with any serious infractions (detailed below).  We expect that the Scientific Liaison, the camp manager, and members of the Toolik Management Group will support each other in dealing proactively with potential or actual problems that may arise.  The camp manager and the Scientific Liaison must also consult with CPS representatives in camp if there are issues involving CPS or subcontracted staff.  If there is a breakdown in communication between the Scientific Liaison and the camp manager, then either party should feel free to contact members of the Toolik Management Group or senior scientists on appropriate projects.

In case it is needed, both the camp manager and the Scientific Liaison have the authority to issue formal warnings to any member of camp whose behavior is causing problems for the community, at any time.  At least one formal warning for “minor” infractions must be issued before removing that person from camp.  Communication between the Scientific Liaison and the camp manager regarding who has been given formal warnings is essential.  For example, if a loud party occurs after hours in the quiet zone and the Scientific Liaison gives the instigators a formal warning, the camp manager will keep a record of who has been warned.  Other examples of behaviors for which formal warnings might be appropriate include smoking in the dormitories, unsafe boating behavior, dangerous driving on the Dalton or camp pad, disregard for the personal property of others, loud and obnoxious behavior, and going into restricted areas (such as the generator module). 

Certain major infractions will result in immediate dismissal from camp.  These infractions include but are not limited to physical or verbal abuse or assault, intimidation, coercion, threats, sexual harassment, or behavior that endangers the health and safety of oneself or others.  Any person can contact either the camp manager or the Scientific Liaison if such an infraction occurs, and both the Scientific Liaison and the camp manager must agree to dismiss someone from camp in this case.  If possible, members of the Toolik Management Group and appropriate other senior scientists should be consulted; however, in these cases swift resolution of the problem is of the utmost concern.

When a complaint is presented to either the camp manager or the Scientific Liaison, it is important that those persons who brought the complaint be informed of the course of action taken as soon as possible.  In general, the person to whom the complaint was presented should inform the complainants of what actions were taken, and that person may not always be the camp manager or Scientific Liaison.  In addition, if information about an issue was gathered from people in camp, those people should in return be informed of the decisions made or actions taken.  The purpose of these lines of reporting is to both respect the confidence and trust of those involved, and to let the camp community know that their concerns will not fall on “deaf ears”.  In rare cases, the camp manager and Scientific Liaison may inform the camp as a whole regarding such issues. 

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